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Lake Road Kitchen, Cumbria: restaurant review

Read our review of Lake Road Kitchen in Cumbria, one of our five favourite restaurants for 2015. Chef-owner James Cross spent two years working at Noma, and his menu makes the most of Ambleside's wild produce. You can still get steak here - but it will come served with pickled girolles, fermented barley cake and bone marrow sauce. Written by Tony Naylor.

Lake Road chef-owner James Cross (main picture, above) spent two years working at Noma – and it shows. He is a cerebral chef whose bold, creative dishes such as home-cured brown trout, ramson broth, yesterday’s bread and dehydrated kelp stock are grounded in a rigorous ethos. For instance, James only uses native northern European ingredients. No olive oil. No chocolate. No vanilla.

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However, unlike many chefs who open high-end restaurants in small towns, James is determined to take Ambleside with him. Lake Road is a celebration of the area, and James wants locals to enjoy it, too. He still serves a steak for the traditionalists (albeit one aged for a remarkable 90 days or more, paired with pickled girolles, fermented barley cake and bone marrow sauce), and – mainly by meeting people while out foraging – he has built a network of collaborators who bring him everything from honey to ruby chard. In a year, James has become rooted in Ambleside: ‘It’s a unique area for wild produce. It’s key to what we do. I knew it was the right spot, but I didn’t know how right until last summer, when suddenly I had 40 foraged plants in my fridge.’

In the restaurant, the tables are bare, you pour your own wine and manager George Norrie ensures – while translating the menu’s more obscure ingredients (sea buckthorn meringue pie is similar to lemon, apparently) – that this remarkable food is delivered with zero stuffiness. ‘No formality,’ says George. ‘You’re there to have fun.’ 


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