There are few more magical places at Christmas than Windermere.
The magnificent lake, lined with twinkling lights, is enough to make any ‘Scrooge’ withdraw his comments of: ‘Bah! Humbug!’
One of the most charming spots on the lake is the Waterhead Hotel at Ambleside. The hotel has an enviable position near the ferry landing point and commands superb views over the lake and distant fells. The views delight at any time of year, just like the food at the Waterhead’s restaurant.
When we arrived on a crisp winter’s night, the exterior of the hotel and a large tree at the main reception were elegantly lit up by blue and silver lights.
The interior of the hotel definitely had the wow factor.
A Lakeland slate sculpture positioned next to the stairs had water trickling over it and the Christmas décor had a hint of luxury. The building and its exterior blended contemporary chic with traditional Cumbrian architecture.
My husband Mark had been to the hotel before but it was my first time and I was deeply impressed.
As soon as we arrived the friendly staff welcomed us and showed us to our table. It had an intimate setting next to huge picture windows overlooking the lake. We could catch glimpses of the lake glittering in the moonlight.
It would be an equally impressive place to dine in daylight as the views reached all the way up the lake towards Bowness.
The atmosphere in the restaurant was one of cool elegance and the Christmas lights gave the place an extra sparkle.
The service was swift and courteous. We ordered our drinks and perused the mouth-watering dishes on the menu.
Famed for incorporating all manner of local produce into its menu, The Waterhead is the place to go to fully appreciate how great Cumbrian food can be. The food looked so good that it was hard to choose a starter and main dish.
I decided to try the ‘Thornby Moor’ Cumberland oak smoked soufflé (twice baked oak smoked soufflé with rocket salad). As a souffle lover, I was delighted that it was on the menu.
It was light and fluffy with a delicious tang of smoked cheese.
Mark went for the ‘John Stotts’ smoked potted shrimps which came with wholemeal toast and a lemon wedge. It was beautifully presented and he greatly enjoyed the dish.
The restaurant was filling up with couples, groups of friends and families, but the service remained quick and courteous.
I opted for the pan-seared salmon supreme with dauphinouise potatoes, wilted spinach and seafood chowder. This dish suited me perfectly as I love salmon and seafood. The salmon was succulent and the perfectly-cooked mussels melted in the mouth. Sheer perfection.
Mark decided to sample one of the Waterhead’s signature Cumbrian dishes – the pan-seared venison steak with fondant potato, wilted spinach, squash puree, Hawkshead relish and damson and basil jus.
The dish was full of interesting flavours and, as he hadn’t tried venison before, quite a novel experience.
He enjoyed the dish but said next time he would ask for the venison to be well done instead of rare. Purely a personal preference.
As an extra treat (and indulgence) we decided to have a sweet.
Another taste of Cumbria was on the menu so I went for it.
The Grasmere gingerbread cheesecake and gingerbread ice cream offered a little taste of heaven. Accompanied by strong coffee, it was the ideal end to a fabulous evening.
Even Mark, who doesn’t often have a sweet, tucked into the English Lakes ice cream strawberry sensation and chocolate, pronouncing that it was ‘delicious’. There were so many tasty looking dishes on the menu that we hope to return one day and try more of them.
If you want to discover the true taste of Cumbria and have a glamorous dining experience, The Waterhead is the place to go.