One of the most welcoming hotels on the lakes, the Gilpin combines impeccable service with a warm, informal atmosphere. That extends to Gilpin, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, helmed by Ollie Bridgewater, formerly of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck. The cuisine is perfect, from charcoal roasted cauliflower steak with black garlic ketchup to roast cod with saffron jam and vermouth emulsion. There’s also an a la carte option if the tasting menu seems a little daunting. The paired wines add to the experience and the optional extra cheese platter is not to be missed.
Tasting menu £120 per person; doubles from £285 B&B; thegilpin.co.uk
Rogan & Co, Cartmel
The more informal younger sibling of Simon Rogan’s three-Michelin-starred L’Enclume, Rogan & Co promises the same elegantly presented and subtly flavored cuisine, with a three-course menu for a third of the price. The menu is plentiful. Try Old Winchester cheese dumplings or pork terrine with dumpling and apple, followed by Goosnargh duck or dry-aged Dexter ribs – and the low-beamed, fireplace-lit dining room is full of classic Lakeland charm.
Three-course set menu £79 per person; roganandco.co.uk
The Dog and the Gun, Skelton
Chef-owner Ben Queen-Fryer has won a number of awards since opening the Dog & Gun as an upscale pub in 2017. In 2022 it gained a Michelin star, but it remains a traditional village pub serving spectacular food. Highlights might include local Cartmel venison or wild sole with a vermouth sauce. Desserts are sinful, local suppliers are listed, and dogs are welcome.
Three-course menu £59pp, tasting menu £78pp; dogandgunskelton.co.uk
The Forest Side, Grasmere
A night and/or dinner on the Forest Side doesn’t come cheap, but this Gothic mansion is perfect for a memorable anniversary. The ingredients really are locally sourced, with 90% coming from within a 10-mile radius, including a large amount from the hotel’s sizeable gardens. The four- and eight-course tasting menus offer elaborate mouthfuls of inventive flavors: steamed cod with smoked pike roe; venison aged with walnuts.
Four-course menu £85 per person, eight-course £130 per person; doubles £429 with dinner, bed and breakfast; theforestside.com
Cranstons, various locations
If you’re looking to create your own gourmet feast, Cranstons is the place to be – whether it’s the original small butcher shop in Penrith or the Daylesford-style mess hall just off the M6. A champion of local produce since 1914, it offers six locations across Cumbria, selling local ales, jams, condiments and fruit and vegetables, as well as meat sourced from local Lake District farms.
The Apple Pie Bakery, Ambleside
A culinary delight doesn’t have to mean a tasting menu; sometimes tea and cake are just what we need. Apple Pie Bakery has been serving pastries since 1975 and remains a family business, though it has grown from five tables and a kettle to a two-story bakery with five seating areas. Come for Eton mess eclairs or blueberry lemon frangipane, or grab some hot treats to go. Stay in one of the cozy rooms next door for a relaxing base in Ambleside.
Doubles from £65 room only; applepieambleside.co.uk
Hidden River Cafe, Longtown
Look up “off-the-beaten-track” in a dictionary and you’ll find the aptly named Hidden River Café tucked away on the banks of the River Lyne, a 20-minute drive from Carlisle. The renowned café serves more sophisticated small plates – smoked meat and cheese croquettes; soy salted mackerel – alongside steaks and burgers sourced from local farms. If lunch doesn’t seem long enough in such a gloriously secluded location, book one of the log cabins and enjoy the weekend.
Mains from £15; cottages (sleeping six) from £200 a night; hiddenrivercabins.co.uk
A top spot on the lakes for vegans and vegetarians, Fellinis is situated beneath Ambleside’s state-of-the-art cinema and Zeffirellis jazz bar, offering the chance to dine and see a film or live music, all under one roof. Dishes are reasonably priced and can include things like crispy cauliflower katsu with quinoa or miso-marinated tofu steak. Enough room should be left for the rhubarb and ginger crunch, perfect for sharing.
Mains £15.95; zeffirellis.co.uk
A culinary delight you must take home from Cumbria. Grasmere gingerbread can only be found in a few Lake District restaurants and can only be purchased from the original shop, still housed in the 17th century schoolhouse where Sarah Nelson first baked the spicy biscuit cake hybrid in 1854. from paper-wrapped gingerbread, the shop sells its own Cumbrian rum butter, marmalades and ginger chutneys, chocolates and traditional sweets.
The Cottage in the Woods, Braithwaite
A one-stop shop for an indulgent foodie weekend with plenty of outdoor appeal, this nine-room restaurant feels delightfully off-the-grid, hidden 1,000 feet above Keswick in Whinlatter Forest. Chef Sam Miller’s creative flavor combinations include scallop with sorrel, black garlic and apple and venison with pears and chard, with a strong focus on seasonal ingredients. Rooms are cozy without being colorful, with five located in the original part of the building, dating back to 1640.
Set lunch £75 per person; doubles from £340 including dinner, bed and breakfast; thecottageinthewood.co.uk.