Being brought up on the industrial west coast in the 40/50/60s we were not able to partake of what we now refer to as Fine Dining in Cumbria, it didn’t exist then.
Most restaurants, in those days, were to be found in some of the hotels. A number of pubs also made valiant efforts to improve the gastronomic experience but it was mainly a foodie desert, unless you were addicted to fish and chips and most of us were!
Some enterprising pubs in the outlying areas of the towns would occasionally raise expectations of a treat as they advertised an upcoming ‘Pie and Pea Supper’
It was what it said in the advert, on a certain day they would serve up a local delicacy. If you wanted to participate you would quickly ring the pub and book a table, and when you got there you were served exactly what the menu said. Pie, usually pork, and a large dollop of mushy peas, chased down with several pints of the finest ale..Nirvana.
These events were legendary and participating pubs vied to be top of the P and P popularity list.
I recall one occasion when I was filming a documentary in the area for a TV company and the female reporter was new to the little ways of the dining fraternity. After filming all morning near Wastwater we found a little village pub where we retired for lunch, Cumbrian style.
The reporter asked the barman for a glass of Rose wine. “Ehh lass, not got any of that, but I can make you one, bit of red and a bit of white,” she declined and asked for a Gin and Tonic. “Nay lass, not much call for that stuff here”. Still in a state of shock she settled for what the rest of us had. A packet of crisps, plain but salted and a pint of beer.
It gladdens my heart to report that things have moved on since those days.
Cumbria now, apparently, has the most Michelin starred restaurants in the country outside of London, quite an achievement.
The food all over Cumbria has dramatically improved and recent trips have confirmed this.
From a full English breakfast that would feed a hungry troop of boy scouts, you have to try the Cumberland sausage, to lunchtime menus that bring a glazed look of tummy contentment to the ones who could face it after breakfast, to the amazing evening culinary delights served even in the smallest B&Bs across the county.
Couple that with an amazing selection of fine wines and probably the best selection of small brewery ales served anywhere in the country and a certain level of satisfaction descends as you sit in a great cosy bar and listen to the country chatter, while you order a plate of the best shrimps in the world from Morecambe Bay for supper.
Caught in the shallow waters of the bay, cooked in seawater and further cooked in spiced butter and spread on lightly toasted bread. What better companion would you wish to retire to your comfortable bed with?
Or maybe it’s the Herdwick lamb or river trout or rib or beef?
Then comes, the piece de resistance, a very local delicacy from the fairy tale, fine dining capital of Cumbria, (as far as I am concerned) the village of Cartmel’s -Sticky toffee pudding.
See you at Breakfast.
Please comment below – tell us where you have eaten well in Cumbria.