In a nutshell:
Chef Hrishikesh Desai, who arrived at this luxurious family-run Lake District hotel in spring 2015, gives classic British dishes a subtle Asian twist at his one Michelin-starred Hrishi restaurant.
Desai earnt his stripes at top-end training grounds including The French Laundry, Institute Paul Bocuse and Lucknam Park. He also won the UK Roux scholarship (2009) and the Craft Guild of Chef’s National Chef of the Year (2010).
What are they cooking?
Two things reign supreme at Hrishi: Cumbrian produce and spice. Duck liver came capped with a wafer of warm Cumbrian gingerbread, tangy pineapple relish, dabs of coconut emulsion and bittersweet chocolate jelly cubes. Together, it tasted explosive.
Goosnargh chicken was a great example of what can be achieved using a humble ingredient. Both the presentation and flavour was flawless, elevated to high levels by meticulous attention to detail. Chicken leg meat – carefully ground together with fruit, nuts and spices – was formed into delightful mini sausages, prettily presented on the plate.
What’s the room like/atmosphere:
There are actually two restaurants to choose from at Gilpin hotel: Spice is far more relaxed (Asian food with bar-style seating and a view of the kitchen) and perfect for lunch, while Hrishi better suits a formal, fine-dining dinner for two – the kind you can labour over for hours.
There’s a huge homely lounge at the hotel’s centre, and a contemporary champagne bar next door that offers every cocktail imaginable – try a Dusk of Bangkok, a potent blend of prosecco, apricot brandy, Cointreau, Blue Curacao, dry orange liqueur, mango and lime juice.
Chilli glazed poached lobster is a permanent fixture on the menu – it came with succulent lobster claw fritters, an avocado mousse, sharp confit lime and grapefruit, sweet mango chutney and an Indian five spice blend called panch phoran.
But for us, the most impressive dish of the evening was a dark chocolate and peanut butter semifreddo. It was a celebration of salted caramel, candied peanuts, hot fudge and banana ice cream – impossibly indulgent, but delicate both in flavour and presentation at the same time.
The candied peanuts form a line that ‘marches’ off the side of the bowl, and everything floats on a shimmering lake of caramel; plus there’s an espresso cup of piping hot liquid fudge to enjoy.
If you eat at Spice, choose the saddleback pork belly marinated in oregano, dark brown sugar and five spice rub. It’s cooked slowly for 12 hours in a wood fired oven and finished on the rotisserie with a honeyed pork jus… excellent, succulent value for £14.
Choose from a plethora of options, including spiced cocktails, sake, wines, Asian beers and specialist teas. For the designated driver, a non-alcoholic Baby Funky Monkey is a refreshingly mature blend of pineapple, citrus and almond.
We enjoyed a Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale from Japan, an imported specialist beer with sweet sake-like malted flavours, hints of strawberry and a delicate finishing note of bitterness. Perfect with spicy food.
What else did you like?
The Gilpin experience wouldn’t be complete without staying over. There are two hotels on two separate estates (The Gilpin Hotel and The Gilpin Lake House) – the former boasts bedrooms with lakeside views and cedarwood hot tubs; and five ‘spa lodges’ that have their own private ensuite spa, including hydrotherapy hot tub and al fresco sauna.
The Lake House is, if possible, even more luxurious. Just over a mile away from the main hotel, these six rooms have access to 100 acres of grounds, including a private lake, boat house, heated indoor pool and jetty spa… it’s serious proposal/special birthday/anniversary territory.
We’d recommend the ‘spa lodge offer’, with its complimentary bottle of Champagne and mini hamper of organic spa products upon arrival, and a 1-hour massage at the spa or in the comfort of your own room.
Words and Photographs | Alan Spedding