Gilpin Lodge is a boutique hotel near Lake Windermere. The main dining room seats up to 60 guests, and has a garden terrace for use in clement weather. At present the kitchen is currently under the control of Chef Director Gordon Cartwright who, after training with the Roux Brothers and working at Sharrow Bay, moved to the other side of the pass as an AA Inspector, where he worked for 13 years before going independent. Dom Clarke, as chef de cuisine, heads up the day-to-day operations in the kitchen in collaboration with Gordon who oversees dish development and menu content. Three courses from the table d'hôtel menu were £58, with further a la carte choices available on a separate menu.
The wine list had labels such as Domaine Leon Boesch Riesling Lusch 2011 at £44 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around £13, Nozet Pouilly Fume de Ladoucette 2010 at £76 for a wine that retails at £25, and Feytit-Clinet 2006 at £112 for a wine that will set you back around £42 in the shops. Higher up the list markups stayed high, with Montrose 1990 at a hefty £260 for a wine that you can find for around £81.
Nibbles comprised a sliver of seared yellowfin tuna with yuzu mayonnaise, couscous and compressed watermelon, which was simple but pleasant, and chicken liver parfait on a chicken skin crisp. The latter was a little oily and not quite crisp enough, the parfait itself lacking intensity of flavour (13/20). An amuse bouche of pickled mushroom espuma using ceps and golden enoki mushrooms had brioche crumbs and pickled brown button mushrooms. This dish was a slightly mixed bag: the first spoonful that I ate tasted rather bland, but the second spoon, which included one of the pickled mushrooms, had welcome bite from the pickling juices (13/20). A spoon of cheese with red wine jelly, and a spoon of "breakfast" elements, cooked tomato mushroom and bacon were both perfectly harmless, but they were not obviously complementary (12/20). This was followed by a veloute of cheese with what was described as a blini but appeared to be a little dish of potato with sour cream. This was rather better, the veloute having quite clean flavour (14/20).
Bread was made in the kitchen and was good, with a firm crust and nice texture, served with good butter from the outer Hebrides (15/20). A further nibble of caviar was unusual, this particular version coming from the west coast of France and being from a slightly older than usual ten year old sturgeon. The end result was a slightly creamy, buttery caviar compared to the sharper and costlier versions from Sevruga or Beluga (tricky to score something like this but perhaps 15/20).
A "Singapore mackerel" starter consisted of soused mackerel with bean sprouts, coriander, chilli and mushrooms. The chilli was very subdued, but the main issue for me was the mackerel itself, which although it is presumably very fresh before being soused, had surprisingly little flavour and a rather soggy texture. The other elements were fine, but the mackerel itself was uninspiring (11/20).
Sticky chicken wings were a sophisticated take on the fast food favourite, but here with chicken mousse rather than a real chicken wing, along with spring onions, Vandouvan granola and Greek yoghurt. The granola provided some textural contrast and the chicken had a lot of flavour, the onion adding some useful bite. This was a clever and enjoyable dish, the seasoning also accurate (15/20).
Halibut had unusually good flavour, accurately cooked and served with cauliflower, hazelnut, chicory and golden chicken juices. The fish was from Norway, and although farmed the fish is raised in fjords until the fish has reached three years old, typically about 6kg in weight. The cauliflower with it had good flavour, and the chicory added a nice hint of bitterness (15/20).
Much better was a main course of quail with summer truffles. The quail breasts are cooked sous-vide and then finished a la plancha, the legs confit and fried, served with pear, charred leeks, macaroni and abalone mushrooms. The quail had good flavour and the pear provided a nice balancing acidity, while a little pan of a reduction of the cooking juices had been infused with thyme and had pleasingly intense flavour (14/20).
A dessert of toffee, hazelnut and milk chocolate had good hazelnut parfait with smooth texture, decent milk chocolate but a toffee element that had a texture and flavour that did not quite work for me (13/20). Coffee was pleasant, reasonably smooth. Service was excellent, staff attentive and responsive.
The meal concluded with sherry trifle, a very enjoyable version of the classic dish set in its on pectin and garnished with pistachio, whose success was mainly down to very good strawberries and raspberries, and some restraint with the sherry (14/20).
With just water to drink and a coffee, with service I paid £70 for dinner. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical bill for dinner would be around £90 or so. Service was friendly, and dishes arrived at a steady pace though waiters displayed limited knowledge of what they were serving at times. Overall this was a very pleasant dining experience in a pretty setting.