Cumbrian Gastronomic Getaway
Location: Grasmere, Lake District, UK
Hotel Style: Luxury gothic mansion
Dining Style: Locally sourced seasonal menu
For a true gastronomic adventure in the picturesque surroundings of the Lake District, the Forest Side Hotel and Restaurant unashamedly revolves around the magic of its dining room and kitchen, which boasts a one Michelin starred outfit. Aside from the restaurant you can happily spend your days relaxing in the plush lounge beside the log fire, after returning from a lake-side walk in the fresh Cumbrian air.
Staying at The Forest Side
The Forest Side Hotel is a magnificently restored Victorian mansion, acquired and refurbished by the team in 2014, located in an envious position just outside of Grasmere and north of Windermere. Literally perched on the forest’s side, the mansion sits dramatically at the foot of the famous Lake District fells with views of the area’s stunning national park and its surroundings.
The lounge and bar areas retain their original fireplaces with beautiful log burners perfect for curling up next to with a game of scrabble on a cold afternoon. Tastefully decorated with striking wallpapers throughout, the rooms offer an inviting warmth that manage a perfect balance between modern sleekness and a celebration of its rustic charm. Attentive bar staff are on hand to recommend a drink of choice from a wide range of cocktails, craft spirits and wines from the Forest Side’s sprawling cellars.
Rooms at The Forest Side
In fitting with the rest of the hotel, the rooms at the Forest Side offer cosy and beautifully furnished bedrooms all with lovely bathrooms and, most importantly, a bath in each. There are three types of rooms on offer; Cosy, Superb and Master, the latter offering true grandeur, with stunning free standing bath tubs and incredible views over the hotel grounds and surroundings.
The Gardens at The Forest Side
The Forest Side’s vast kitchen garden, sprawling along the hotel boundary with two full time gardeners at its helm, provides the team with much of the produce used in their kitchen magic.
Teeming with over 100 varieties of vegetables and 25 types of herbs, the garden is full of all sorts of edible flowers and micro greens. The Forest Side’s aim is for at least two thirds of the kitchen’s required produce to be provided by their garden, central to their philosophy of local produce and self-sustainability.
Dining at The Forest Side
Run by former L’Enclume chef, Kevin Tickle, the Michelin-star restaurant at the Forest Side is probably the main reason you will visit, and with good reason. Awarded its Michelin star during its first year of opening, featured on the Top 50 restaurants in the UK by the Good Food Guide as well as being named ‘best newcomer’, its recognition and hype is well deserved.
With a sharp focus on sustainability underpinning the provenance of its ingredients, Tickle and his team have put together an extraordinary menu of local produce, including homemade charcuterie, hand foraged garnishes and vegetables sourced from their kitchen garden.
Dinner at The Forest Side - The Main Event!
The Forest Side offers up a choice of three menus to indulge in; The Reet L’al ‘Un (3 course à la carte), The L’al ‘Un (6 course tasting) and the pièce de résistance The Grand ‘Un (10 course tasting), all with the option of matched wines by the excellent team of sommeliers.
The tasting experience kicks off with a wonderful selection of amuse bouches. Our seasonal offering included a delightful black pudding with yuzu and Tunworth; and an intriguingly delicious ‘Little Critter Fritter’, a croquette made with… well you can wait to find that out for yourself on the day! Although bread and butter is usually worth avoiding on a tasting menu for fear of filling up, don’t miss out on the freshly baked bread and divine caramelised celeriac, baked hay and apple butter (yum!).
The team have put together a whirlwind selection of starters, with an excellent array of different ingredients giving you a whistle stop tour of Cumbrian flavours. A delightful blend of rich and delicate flavours are superbly balanced to leave you anticipating the mains with great eagerness.
Tickle’s passion for charcuterie rang through his starters, with delightful inclusions of their signature venison pastrami served with a smoked juniper yoghurt and “our” guanciale served alongside crayfish with mead. Each and every dish was presented to perfection echoing the delicious flavours awaiting within.
The use of beautiful cheeses also seemed a theme, with a deliciously strong and creamy Ragstone (goat cheese) accompanying a beetroot and sourdough crumpet, as well as Dale End Cheddar to go with charred cauliflower and quinoa. Explore more of the region’s cheeses by opting to finish your meal with the stunning cheese board (disappointingly we were beaten by this point!).
After an absolutely faultless first half of the menu, the fish course of cod with oyster was our least favourite, although this isn’t saying much given the standards of other courses! This was rapidly rectified by another of the team’s signature dishes which blew us away: the Cumbrian rare breed pork with smoked potato custard, damson and garden shenanigans (a wonderfully metaphoric way of presenting the delightful micro greens).
With seven dishes down, from our experience, usually we’d be in some discomfort and quietly dreading the thought of digesting the final courses. The balance of the Forest Side’s menu has been crafted with such perfection that for once we actually relished the idea of dessert.
After two enticing sweets of salted plum, apple and milk as well as pear and ginger beer, the team left the star dessert to the end. If a full set of matching wines hasn’t made you too fuzzy-headed, a truly seasonal dish of rhubarb, duck egg and chestnut creates the ultimate conclusion, perfectly summarising the Forest Side’s philosophy of beautifully fresh and local produce.
Accompanying the meal throughout, the sommelier team put together an intriguing selection of both old and new world wines carefully selected to match each dish. As well as including some relatively classic wines you’ll experience some off the beaten track grapes such as a Georgian orange wine and perhaps discover a new favourite!
Similarly to the rest of the hotel, the dining room at the Forest Side balances its gastronomic feel with a rustic charm that celebrates its surroundings in every detail of its design. From the wonderful wooden tables and matching leather chairs, to the magnificent glass-topped oak centrepiece, the restaurant has a casual rural character with just the right touches to remind you of its epicurean focus.
Breakfast at the Forest Side
After awaking bleary eyed from your feast the night before, stumble back down to the dining room to indulge in even more delicious food with a superb reviving breakfast. Choose from a wide selection of breakfast treats and enjoy a two-course meal including homemade granola, gingerbread pancakes or, of course, a full Cumbrian cooked breakfast. The exceptional waiting staff take great pride in their restaurant and will want to hear a full debrief of your dinner and favourite dishes as they pour your orange juice.
Our final thoughts on... The Forest Side
We anticipated our visit to the Forest Side with high expectations and were not disappointed in the slightest. The 10 course Grand ‘Un was an exhilarating journey through Cumbrian gastronomy and ranks as one of the best meals we’ve experienced in recent years. On top of the incredible food, the Forest Side’s beautiful mansion was a great haven to escape the grey January weather whilst rekindling our love for Scrabble!