It’s starting to snow as we arrive at the Langdale Estate, just a couple of hours drive from our Northumberland home. In the last of the light, we can see white caps on the surrounding hills as we turn into the Estate’s main entrance.
Stopping at the brightly-lit reception building, we’re given our keys and a map of the estate before we make our way round to our room for the weekend. It’s in the main building, which is also home to a bar and restaurant and the adjoining pool and gym. The Estate itself is home to varied four-star accommodation, gathered around the central building, and a small lake, as well as Brimstone Spa.
Our room is a more like a small suite – huge bed, a comfortable seating area with squishy sofas, two elegant freestanding slipper baths (which are filled by two chutes of water which come straight from above) and a separate ensuite with a many-headed, Medusa-like shower in the ceiling.
We don’t have long before dinner, so we head straight downstairs and through an adjoining corridor to Stove Bar and Restaurant. We’re seated in front of a huge glass wall, through which we can see a small stretch of water and an artfully-lit wooden water wheel, all ringed with walls of lakeland stone.
Menus are brought along with a tall jug of cold water and a wine list – we quickly choose a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£25.95) before applying ourselves to the food selection.
My baked queen scallops (£12) are tender and juicy, enveloped in a creamy cheese sauce and served in a shell, with a crumbly parsley crust. My partner’s ordered a spiced lamb faggot (£8.50), which effectively stops me from stealing his food, but he seems to enjoy it, along with the crispy potatoes and carrot purée.
When it comes to the mains, my chicken, ham and leek pie (£16) is creamy, flavourful, moreish, and has a pleasantly savoury kick. What it is not, however, is a pie. It is a chicken, ham and leek stew, with a pastry lid. As it’s so exceptionally good I’m willing to overlook the inaccurate description this once, and hope it doesn’t happen again. The creamy mash and crunchy broccoli it’s served with are outstanding too, which appeases me further.
Opposite me, my partner has once again ordered something I don’t particularly like – a grilled pork chop (£21) with mash, cabbage, apple purée and a black pudding bonbon. He raves about it, but I can’t help feeling his choices are slightly unfair. Sharing is caring, after all.
I change my mind about that the moment our desserts arrive. His lemon posset (£7) with white chocolate, meringue and lemon curd, is pronounced ‘excellent,’ but it pales in comparison with my own choice – Stove’s signature sticky toffee bread and butter pudding (£7). This is a revelation. Why have
we all been eating the usual, cake-based bread and butter pudding, when all along there was this other, rich, robust and rumbustious option out there? The ‘pie’ incident is forgiven and forgotten as I make my way through the sticky toffee (without sharing a single spoonful).
The morning sees more snow falling over the higher ground which rings the Estate. Not wanting to become a local news story headlined ‘Under-prepared idiots rescued from small hillock as weather closes in,’ we decide to skip our planned walk and instead head into Ambleside for a look around. We find a pretty town, all winding streets and twinkling lights against the grey gloom of the day.
We don’t have time to linger, but head back to the hotel for an important appointment – at Brimstone Spa. After an hour-long full body experience, we make our way through the thermal suite, which includes a herbal sauna, lava sauna, laconium, Finnish sauna, ice fountain, Himalaya salt steam and a brilliant indoor/outdoor relaxation pool with bubble jets, fountains and stupendous views. The spa here is ultra-modern and sparklingly clean, with a luxe finish to the facilities and one eye on nature – there are strategically placed windows throughout, through which you have a clear view of trees and sky.
After such an indulgent day, we do feel we should do just a little exercise, so we set out on foot to Wainwrights’ Inn, a short distance along the road from the Langdale, in Chapel Stile. Having missed lunch after a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we’re ready for our nachos, lamb shoulder and caesar salad (not all on the same plate), along with a couple of pints of their local ales. We skip the pudding in favour of a brisk, cold walk back to the hotel, where we stop in at Stove Bar and swap cask ales for cocktails. The bar staff are happy to deviate from the short cocktail menu – and good at it too. They’re also more than happy to bring me another plate of that scrumptious sticky toffee bread and butter pudding from the previous night – just to round things off.
The Langdale Estate
Great Langdale, Nr Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 9JD