Eating Out: The Royal Hotel, Kirkby Lonsdale

The Royal Hotel, Kirkby Lonsdale.
The Royal Hotel, Kirkby Lonsdale.

On far too many occasions, I have glanced enviously across the table as my girlfriend enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine.

The job of the chauffeur is rewarded by, at best, a paltry half-pint – and Becky will testify that a drink can be a must after a journey on country roads with me at the wheel.

Thankfully, it is still possible to enjoy an evening out in Kirkby Lonsdale without resorting to driving.

You can, (at a price), catch a bus back from the picturesque market town after 11pm.

Our masterplan involved catching a bus from Lancaster in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.

That gave us time to mooch around a few of the town’s quirky independent shops, before enjoying a couple of drinks at The Red Dragon.

So we were nicely ‘oiled’ by the time we rolled up to The Royal, having booked a table there for 5.45pm.

This Georgian townhouse hotel re-opened a couple of years ago following a restoration, having lain empty for some time.

It was our first visit, and we weren’t surprised given our relatively early arrival to find we were the first diners of the evening.

The dining room is a fantastic space just off the main bar, resplendent with sparkling light fittings, warm dark maroon walls and wood panelled floorboards.

There is almost an antiquarian feel to the place, with objects including a miniature ship, what looked like a bird cage (now housing flowers), cabinets, a mirror, an old fireplace, and paintings adorning the walls.

It’s certainly visually stimulating and some great tunes were being piped out – well, if you like bands like Procol Harum and The Animals anyway.

But we were there for the food and by now my tummy couldn’t wait to see if The Royal would turn out to be a real feast of all the senses by passing our taste test.

Our pleasant waitress had by now delivered our drinks, and I supped an ale (£3.20), while Becky tried a Sanvigilio Pinot Grigio (£4.05).

There’s plenty to choose from on the menu, including some interesting sounding meat, fish and vegetarian dishes, as well as stone baked pizzas and children’s meals.

But some of the specials sounded even better, and I plundered the specials menu for both of my choices.

The butter poached brown shrimps came with fried chorizo on a herb crostini (£6.25) – a winning combination which left me wishing there was more.

Becky was also complimentary about her roast red mullet with proscuitto, rosemary, Modena vinegar, tapenade and almonds (£7.75).

It was a lovely mixture of flavours that really tantalised the taste buds.

For my mains I tried something a little different in the shape of the roasted swordfish with mussel broth, and sauté potato (£15.95).

And Becky also chosen her main course from the specials menu, opting for the confit duck leg with truffle mashed potato, crispy pancetta, curly kale and red wine jus (£16.95). There was a bowl of vegetables to share.

I enjoyed my swordfish steak, which was nice and fresh, and tougher and meatier than your usual seaborne suspects.

The mussel broth added a welcome richness and the potato was beautifully made, neither too dry nor too creamy.

The duck was nicely cooked, tender and tasty and the red wine jus was the ideal backdrop.

Becky could not manage a dessert but I just had to try the intruiging sounding Jamaican mess, comprising vanilla cream, ginger, meringue, banana, mango and toffee sauce. (£5.75)

I would recommend it, but only in small doses – what began as a delicious sweet melting pot of flavours, was by the end a sickly ordeal and I had to leave a little.

But even this highlighted the generous portions on offer and did not take anything away from a really enjoyable meal which showcased some excellent cuisine – truly a feast for all the senses.