We pre booked the six course tasting menu on an internet offer, fifty pounds instead of sixty five if you went at lunch time: they said they were very busy at night but wanted to encourage lunch time trade. I told them this when we arrived but we were still given the option of a la carte and a 4 course at £25. The food is served in a formal and theatrical way: infusions, dry ice etc. Waiter bringing food out for another person to serve to the table etc. Amuse bouche was a pointless compressed water melon, first course a marinated salmon with grapefruit and skin crisp cooked in licorice. Somewhat underwhelmed by this point we were glad to see the chef up his game with the following course, a beautiful little ham hock fritter in angel hair pastry (yes pastry, not pasta.) Served with (allegedly) confit egg yolk and goats curd. I have no idea why the yolk was described as confit: more of the confit later. Fish course was pure theatre: a percolator type thingy was produced with lemongrass, cinnamon and other Asian fusion type spices in the top bowl and a fish broth in the bottom. A flame was lit under the broth and it percolated up into the top bowl to infuse the spices. When done the flame was extinguished and the broth returned to the bottom bowl. The halibut with squid pearl and samphire (the pearl being a sort of master stock cube with a tiny tentacle in it that was released when dissolved) was served from the kitchen and the broth poured over it. Seared squid decorated the top of the halibut and flavour matched it perfectly.Sensational, the best course. Meat course was grouse breast (rare, excellent) with a super piece of foie gras and allegedly confit leg, grouse leg that is. It was a little thigh and in my opinion had nothing to do with confit: I expect confit style to produce a crisp skin with melting flesh inside. This was just a little bit of leg, tasty enough for sure but confit? I don't get it. The cauliflower and cauliflower puree were first rate. I thought the dish was crying out for a little bit of potato of some kind.
We then had a "pre dessert which was as delicious as it was hilarious. A mojito sorbet with a little ice cream ball encased in mint chocolate was served in a mini glass watering can whose spout spurted out "steam": dry ice used so creatively. Dessert itself (Green Tea Panna Cotta with Lemon Tart Ice Cream, Shortbread and Autumn Bliss Raspberries) was OK, the panna cotta was nice enough and the ice cream good, but as a whole it didn't really excite me.
There is an extensive wine list: the first page is a selection of reasonably priced bottles and we had Pinot Grigio at £22 and a Merlot for £18. Perfectly all right and very favourably priced for such a classy establishment.
The dining room was quite small and apart from our table of four there were two other couples so despite the professional, relaxed and friendly service the atmosphere lacked a bit of buzz. Not the Samling's fault of course but I'm sure the food would have tasted even better in a full restaurant with a bit of noise.
Predictably when the bill came we had been charged the £65. I pointed this out and it was changed promptly and politely, shame they didn't pick up on it when we arrived and told them we had pre-booked the offer.
So, with a Michelin star and a £50 a head tab for lunch, do I expect perfection. Yes, of course. Most of the food came pretty close, at its best it was simply astounding. They do what they do very well, I can't quite work out why I wasn't more excited. If I were to return, and I'd be happy to do so, it would be for a la carte in the evening.
By the way: best thing I ate all week in the area was the pork pie from Huddlestones Butchers in Windermere. That you must try: £1.60.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- 3 aa red star hotel 3 aa rosettes1 michelin star ... more less
- Also Known As:
- The Samling Hotel Windermere, Lake District
- Samling Hotel