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Cafes, pubs and restaurants

Cafes, pubs and restaurants

Even if you forget the name - which, let’s face it, is pretty unlikely - you’ll never forget the luxurious surroundings of Randy Pike. Rococo meets Gothic and lots of colour at Andy and Chrissy Hill’s three bedroom B&B, located off the road between Ambleside and Hawkshead. A fourth suite is on the way.

One of the perks of staying at Randy Pike is that you can be ferried to and from The Jumble Room in Grasmere, Chrissy and Andy’s other business which this year is celebrating its 20th birthday. For much of that time it’s been a regular in the Good Food Guide (it’s there again for the 2017 edition), the menu criss-crossing the world with dishes like the Thriller in Manila, coconut and red lentil dhal, Teppanyaki steak and the very popular fish and chips.

The restaurant business wasn’t the couple’s first choice of career. Chrissy, born of an old Lakeland family (one of her ancestors used to serve teas in Victorian times at a small stone hut at Easedale Tarn near Grasmere), was a hairdresser by trade who briefly worked at Vidal Sassoon’s studio in Mayfair.

Andy, son of a vicar (latterly of St Andrew’s Church, Coniston) was a heating and plumbing engineer for nearly 20 years. When the couple decided to open a café in a building once used for junk (hence The Jumble Room) the place quickly evolved into a restaurant.

‘It’s got such a lovely atmosphere it almost sings,’ a diner once told them, which is an appropriate comment given Andy’s great interest in music. Jazz photographs adorn the walls upstairs while the album covers in the ladies and gents may detain you longer than you bargained for. Check out ‘Sounds from the room’ on The Jumble Room website as well.

Five years ago the same ethos which pervades the restaurant - ‘take the very best ingredients, cook them with love and serve them with pride’ - transferred to their new B&B, a former hunting lodge, built by the same man who constructed nearby Wray Castle.

Large bedrooms and bathrooms, huge beds, lavish colours, richly textured fabrics, all laced with a bit of eccentricity. That’s what you get and that’s what people love about the place. Not forgetting the Randy Pike trifle for breakfast and the charming, generous, very welcoming and slightly off-the-wall hosts who serve it. Many congratulations on the 20 years.

The Good Food Guide 2017 and the Good Pub Guide 2017 have just been published and once again they confirm the yawning gulf that exists between south/mid Cumbria and the north of the county (including the city of Carlisle) when it comes to inclusion in these two well known publications.

Of the 22 restaurants, pubs and cafés listed in the Cumbria section of the Good Food Guide only one place - Farlam Hall near Brampton - is located north of a line that stretches from Cockermouth to Culgaith near Penrith. Farlam Hall (top picture) celebrates its 40th consecutive year in the food lover’s guide book.

It’s a similar story when it comes to the Good Pub Guide which names The Watermill at Ings as its Own-Brew Pub of the Year 2017. Of the 34 main entries for Cumbria only three lie to the north of the A66 Penrith-Keswick-Cockermouth road although a number of pubs in this part of the county do make the GPG’s ‘Also Worth a Visit’ section.

They include The Old Crown at Hesket Newmarket, Golden Fleece at Ruleholme, Wheatsheaf at Wetheral, Plough at Wreay (last three all near Carlisle) and The Kings Head in Carlisle, the only pub listed for the city.

Some places, of course, feature in both guides, familiar names like The Drunken Duck near Hawkshead, The Pheasant Inn at Bassenthwaite (new entry for 2017 in the GFG), The Punch Bowl Inn at Crosthwaite, the Sun Inn at Kirkby Lonsdale and the George and Dragon at Clifton near Penrith, Cumbria Dining Pub of the Year in the GPG.

Charles Lowther, joint owner of the George and Dragon also has Askham Hall near Penrith, another new entry in the GFG. Two other new entries are the Three Hares Café in Sedbergh and The Forest Side at Grasmere (pictured). The latter also receives the GFG’s Editors’ Award for Best New Entry while Mrs Miller’s at the Hazel Dene Garden Centre, Culgaith near Penrith is a regional winner, Local Restaurant Award.

But the greatest achievement is L’Enclume at Cartmel (pictured) maintaining its number one place in the Good Food Guide’s list of top 50 restaurants in the UK, the fourth year running that Simon Rogan’s restaurant has claimed this coveted spot. Two more of his restaurants - Fera at Claridges in London and The French at the Midland Hotel in Manchester - come in at number 15 and 18 respectively in the same top 50 list. Rogan & Company in Cartmel is in the Good Food Guide too.

Tuesday, 09 February 2016

How to succeed in a busy café market

A few minutes walk from the view in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria that John Ruskin described as ‘one of the loveliest in England, therefore in the world’, is The crossing point café. It’s owned and run by John Strange, former restaurant manager at Rogan and Company in Cartmel (sister restaurant to Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume) and his wife Renata. Popping in to the café yesterday after delivering a pile of Dymond Guide books to nearby Parma Violet, I could see why The crossing point (lower case deliberate) stands out in a busy café market. OK, lots of places do local sourcing of produce but here it extends to using salad stuff and vegetables which are grown in neighbouring gardens. Added to that is a choice of 15 loose leaf teas, Carvetii coffee from near Cockermouth, homemade cakes and scones, a gin and tonic menu, a range of Cuban cigars to buy, monthly supper evenings and a very small wine shop, with few bottles over £10. All in all, a café.... and then some.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015


Not a million miles from Brampton - and next drop for the new guide - is an enchanting little spot called Lanercost. It doesn't look like the capital of England but for a few months over the winter of 1306-1307, this was where Edward I effectively governed the country from. The king was holed up at the 12th century priory with ill health, yet still planning another campaign against the Scots. The coffee and cakes you can get in the Lanercost Tea Room might have done him the power of good; certainly the cheer in the shop would have raised his Christmas spirits.

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