Dinner@The Three Hares, Sedbergh

After an extraordinarily beautiful day spent on the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail we are heading for dinner at The Three Hares in Sedbergh. We are with our good friends Thorkell, Amy, Alaya and we have even lured Ziggy away from his American football. The Three Hares is run by James and Nina. James is front of house – looking after the customers. Nina, using her experience of baking in Germany and of growing up with Japanese parents, is in the kitchen looking after the food.

Three pints of Saison, a spicy pale ale with all the strength of a quarterback, arrive for Thorkell, Ziggy and myself plus a bottle of Ventoux – a French red which should work well with most of the dishes we have ordered. I don’t normally pass comment on the bread we are served with our food but here it is fantastic – several varieties, all beautiful and we will return tomorrow to buy more!

The menu looks very ambitious. I kickoff with the pigeon, black pudding, celeriac & watercress which is very good. Thorkell has the very interesting looking heritage tomato crostini. Rock has the aubergine & feta pie for her starter. Everyone else is happy with the bread, olive oil & Balsamic.

Most of us have now moved onto the red wine in time for the mains. Alaya and I both punt for the hare loin, confit leg & truffle risotto with kohlrabi and a formation of chantenay carrots. The loin is pretty good but I struggle with the strength of the truffle in the risotto. Amy tackles the Tamworth pork loin with salt baked beetroot, radish, wild garlic & mash.

Rock & Ziggy both have a fair catch of stone bass with a huddle of maple peas, pancetta, swede and sea herbs. The fish is expertly cooked and well flavoured. Thorkell has the Howgill hogget loin & shoulder with a touchdown of hotpot vegetables and red cabbage. For anyone that does not know, hogget is meat from a sheep aged between one and two years old. Some people think it is better than lamb or mutton. Thorkell absolutely loves it!

We can still find room for dessert and between us we order: blackberry sorbet with caramelised white chocolate crumble, and an end zone of apple & poppy seed; Yorkshire rhubarb with duck egg custard & gingerbread; and a block of sticky toffee pudding with real ale ice cream and oat crumble. All the desserts are excellent.

The menu today at The Three Hares is very game orientated with much less of a Japanese influence than we had hoped for. It has an adventurous approach to its dishes that many foodies will adore. After spending most of the day with Thorkell & Amy, the real pleasure here for Rock and I, was to also pocket a little quality time with Ziggy and Alaya.

Lunch@Blackwell, the Arts&Crafts House

Blackwell, the Arts & Crafts House is a showpiece of the twentieth century arts & crafts design movement. After spending a couple of hours looking at the sensational furniture, lighting and decoration – we are ready for lunch. Tea rooms at places like this are usually pleasant enough but our expectations are probably set at moderate.

A bottle of Lakeland Lager from the Hawkshead Brewery, a pale and golden beer made with both lager hops and malt but then, interestingly, ale rather than lager yeast. It is very good indeed.

Rock is having a warm salad of pulled ham, orange & fennel served with Puy lentils, toasted pumpkin seeds, mixed leaves, honey mustard dressing and toasted homemade bread. She is loving it – quality products, beautifully put together. I have the Cajun spiced crab potato cakes with lemon mayo and a mixed salad. The potato cakes are delicately spiced and contain plenty of crab.

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We have loved looking at the house and we have loved the lunch in the Blackwell Tea Room. Indeed, our expectations may have only been moderate and the menu relatively simple, but this is probably the best meal we have had on the road trip so far!

Dinner@Rogan&Co, Cartmel

We have been looking forward to trying another Simon Rogan place ever since we had such a fantastic lunch at Roganic, his pop-up restaurant in London. Now the road trip has brought us to Cartmel, the home of two of his restaurants, L’Enclume and Rogan & Co. We are visiting Rogan & Co in Cartmel for dinner. Our expectations are high.

It is a smart place but quite relaxed and the menu looks interesting. I have a pint of the very local Crusader Gold from the Unsworth’s Yard Brewery in Cartmel. It is a very pleasant, crisp golden ale with a refreshing citrus finish.

I start with the ocean trout served with radish, pumpkin seed, buttermilk and parsley. Loads of interesting complex flavours and the trout is cooked to perfection. Rock has the butternut squash with black garlic & pork crackling. It sounds like a great combination but she finds it bland, almost tasteless.

I’m now really hoping that Rock likes her main course – gurnard with cauliflower, leek and preserved lemon. It is certainly more interesting than her starter but she finds the gurnard to be more meaty than she had hoped. We share a side of creamed potatoes which work well with my barrel rump steak, kohlrabi, mustard leaf and walnut.

Rock may not be that happy but I’m having a great time. I’m also having a glass of rioja – it is excellent and the combination of golden ale and rioja may help to explain why I’m enjoying the food more than Rock.

We decide to share the blue cheese, rhubarb and white chocolate dessert. It is the dish of the day – a fabulous combination of flavours, beautifully presented and hits the same culinary heights that we recall from Roganic.

Overall, Rogan & Co is a very pleasant place to be, relaxed atmosphere, attentive service but the food did not always meet our high expectations.

Lunch@Baba Ganoush, Kendal

After a pleasant walk along the river Kent close to the centre of Kendal we have arrived at Baba Ganoush. We have to queue for food and for a table but it is worth it. Rock has a fabulous salad of lemon hummus, babaganoush, couscous, spicy coleslaw, green beans with parmesan, tomato salad and green leaves. I have the grilled falafel & halloumi wrap. Plus a fabulous ginger beer from Cawston Press.

It is only once we have sat down that we realise that we aren’t where we planned to be. This is the Baba Ganoush food shop – with tables. We were actually aiming to eat in the Baba Ganoush canteen. No matter, the food in the food store is fantastic.

Coffee & Cake@The Bakehouse, Greenodd

We are at The Bakehouse in Greenodd and it is not often that a piece of cake is so good that I have to blog about it. However, along with excellent coffees, we are enjoying a piece of their iced gingerbread. It is covered in a thin film of icing that perfectly sweetens the beautifully moist and fully flavoured gingerbread. It is so good that we go on to buy white rolls for tomorrow’s lunch and take home a custard tart for afternoon tea. If you are in the southern lake district looking for coffee and/or baked goods then this place should be at the top of your list.

Postscript: The rolls and the tart were fantastic too!

Dinner@The Farmer’s Arms, Ulverston

Tonight we are meeting my good friend and former colleague, Louise, and her husband, Peter, for dinner at The Farmer’s Arms. The Farmer’s brands itself as a family run free house in the centre of the lively market town of Ulverston.

Louise, Rock and I all start with the crispy duck spring rolls with salad and hoisin sauce. The pastry wrapper is crispy and the sauce is good but the spring rolls have only had a brief introduction to the duck. They need to be filled with far more crispy duck to be a headline starter. Peter enjoys his crusty bread with olives, tomatoes & garlic hummus.

Peter and I are working our way through the variety of beers on tap. My personal favourite is the Atlantic Hop from the Westgate Brewery in Wakefield. I have a main dish with an unusual spin on Indian spiced lamb. It is served on a very long hanging skewer and it is full of good flavours. It comes with rice, a poppadum, mango chutney and curried tikka sauce. Peter has a tried and tested favourite – a traditional American cheese burger with bacon, jalapenos, pickles and barbecue sauce all served in a brioche bun.  Louise has the Cajun chicken – slices of chicken breast marinated in Cajun spice, served on a skewer and a widespread coverage of creamy Cajun sauce. Plus basmati rice and homemade chips. Rock, as usual, has fish. It is a pan-fried white fish served with sautéd potatoes and watercress but she cannot recall what type of fish it is. It is cooked well but overall the dish is a little too greasy for her.

Peter and I have not been given any form of embargo on drinking, so more beers have been drunk and more are ordered. Peter and Louise share an Eton Mess deocrated with a fresh strawberry and a chocolate straw set at an angle. Meanwhile I lobby Rock and persuade her to share an apple and rhubarb crumble with custard. And then more beer….

Evaluating our evening in the Farmers, I would say that the food was not bad at all. The beer, the service and the atmosphere were all very good. However, if there is one key message I want to broadcast, it is that the very best part of the evening was the company. It was simply fantastic to see Louise again and to meet Peter for the first time – we had a great laugh and a great time!

Dinner@The Punch Bowl, Crossthwaite

The road trip has now taken us from Northumbria to Cumbria and we arrive at The Punch Bowl at Crossthwaite after a long twisting drive over hills and through fog. We are quickly seated next to a very large and very loud group of diners. So loud we are unable to hear each other in normal conversation. Shimi, who looks after us all evening, eventually helps to move this group into the coffee lounge in the interests of everyone else in the restaurant.

I have a very pleasant blonde beer and Rock has a glass of decent Viognier. Rock, as she often does, passes on the starter. Ever the glutton, I have to try the Stornaway black pudding with bubble & squeak and a crispy hen’s egg. It is fabulous in every way – beautifully presented and full of flavour.

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Stornaway black pudding with bubble & squeak and a crispy hen’s egg

Rock has the pan fried halibut with a crab bisque, crab wonton and fennel. The halibut is perfectly cooked and the crab wonton and bisque are full of south east Asian flavours. She loves everything except the rough and hard fish skin which must be there for decoration because it cannot be eaten. I am given the most enormous beef cheek I have ever seen on a dinner plate – served with horseradish, wild mushrooms, creamed potatoes and borderlaise sauce. Even though it is fabulously tender, I am unable to eat it all.

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Braised beef cheek with horseradish, wild mushrooms, creamed potatoes & borderlaise sauce

For dessert, I barely have enough room to share the lemon tart which comes with a fabulous damson sorbet. The creamy zing of the lemon tart works superbly well with the rich tang of the sorbet. It is sensational!

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Lemon tart with damson sorbet

Well this has been an extraordinary welcome to Cumbria. The food was magnificent, the service from Shimi both excellent and entertaining and restaurant manager, Lorraine, looked after us very well too. If you are in the area of the southern lakes and you need a high class dining experience, The Punch Bowl is unlikely to disappoint.