The Punch Bowl Inn at Crosthwaite has been on the Guardian’s Eating Out list for a while now.
Head chef Scott Fairweather is a regular contributor to our Chef’s Special column, so I decided to head up to the Lyth Valley, south of Windermere, to try out his menu first hand.
On the way we had a lovely few hours with the kids at RSPB Leighton Moss in Silverdale, building up an appetite in the nature reserve’s tranquil surroundings.
The Punch Bowl is set down off the road next to an old Parish Church, surrounded by trees and combining a traditional inn feel with modern restaurant features.
We received a warm welcome from the front of house staff, and perused the menu with a drink in the bar, before the manager came to take our order.
Our usual parental worries of the kids making too much noise or “playing up” were set aside by the friendliness of the staff, who put us all at ease.
We were hungry, and there were time restrictions (we arrived at 3.30pm on Sunday and last food orders is 4pm), which made our choices from this stunning a la carte menue a bit easier to make.
To start, my wife Liz chose seared Loch Fyne scallops with white chocolate and truffle risotto and I went for the smoked duck, pear, vanilla and hazelnut.
As a main I chose roast venison haunch, curried cauliflower, blackberries, puy lentils and sweet potato crisps (£18.50), and Liz went for loin of cod, shellfish beurre blanc, smoked mussels, pink firs and purple broccoli (£16.50).
Our daughter Zoe had a mini roast (which turned out to be huge), and son Will insisted on sausage, mash and vegetables.
We knew from the ingredients being used here that we were in for a treat.
Presentation-wise, the starters were faultless, and the combination of tastes and textures gave our tastebuds something new and exciting to consider. We made short work of them.
The mains arrived within ten minutes, and it was more of the same on the looks front.
The venison was wonderfully tender, and again, the choice of combining blackberries with curried cauliflower was a winner.
Will and Zoe wolfed theirs down, and the waiter knew to ask us if they wanted dessert so we could finish our mains in peace. Will pointed out that the rich, creamy, chocolate ice cream he got was better than the one at home!
It transpired that both Liz and I had spotted the damson and gin creme brulee with caramel popcorn and clotted ice cream on the specials board on our way in, so there were no arguments there. By far this was the best creme brulee I’ve ever tasted, and who’d have thought it would go so well with popcorn?!
Chef Scott, who is from Nether Kellet, has won Cumbria Chef of The Year 2013 for two years running, and the restaurant is Cumbria Dining Pub of the Year as well.
The 23-year-old has well and truly carved his name onto the specials board of the North West culinary map, and coupled with the professionalism, location, and style of the Punch Bowl, this is a winning recipe for all involved.