Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel, Cumbria

Spring has sprung and we were off for a weekend break at Lake District. Just before we left, I checked the weather forecast, and surprise surprise, it was forecasted to rain ALL weekend. What luck! Anyway I was determined not to let the weather dampen our mood or spoil our little break.

Luckily for us, on our last and final day at Lake District, it stayed dry and sunny (mostly). Glorious weather. Let me rewind just a little. Before we embarked on our trip, Hubby proposed a Michelin meal one last time before I came back to no-Michelin-land (ie Malaysia). There are three 1 Michelin-starred restaurants in Cumbria and they all looked equally good so it was difficult to choose. After much deliberation , I chose Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel located in Lake Ullswater.

The hour long drive from Lake District to Ullswater was a very enjoyable drive as we drove through the narrow roads of the countryside. Now and then, we would stop by the side of the road to take pictures of the wonderful view surrounding us.

When we arrived at the hotel cum restaurant, I was struck with awe. I have to say I made a really good choice and deserve a pat on my back (literally). The view here at Sharrow Bay is breathtaking. It overlooks Lake Ullswater and under the sunlight, the water sparkled like a million diamonds. Lush grenery, quaint cottages and blooming daffodils greeted us, it was indeed a glorious sight.

Nestled in the grounds of the country house hotel, is a beautifully landscapped garden. 12 acres of private grounds with half a mile of lake frontage.

We were led to the drawing room (ie waiting lounge) while waiting to be seated in the restaurant. Smack right in the middle of the room is a picture window with a stunning view of the lake.

We were served our amuse bouche in the drawing room, a terrine of guinea fowl, pistachio nuts and sultanas with a beetroot chutney. It was tasty; a perfect start to our luncheon. Terrine has a nice, country feel to it and so, well suited to the atmosphere today.

Not long after we finished our amuse bouche, we were led to the restaurant. On Sundays, a 5- course traditional luncheon is served here. The decor in the restaurant is luxurious and eclectic, a mix of of porcelain, antique furnitures and a cosy fireplace.

The kitchen at Sharrow Bay is helmed by Colin Akrigg, who joined the hotel in 1968 as an ambitious 13 year old kitchen porter, and who from a young age knew that he wanted to be a head chef at Sharrow Bay one day. He achieved this in 1997 and achieved a Michelin star the following year and has remarkably held the star for 11 consecutive years.
This restaurant serves by far the best bread rolls I've ever had! The smell of freshly baked bread wafted around the room. The bread rolls were warm, soft and tasted so good that we had about 5 each! Well, we had to leave room for the impending luncheon.

For starter, I had the Roast Breast of Quail with Truffle Fettuccini, Pancetta and Wild Mushroom Sauce. The quail had a delicate texture with a subtle gaminess whereas the truffle fettuccini was deliciously smooth and went really well with the mushroom sauce.

Hubby had the Sauteed Scallops with Smoked Salmon Risotto, Pancetta and Lemon Grass Sauce. The juicy scallops were beautifully cooked and the smoked salmon risotto was delightful to eat.

For our next course, we both had the Fillet of Plaice with Braised Fennel. The plaice had been poached in milk, cooked just right so that the flesh was nice and flaky.

Just before our main courses arrived, we were served a refreshing Sharrow Fruit Sorbet.

I had the Fillet of Halibut with Shrimp Risotto, buttered Spinach, Scallop and Crab Tortellini and Lemon Grass Sauce. In hindsight, I should have given much more thought to my selection, two courses of fish in a row is overkill. However, the dish is not to be faulted - it was visually pleasing, and every component on the plate was delicious.

Hubby made a great choice for his main course and ordered the Breast of Gressingham Duckling with creamed savoury cabbage, black pudding, glazed apple and apple & sage sauce. The meat was seared to perfection; the meat was still pink in the middle with brown and crispy skin. Delectable!

For dessert, it was no-brainer. Sharrow Bay is the original creator of the Sticky Toffee Pudding. We both picked the Sharrow Bay Hot Specialty Pudding, which is the Francis Coulson's Famous and Original Icky Sticky Toffee Sponge served with cream. On the side, a fresh carnation, which I thought was quite a nice touch. The sticky toffee pudding was warm and delicious, the only criticism I have is that I feel it would have been the perfect dessert if served with vanilla ice-cream instead of cream. The Sharrow Bay sticky toffee pudding is available for sale through the online shop or via national retail outlets such as Harvey Nichols and Lakeland.

To complete our dining experience, we were served coffee/tea and petit fours in the drawing room.

Overall, Sharrow Bay has been one of my favorite Michelin experiences, they delivered in terms of food with the most picturesque settings for a Michelin restaurant.

For a full list of Michelin starred restaurants in England, click here.

Service: Excellent.
Price: £43 for 5 -courses.

Location: Sharrow Bay, Lake Ullswater, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2LZ, United Kingdom. (Tel: +44(0) 1768 486301)

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