Short break - The Samling Hotel, Windermere
PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 November 2019
The views used to be this Windermere luxury getaway's star attraction but now chef Robby Jenks is giving foodies a new reason to visit.
When The Samling lost its Michelin star in 2017 it was a bitter blow. Its previous chef, Nick Edgar, had left and, as is the way with the much lauded awarding body, a change of chef means a restaurant loses its rating.
It wasn't all doom and gloom of course - it maintained its three rosettes, featured on a number of celebrated lists and remained one of the best places in the Lake Dsitrict you might choose to spend a weekend. One look at the views across Windermere would have anyone convinced.
But when the uber talented Robby Jenks announced he was leaving AA listed The Vineyard in Berkshire with partner Rebecca Galland to take up post as executive head chef and food and beverage manager, there was a feeling that something exciting was on the horizon.
Identified as a rising star, Robby already had the superstar credentials needed to cement The Samling's reputation as a dining destination - one that would rival many of the other Lake District heavyweights. And he has gone on to prove his worth many times over.
Sitting in the dining room with floor to ceiling windows, there is a friendly, welcoming and unobtrusive atmosphere. You'll find no hushed reverence here, this is a restaurant where food is celebrated. Shellfish ravioli with a delicate citrus bisque, kohlrabi and basil as well as veal sweetbreads with cauliflower, lemon and truffle set the standard.
Mains of flavourful cod with bacon, mushroom and pea raised the bar along with pork served with sweet leek and onion. That paired with delicious palate cleansers - bowls of colourful, fresh flavours - made for an impressive dinner. There's also a stonking wine list, too. You'll find some of the world's best here, thanks to Rebecca.
There are no amount of superlatives to describe the exquisite food created by Robby and his team - a thought echoed by the smiles and questions of other satisfied guests eager to know what the talented chef would be serving the next day.
A highlight came in the description of the cheese board. It was an offer so tempting I changed my dessert order - hopefully not too infuriatingly - half way through my meal. I was lured in as I saw the trolley glide by, laden with choices designed to pay impressive homage to all sorts of fromage. I could have listened to the extremely knowledgeable young chap effuse about the delights of cheese so ripe you needed a spoon as well as local varieties purposely being put under the spotlight. A real joy.
What really made the experience, though, was that same attention to detail and enthusiasm executed in the kitchen weaved its way through every facet of the hotel. From the uber cool cocktails - and the glorious sunset that only framed the even more glorious views - to the ultra luxe rooms and suites. Ours was Windermere - a mezzanine suite with its own terrace for you to get another fix of those knockout vistas.
There was a gorgeous lounge with Lakeland slate walls, a bathroom festooned with high end furnishings and divine copper bath and a bed so comfortable that only the promise of a peek at the morning sunrise over Windermere was enough to remove me from it.
Breakfast the next morning - we had the recommended traditional Cumbrian -offered the same culinary experience, paired this time not with wine but with views of the water and the acres of land around The Samling. It is an experience you can't help but soak in - and long for for weeks after you've left.
I didn't want it to end but end it did. But not without a little reminder of our stay - two marvellously moreish squares of squidgy, packed with fruit flapjack for our journey. And as we pulled away from the drive, one last glimpse of those views. Simply put, The Samling is super.