Reporter TOM EARNSHAW takes a trip to the Lake District where he ate at the idyllic Kirkby Lonsdale's The Royal Hotel...
If you have ever read my reviews previously you’ll have noticed I mention about going out for meals with my fiancée, Rebecca.
Well, as of last month, she went from this to my wife; something that has made me the happiest man in the world.
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To celebrate tying the knot, and to put off those post-wedding blues for as long as we possibly could, my wife and I headed to the Lake District on our ‘minimoon’ for a week of walking, relaxing and having the odd glass of champagne.
After a few days in Grasmere, where I ate my body weight in Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread, we settled in at the historic town of Kirkby Lonsdale.
With it being less than one hour from Preston, we come here quite a lot for weekend breaks to get away from real life; if only for a day or two. But in the few years we have visited the town, we haven’t set foot in The Royal Hotel.
Opposite the town’s market square, the Georgian-era hotel was sympathetically restored in recent years to provide a modern hotel and restaurant in a setting full of rich history.
We had heard good things from Rebecca’s grandparents, who visit regularly, so we headed inside.
We hadn’t booked and it was very busy, so we were shown to the only free table in the restaurant. It was near the front doors so quite a few people went by us, but this was a result of our own inaction to book in advance.
We ordered a bottle of Jean Julien Cinsault Rosé (£17.95) to share while we had a scan of the menu.
The menu was eclectic. To start with, I chose the charred mackerel fillet with pickled heritage beets, brown shrimps, horseradish and samphire.
Rebecca opted for the fish plank – crayfish cocktail, dill cured salmon, moules mariniere, pickled cucumber, kipper pâté, caper berries and warm breads.
The mackerel was not as charred as I personally like it, but the taste was superb.
And for someone who isn’t keen on beetroot, the pickled heritage beets were a surprising aspect and something that complimented the fish-dominated palate.
The fish plank looked and tasted superb and would have also done well on its own as a lunch time option if you were stopping by earlier in the day.
At £8 and £10.50 respectively we expected quality food, which we agreed we definitely got.
There was then a break before the main courses. It was quite lengthy, but knowing there was a party of 40 that had also arrived at the same time as us, we understood the chefs were probably very busy.
For my main course I opted for the wild mushroom tagliatelle, dressed in white wine and garlic cream, rocket leaf pesto and parmesan.
I also upgraded to the larger portion and added chicken.
Rebecca chose the braised lamb shank, served with stock pot vegetables, Lyonnaise potatoes, pickled red cabbage, and a braising liquor.
Both dishes arrived and both looked fantastic.
I’d ordered a mushroom tagliatelle earlier in the week when in Grasmere, but being the wonderful husband that I am(!) I swapped with my wife as she didn’t like her dish. But not this time!
It was the best thing I had eaten out in a while. The individual flavours were simple, but when combined, oozed with a richness that I was craving.
I didn’t manage to finish the dish, simply because of its size.
At £16.95, I thought it was very reasonably priced for the taste, appearance, and portion size that you received.
The lamb dish looked and tasted divine.
The cut itself was succulent and the braising liquor was oozing with rich flavour. As someone who is also a big fan of red cabbage, I took the chance to try that too.
At £19.25 it was what I would expect to pay for such a dish containing a quality cut of meat, and obvious time and effort in the accompanying parts of the meal.
After trying each others we both came to the conclusion that we would have probably preferred the other dish to our own – which is a good indication of how good the food is.
The bill, including wine, came to £76.60; a reasonable price to pay especially when celebrating tying the knot. We’ll definitely be back.