Situated on the edge of Ambleside village, Rothay Manor is a long-established hotel and restaurant. When booking to go to this Michelin recommended restaurant we were asked to arrive half-an-hour before we wanted our table, which we thought a little odd, but of course obliged. On arrival we were ushered to their lounge/ reception area and asked if we would like to select pre-dinner drinks, while we chose our meals and took a look at the wine list. In the event, we decided on a bottle of Sancerre, both as a pre-dinner drink and to accompany our starter, as is generally our habit. While we looked at possible main course wines from the list and menu, a waiter brought us two complementary canapés each, which we thought was a nice touch.
The dining room had a rather 80’s feel about it, decorated in chintzy material, and lots of pink, but was balanced by a table setting that had an unfussy timeless quality to it – monogrammed place-mats and linen added a loftier note, while the Dartington glasses gave a modern feel.
On to food, and unusually for once we had had the same starter – scallops served on roast asparagus with crisp Cumbrian Pancetta on top and a lemongrass sauce. This was a good dish, the components skilfully cooked, the scallops particularly, were nicely seared. The lemongrass sauce had a rich consistency and contrasted well with the other ingredients.
For mains the Duo of Beef was very good, the slowly braised brisket with herbs and vegetables had retained plenty of the juices and was both very tender and tasty. This was sat on top of a medallion of beef fillet which, although relatively thin, was ample and nicely medium-rare, as requested. Accompanying rosemary potatoes came in a substantial portion, and had good flavour, as did the portion of carrot and swede puree that made up the dish together with some al dente mange tout. The roast Cumbrian Guinea fowl was cooked perfectly, the meat moist, not the easiest thing to eat with a knife and fork, but it was worth it. Like the beef dish, this was served with rosemary potatoes, lovely wild mushrooms, some honey roast parsnips (which were a little sweet for me) and a good sharp edged damson jus.
At this point, we were feeling quite sated and desserts seemed to be an unlikely prospect, but the menu had a number of intriguing options, so in the interests of thoroughness we soldiered on. The champagne and elderflower jelly was a terrific dish – richly but delicately flavoured, and nicely balanced by a compote of fruit and a good vanilla ice cream. The lemon tart comprised a very citrusy lemon custard baked in a well-cooked pastry case and this was served with a really sharp grapefruit and orange sorbet, making it in total an excellent palate-cleansing dish that was both light and refreshing.
After we had finished our dessert, we went through to the lounge to help ourselves to coffee and their very good petits fours made on the premises – a great way to finish off our meal.
Service at Rothay was quite formal, from arrival to departure like stepping back a few decades, but this was enjoyable. The wines were reasonably priced and there were a selection by the glass for those who couldn’t manage the full bottle. There is a delightful quaintness about eating at Rothay Manor, somewhat theatrical and it deserves to be experienced.