The Lake District: home to Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and stunning scenery, and also - it turns out - extraordinarily good food. Set high up in the heart of the Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria, The Cottage in the Wood has a really stunning location. And the food, served in a dining room looking out over the Skiddaw Mountains, more than matches the view. The chef, Ryan Blackburn, is keen to emphasise the local provenance of his ingredients (Cumbria is home to some of England's finest produce), and he has created a menu full of things we wanted to eat. Line-caught mackerel with horseradish cream came three ways, with beetroot cutting through the richness. We also ate West-coast crab with avocado puree, disks of celeriac and strands of grapefruit and a surprisingly delicate starter of duck breast - slices of duck and finely-diced vegetables, served with a savoury broth poured on top. The mains were equally good. Seabass with shrimps was perfectly cooked and came with a more-ish cauliflower puree, and turbot was paired with a crispy croquette of pig's trotter. I'd never eaten hoggett, which turned out to be a rich, flavourful meat somewhere between lamb and mutton. There were plenty of interesting salad leaves (all local of course), and the plating was pretty and stylish throughout without being fussy. For dessert we tried cheeses from Thornby Moor Dairy, and a delicious parsnip and walnut cake, which came with a honey-roasted figs and a goat's-curd ice cream. Prices range from three courses for £36 to five courses for £54 (some of the starters could be had as mains), which is good value for food of this quality, especially when you can eat in such a lovely setting. It seems that the owners, Liam and Kath, have ambitions for the place and, with cooking like this, they deserve to have them realised. The "cottage" (actually a former 17th-century coaching inn) is a hotel as well - our room shared the same views as the dining room and there's a cosy lounge downstairs with a fire and books on walking should you be so inclined (we lazily stuck to touring the stunning countryside by car). Breakfast is a simpler affair than dinner, but provided the highlight of the trip for me; perfect Craster kippers, with brown bread and butter. The full English breakfast looked excellent; marmalade and jam are all home-made. The area is justifiably known as one of the most ruggedly beautiful in England, but it's time it started being recognised for its gastronomic delights too. With inspired and inventive cooking, the Cottage in the Wood is making a very good start. For more information or to book, check the The Cottage in the Wood website. This is a guest post by Louise Goodman.
The Cottage in the Wood: fine dining in the Lake District
Wednesday 05 December 2012