Which bit of the world has the greatest density of Michelin stars? You’d think it was Paris or Tokyo, but the 2022 publication of the Michelin guide to Great Britain and Ireland, suggests Cumbria is fast catching up.
With the news that L'Enclume had won its third star and the Dog & Gun at Skelton had got its first, it means that Cumbria now has eight kitchens that have a total of ten stars. This may not sound all that many but it means Cumbria has a Michelin star for every 49,000 head of population, a density far exceeding London’s ratio of one for every 102,000 and not far behind the one for every 40,000 found in Tokyo, the city with more Michelin stars than anywhere else in the world.
Cumbria's culinary revolution started in earnest in 2003 when Simon Rogan opened L’Enclume in Cartmel, which soon became Britain’s answer to Noma in Copenhagen – with grasses and mosses foraged from the surrounding ghylls and venison tartare from deer grazing the fells. Sadly, L'Enclume, situated in the most southerly part of the Lake District, is well over an hour's drive from Endymion House.
But there are three fine dining restaurants all within striking distance of the house. Warning: they are all very popular and need to be booked several weeks in advance.
The Dog & Gun, Skelton
This pub doesn't have any of the tablecloths and flummery that you might expect from most Michelin-starred fine-dining establishments. It is still very much a pub, even down to the swirly carpet. And it is quite a trek to get there – a good 25mins from the house, down a number of small B-roads.
But it is a trek worth making. The food really is excellent. The menu (two courses £37; 3 courses £48) champions local produce such as a stunningly rich Cartmel Valley venison suet pudding with beetroot cooked in duck fat (pictured) or scallops from Maryport. It is all so simple and brilliantly done, with a lovely atmosphere.
Cottage in the Wood, Keswick
There can't be many restaurants to enjoy such a magical location, high up in the Whinlatter Forest, with views across to Skiddaw. It is just a 10min drive from the house.
The menu is a finessing of the best of Cumbrian food, without tipping over into pretentiousness. There's wonderful crab with watercress (pictured), Herdwick hogget and sheep's curd with rhubarb. The five-course dinner menu is £75; the full seven course Taste of Cumbria menu is £100.
We think Cottage in the Wood is the perfect special-occasion restaurant: slick but unfussy service, comfortable, and the most delicious food.
Forest Side, Grasmere
Forest Side is both a hotel and restaurant and the dining room will
be, for some, a bit on the fussy side. The cutlery comes wrapped up in leather pouches and the 8-course tasting menu costs £125 per person.
But some of the food is knock-out such as the monkfish roasted in local Winter Tarn butter with wild garlic and whey, or the aged Cumbrian red deer with onions and rainbow chard.
The restaurant is on the edge of Grasmere, the beautiful village that was home to Wordsworth, just over 20mins from the house.