Approaching the stately grounds of Holbeck Ghyll felt like being in a remake of the Rocky Horror Show. Until we entered and were greeted by the friendly hotel staff and directed to the lounge area to enjoy a drink, some canapes and wait for our table in the relaxed furnishings. The sofas were distressed, the walls were adorned with traditional landscape paintings and there was a roaring fire at one end of the room. It had the perfect country manor feel.
Whilst enjoying delicious winter Pimms cocktails we discovered a little box, which had an unusual opening mechanism. After spending a few minutes trying to work this out, we were finally in and discovered the box contained lots of little notes left by previous hotel guests, some dating back several years. Some were romantic, some were nostalgic and some were funny. We read through these whilst enjoying delightful little risotto balls, olives and breadsticks with a truffle flavoured dip.
Now I’m going to work backwards here, simply because the dessert was one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten in my entire life and if you know nothing else about this place, it should be that you must order the dessert entitled Chocolate on your visit here. It was heavenly on all levels, not too rich, or too sweet, combining a range of innovative elements to create the perfect dish. A chocolate caramel tart sat beside a bannoffee mousse topped with caramelized hazelnuts, which were both so deeply rich in flavour and texture that they could have held the dish alone. But these were placed on top of chocolate soil and praline dust, which added further layers of depth. A caramelized chunk of banana and a scoop of salty Horlicks ice-cream finished it off. It was simply fantastic and even now I can’t find the words to describe how much I enjoyed it.
The mains we ordered were based around hearty pieces of meat, which were cooked to perfection. I enjoyed the venison with butternut squash puree, beetroot and a dark jus. The meat was served perfectly rare and the sides complimented it well. My partner went for the duck with Asian flavours, served with confit legs, fondant potatoes and Asian greens. These are the kind of dishes you deeply crave on a bitter winter’s night. The seasonal ingredients felt akin to the environment and robust flavours somehow combated the frosty weather we were enduring.
The starters were so beautifully presented we were almost scared to tuck in. Deliciously plump scallops were served with parmesan puree and delicately thin crisps with a balsamic glaze. I enjoyed the crab, avocado and pink grapefruit dish, with the sharp flavours of the grapefruit cutting through the creamy avocado and salty crab. Altogether delicious.
At the very beginning an amuse bouche of mushroom soup was served in an ornate teacup with a hunk of freshly baked bread offered from a basket. A lovely start to the feast that was to come.
The staff, who were mostly French, were exceptionally polite and attentive with a deep knowledge of the food they were serving. The dining room was small and cosy, with dark wooden chairs and tables. The Holbeck Gyhll has a very strong identity and this shines through in the restaurant and the food served. They are consummate professionals in running an award-winning hotel and kitchen and absolutely everything has been thought-out to make your experience an enjoyable one. Overlooking one of the stunning lakes in Windermere, it is the perfect spot for a delicious banquet in the Lake District.