Short break - The Samling Hotel, Windermere
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 November 2018
The Samling Hotel in Windermere waves its magic wand over Kate Houghton and delivers the perfect weekend break
Who can resist Windermere in the autumn. Or indeed at any time of year. Stunning scenery, fabulous walks and lots of lovely shops…it’s a second heaven. Add in an overnight at the glorious Samling Hotel and it’s bliss, bliss, bliss.
The Samling has long held a reputation for fine food and comfortable accommodation. I first visited in 2003 and have ever since wanted to return to my first experience of pure luxury. A recent multi-million pound refurbishment has resulted in a step to a level where it must now be one of the most luxurious hotels outside London. And oh, those views!
We arrived in glorious sunshine, after a busy pootle (can one pootle busily? Indeed one can!) around Bowness and Windermere, admiring the ever changing lake and browsing the shops. The first view that strikes you is right where you park the car – a spread across the lake, framed by trees turning to Autumn gold, that takes your breath away. As you progress towards the front of the hotel, there are many more moments where the camera comes out, too! It’s from this angle that you get the best view of the brand new restaurant extension too, which must have brought a feel of the Med to the hotel during this summer’s glorious weather, with it’s extensive open air patio, glass walls and perfect positioning.
A warm greeting and off to our room, or rather, off to our suite. We were allocated Windermere for the stay – the exact room we had in 2003, a spooky coincidence. Oh my, I thought it was fancy then! Now it has carpets you leave your footprints in, the most glorious bathroom (huge!) and a bed to sink into and disappear. Tea and and cookies! arrived in short order and I prepared to do my best couch potato impression until dinner, while Mike sank deep into the copper-clad bath for a serious soak. Netflix and chill, with added luxury.
We had dinner reservations for 8pm, but headed down a little early for a cocktail before we started. The Samling recruited a new head chef following its big refurbishment, landing the hugely talented Peter Howarth, who moved here from the two Michelin starred Gidleigh Park in Devon. He brings with him all his skill, experience and creativity, producing dazzling menus packed with unusual pairings, technical perfection and taste explosions. We opted for the ten course tasting menu, with wine flight, which initially I thought might be a tad too much for me, but again, the chef’s skill in judging the perfect portion size ensured that I was ready for every course and only felt full as the last dessert was finished.
Even more extraordinary is that he has developed a perfectly balanced seven and ten course tasting menu for an absolute multitude of dietry demands. Mine was ‘no fish or seafood’, but you can request ‘no red meat’, ‘no gluten’, ‘vegetarian’, ‘vegetarian no fish’…the only limitation is that the whole table must eat from the same menu, so even if Mike had craved a seafood starter, he would have been out of luck. Every dish is so exquisitely prepared however, I can’t imagine for a moment anybody would feel a loss!
As we sat, we were presented with a tiny dish of canapés, which set the bar very high, leading to some considerable excitement about what was to follow.
Oh my. I don’t think enough superlatives exist, I may have to invent some. Suffice to say, everything was utterly delicious. The menu itself has been reproduced here, but these very short details simply don’t give you any idea on what delights will actually arrive!
Who knew, for example, that sweetcorn could be quite so incredibly flavourful? Or that venison could be delicately flavoured and butter soft? Every single aspect of every dish was glorious.
Comment must be made on the wine flight here, perfectly paired to each dish by the very lovely and entertaining sommelier, Robert Patla. This is a man who loves his job! His studies of wine go considerably deeper than simply tasting. He loves to know the story of the vineyard and to tell you how he discovered each one – if you wish, that is. It might just have been our table that kept him chatting so long every time, but I can’t resist anybody who loves their work they way he does. If only I could get hold of that fabulous Peter Lehman white I might be equally content!
A very content and comfortable night’s sleep followed our gourmet experience, partly to do with aforementioned wine, no doubt, but also due to the extreme comfort of the room and silence of the night.
Having dined in the dark the evening before, our entry to the glass-walled restaurant for breakfast was positively soul-stirring. Bright but not blue skies resulted in a lake that varied between polished pewter and pure silver. Trails of mist crept over the treeline and leaves just on the turn added texture and colour. When it comes to breakfast, The Samling has it nailed. The Cumbrian Breakfast satisfied my husband’s need for a manly start to the day, while I filled myself with the most delicious pastries and a perfect cup of tea.
Oh Samling, when shall I see you again…