I like visiting restaurants. I don’t get the chance anywhere near like I’d want to. I’d love to be a restaurant critic and get paid to eat in a variety of places. It would be my dream job.
For me, there are two types of restaurants worth going to. First of all, there are event destinations where you’ll pay a premium to sample some of the best cooking around. We’re fortunate in Cumbria to have so many of these. L’Enclume stands out from the crowd but we also have places like The Samling, Linthwaite House, Holbeck Ghyll and, closer to hand, The Cottage in the Wood. There’s also the relatively new Old Stamp House in Ambleside which has just won the Cumbria Life Food and Drink Award for Best Restaurant of the year. The chef and owner there is Ryan Blackburn who used to be the chef at The Cottage in the Wood before opening his own place. It’s superb.
The second type of restaurant I love is the family restaurant. The sort of place you can afford to go regularly, where they know who you are, where the cooking is fantastic but homely and the drinks are well priced and tasty. Unfortunately, too many restaurants in this category seem to cut corners. There are too many bought in sauces and puddings. Too much food produced in a factory rather than in their own kitchen. The kitchens ring with the tell-tale ‘ping’ of a microwave.
You go to France and every town and village has a bistro worthy of the name offering home cooked food with a regional bias. They keep it simple too: two starters, three main courses and a couple of puddings all washed down with a good house wine. They change the menu regularly and in line with the seasons. And, of course, they serve it with real bread, not nasty, plasticky baked-off pulp.
If you know of any restaurants that fit that description here in Cumbria, please let me know. I’d love to go and sample their offer. You never know, if I don’t find one, I might need to start one off myself and that sounds like a lot of hard work.