Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Hidden Gem Is Picture Perfect ; MICHAEL FITZPATRICK Enjoys Some Fine-Dining in Spectacular Surroundings in Windermere

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Hidden Gem Is Picture Perfect ; MICHAEL FITZPATRICK Enjoys Some Fine-Dining in Spectacular Surroundings in Windermere

Article excerpt

THE Lake District is famed for its breathtaking views - from the stunning Wastwater to the graceful peace of Coniston, but the sight which greeted me as I looked out of our window at Merewood Country House Hotel takes some beating.

This beautiful retreat overlooks Lake Windermere and the scene from our room is better than any picture postcard... it's picture perfect. Not that you'd realise this from the main road, as this hidden gem is screened by trees.

You know you've arrived somewhere special as you make your way up the long winding driveway and through the beautifully-tended grounds at Merewood.

It's no surprise that this place is a hotspot for weddings and one of the lounges is full of photograph albums documenting the special days of delighted brides and grooms at the hotel.

Merewood was built in 1812 for the son of the 1st Earl of Lonsdale with stone quarried in the hotel grounds and still has many of its original features around including the beautifully panelled hall and reception, stained glass windows, magnificent fireplaces and a silk-lined drawing room.

There's a relaxed feel to Merewood, the hotel is dog-friendly so you may have to step over someone's four-legged friend to get into the bar or when taking stroll in the grounds, but I didn't mind that.

Also, nothing is too much trouble for the friendly staff. During our stay they were happy to bring a pot of tea out to the patio for us to enjoy while looking out at the wonderful view.

With the hotel only a few minutes' drive from the centre of Windermere, we decided to venture out for an evening meal and found the delightful Lamplighter Dining Room on our doorstep.

The eaterie is run by brothers James and Alistair Tasker - James, who has worked at The Savoy, The Dorchester and Claridge's, is front of house while Alistair is head chef. The restaurant was founded 25 years ago by the pair's parents Tony and Sue.

The menu is full of traditional home comfort food including Fleetwood fish and chips, Lancashire beef suet pudding, and Chicken Kiev - but there are also more sophisticated dishes, such as half lobster infused with cognac.

After sharing a tasty bowl of mixed olives as a starter, I decided to go for the Lamplighter mixed grill (Pounds 32), a real meat feast. It's made up of a 4oz lamb rump and fillet steak, Cumberland sausage, Stornaway black pudding, chicken breast wrapped in Ayrshire back bacon and a fried egg. Everything was wellcooked and full of flavour, but I would have liked by steak a little pinker.

Across the table, my wife had the venison (Pounds 15.95) - beautifully tender meat, stewed in Guinness, with winter vegetables and a large hunk of farmhouse bread to mop up the delicious juices.

Despite my huge main course, I did what any real man would and ordered a pudding. I thought I'd keep it light... so just went for the Cartmel sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and custard (Pounds 6. …

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