|Lake Windermere from the top of Wansfell Pike|
During my holiday, I spent a few days hiking and biking in the Lake District. I got plenty of warning beforehand about the weather. I think it's fair to say that in general the UK isn't exactly the driest place on earth, and apparently the Lake District is the wettest region in all of the UK. So I packed lots of warm and waterproof clothing. In the end, it turned out that we were extremely lucky with the weather as 2.5 of 3 days were totally rain free. Well, the remaining half day was a thunderstorm with heavy rain, so I guess we got our rain quota filled nonetheless.
Anyways, my intention was not to go on about the UK weather, although of course you know how much the Brits love to talk about it. Much more interesting, I want to mention a few amazing food experiences that I happened upon more or less by accident during the all too short a holiday.
Let's start with the drive up to the Lakes. We stopped for lunch in Harrogate, a small and super idyllic town about halfway through the 4.5 hour drive from Cambridge to Windermere. The original reason to stop in Harrogate was that I would have loved to lunch at Betty's. You might remember me and Best Friend had afternoon tea there a few months ago. However it turned out that despite it being Tuesday and midday, the queue to get in to Betty's was so long that we quickly gave up on the idea as we would probably not have gotten a table until dinnertime. We did however get us a Fat Rascal from the bakery shop for later. I'm not exactly sure how to classify this huge bun type of thing, I would say it's basically a huge scone filled with dried fruit goodies. Anyways, another thumbs up for Betty's, the displays in the bakery shop were full of delicious looking breads, cakes and scones that I would love to sample. The service was super friendly as well. And the Fat Rascal, which was enjoyed later that night with hot chocolate, was delicious and sweet and crumbly.
I hadn't done much research on places to eat beforehand, so we picked our eateries by chance, based pretty much on the look of the place and the menus. And we did run into a few gems. The first one was a pub in a tiny village called Troutbeck we hiked through on our way to cross Wansfell pike. Good thing the pub, called The Mortal Man, was great, as it was the only one in the village. The menu was large enough to be variable and included the obligatory soup of the day, pie of the day, a sausage of the week and a large selection of sandwiches. I had a salmon and cream cheese on dark bread, and my hiking companion had the special of the day, a roast beef sandwich which enough meat to satisfy even the most dedicated carnivore. The sandwiches were absolutely wonderful, although I guess my judgement was slightly clouded by being crazy hungry after getting fresh air poisoning by hiking all morning in the sunshine. I have made no secret of my disdain of British bread, I think it's pretty much impossible to find good bread in this country, but I have to say the thick slices of brown bread in my sandwich were really delicious. I should have asked if it was local produce. As good as the sandwiches were, there was another gem in our simple lunch. The chips. They were the most golden brown and crunchy chips I have ever come across. They were probably deep fried multiple times, and contained more fat than you should have in a month. But oh mine, how good they were. So if you ever happen to have your way around Troutbeck, don't miss out on the chips in the Mortal Man.
|Being the only pub in the village, they really needn't try so hard...|
|Possibly the largest steak ever seen on this side|
of the Atlantic. The T-bone at the Village Inn.
Then on to the sweets. Just to leave the best for last, let's start with Kendal mint cakes. Or as someone so eloquently put it, sugar covered with sugar. Obviously, the combination of mint and chocolate is a classic, and oh so great. According to Wikipedia, the source of all wisdom in the world, it is a popular energy source with mountain climbers. I'm not sure I would like to be halfway up a mountain when the sugar high from this baby kicks in, but maybe iyou should give it a go if you like to live dangerously. Basically the mint cake is a slab of mint flavoured glucose (i.e. sugar), covered in dark chocolate. This is an absolute classic that you just have to sample if you visit the Lake District. Well, if you don't have a freakishly hight tolerance for sugar like me, maybe you should stay away. However, the strong mint taste actually makes it seem less sweet than it is. At least that's what I think. Best Friend agrees with me, but maybe I should get the opinion of someone with a normal sugar tolerance.
The second place I absolutely loved, was the chocolatier in Ambleside. It's called Old Bank House Chocolates because the shop is located in the old bank house (how surprising), but the company is actually called Hutton's. I almost ran past the place (I don't know how that is possible, but I was chasing a bus, busy to get back to the B&B after a full day's hike up Wanfell pike). Anyways, the main point was that luckily I ended up inside the chocolate shop (and this was only the first time out of two visits during a three day holiday. Yes, as I have said so many times before, I have a problem, and I'm aware of it). The shop was filled with all sorts of wonderful chocolate goodies, including chocolate shoes, chocolate footballs, handmade chocolate pralines and giant slabs of chocolate. The most amazing thing to me however was the truffel logs. Big compact logs of the sweetest truffle in so many flavours, and covered in a thick coating of chocolate. There were so many flavours to choose from. Rum, champagne and white chocolate, Cointreau, Cognac and Irish Cream, probably more than that but I think my brain went into a bit of overload when I saw all the truffles so my memory of the place is a bit hazy. The truffle logs seemed to be for sale in several places, I also stumbled upon them in a chocolate shop in Keswick, so probably you will be able to get some even if you don't happen to be around Ambleside. Another thing I had never seen before was the honeycomb toffee, a chewy and crunchy type of toffee. The toffee is made with baking soda and an acid such as vinegar which together form carbon dioxide which get trapped in the sugar liquid, and form holes giving the toffee it's unique structure. The toffee I got was further dipped in milk chocolate to form a thick coating, adding to the sugary decadence. I really liked the toffee, it was crunchy and not sticky at all.
|Above: the honeycomb toffee|
Below: Bailey's truffle log, both from Old Bank House Chocolates
Well, I guess that concludes tonight's long ramble about things to eat in the Lake District. Somewhat heavy on the sweet stuff, but then again, if you were surprised by that, maybe you haven't followed my blog for very long!
|Too bad the pub was out of Unicorn ale, so we didn't get a taste. Although,|
I'm convinced it would have been just as vile as any other beer. I
f you couldn't guess, I'm not much of a beer drinker...