The Lakes are a big tourist attraction in the North of England. With their dramatic mountainous landscapes and moody grey lakes, they attract everyone from walkers to painters. But what attraction do the lakes hold for us foodie types? L’Enclume is probably the most famous restaurant in the Lake District (although technically is isn’t within the national park), there are many other restaurants that are either more hidden or just emerging. Lake Road Kitchen falls under the latter category.
In their second year, the guys here are turning heads already. At first glance it seems unassuming, a minimal and smart shop front nestled between Ambleside’s many outdoor shops and mediocre tea shops. However, once you are inside and seated next to the pass where the Chef, James Cross, carves up the worlds best sourdough for you, you just know you have walked into what will be an epic meal.
LRK sells itself as a ‘Northern European Bistro’, but it is so much more than that. The ingredients on the menu come from a variety of places, Scottish scallops and Norwegian fish, to Northern Italian truffles and Cumbrian beef. They have also added the home grown string to their bow, growing veg sugh as courgettes and peas in summers, and various varieties of Icelandic grass for yoghurt production in winter.
With the the majority of their greens and mushrooms foraged, it’s a vegetarian’s treat, not only the sourcing of the ingredients, but James seems to have a fantastic creative streak, coming up with fabulously satisfing flavours. The above photo was my first course – a vegetarian alternative to my partners ‘snails , miso and wild watercress’. I had foraged blewit mushrooms with LRK’s signature aged miso, they use this same miso across the menu, giving the food a real sense of individuality.
As it is only a small restaurant, the atmosphere is created largely by the hatch in the wall that acts as the pass. The two chefs are constantly on view, and they make an effort to do all their work facing the restaurant. The best thing for me was to see the bread dough being turned mid service. No kneading involved, just some careful lifting and twisting, a huge white glutinous mass almost spilling from the chefs hands, back into it’s box.
The thing about the food here, and the thing about James Cross, is that it tastes like food should taste everywhere, because this man has a passion. Not only is he a fiercely good chef but he really cares. When he brings a pan roasted widgeon – and yes a whole bird roasted in a pan, no oven, no water bath- to the table mid rest you feel asthough you’ve been invited there by him, you feel like he’s enjoying it as much as you are.
If you are even anywhere remotely close to Ambleside, I wholeheartedly urge you to visit LRK, or even make the trip especially, we have done twice now.
If you appreciate real things, real food and real talent, you will get it. If you don’t, stay at home.