[Windermere, Cumbria] Holbeck Ghyll

This isn’t the first time that we’ve eaten at Holbeck Ghyll, although the two previous occasions were some years back, when the restaurant held a Michelin star and was generally regarded amongst the best places to eat in the northwest. We were back because we fancied a little break and the hotel had a good deal on offer – bed, breakfast and five course tasting menu dinner.

Now, that’s five courses only if you count a canape as a course. Which I don’t – it’s a snack to have with your aperitif. . Now, it was a pretty good canape. A two bit mini cornetto, filled with whipped feta and topped with a sprinkling of chopped nuts. As for the actual four courses of the meal, there was some high hopes reading the menu but the execution was a bit disappointing. And, even for a tasting menu, portions were small. Maybe not as much of an issue in a longer tasting menu but, at four courses, it’s the sort of meal that leaves you wondering if you should nip out afterwards to get a bag of chips.

First up, there’s crab, balls of courgette and heritage tomatoes. You can see what they’re getting at, and some effort has gone into the preparation, but it’s all underseasoned. A sourdough mini-loaf, with two butters, does its best to help it along.

A mushroom parfait, made from penny bun, was silky smooth but also had a seasoning issue. It came with pickled mushroom and onion which provided nice enough contrasts. There’s also shavings of a very mild French cheese which added nothing. There was also a well made brioche roll which had been drizzled with honey, which also contributed nothing, except leaving you with sticky fingers.

Venison came two ways. A two bite slice of loin, cooked to rare, was fine. Better was some long cooked Bambi, sandwiched between two lightly cooked and still crunchy leaves of cabbage. A couple of dabs of red cabbage puree and a few shreds of hen of the wood mushroom decorate the plate.

Dessert wasn’t a success and may have been the tiniest dessert we can recall ever being served. There’s a thin strip of passion fruit jelly, topped with fudge and chocolate. You’d hope that the toppings would be really rich but they just weren’t. A honey sorbet sits alongside. It’s all a bit “meh”. Perhaps thankfully, it’s gone in two spoonfuls.

This is a restaurant which isn’t relying on its past glories. It’s a nice room, lots of “arts & crafts” period wood panelling and the service is fine. There’s an effort being made in the kitchen but it’s just not hitting the mark