Cocooned in Cumbria
Words by Miranda York | Photography by Ross Turner
Food and travel go hand in hand. And if you're anything like us, where to dine is as important as where to stay. So, in our new series of travel reviews, we discover the best places in Britain to eat, drink and sleep. For our second escape, let us whisk you away from your desk to a Cumbrian inn on the Scottish border...
Walk up the road from Pentonbridge Inn and you very quickly leave Cumbria and cross the Scottish border. Built in 1850 and located, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere, it’s easy to imagine it in the 19th century as the last stop to rest your head (and horses) before travelling north of the border. Now of course you’re more likely to find Londoners arriving by taxi from Carlisle station, looking for fresh air, log fires and good food. And food is very much the focus here. Chefs Jake and Cassie White, previously at Marcus Wareing’s two Michelin-starred restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel, have been whisked up from London to elevate what could easily have been just another pub with rooms. In fact, their cooking is so good, it’s easy to foresee gourmands travelling here simply to dine and admire the views (country walks optional).
"The tasting menu was both subtly inventive and gloriously comforting"
The tasting menu served on our visit was both subtly inventive and gloriously comforting. Roasted Orkney scallops were paired with razor clams, violet artichokes and a smoked eel cream that added depth and charm to the delicate flavours of the shellfish. Fallow venison, sourced from Millbank Parkland, was served with poached quince, roasted parsley root and perfectly cooked lentils, a hearty addition often dismissed by high-end chefs. Cassie specialises in pastry so, unlike many restaurants nowadays, dessert was not an afterthought. Apple tarte tatin with stem ginger ice cream tasted as good as it sounds, and pastries in the morning (and treats left in the room) were delightful additions.
If you’re one of the tiny population of locals, or you’re looking for somewhere to stop on a long journey, you can dine in the pub or simply order a pint: the chefs and owners are keen to cater for everyone. And if you’re travelling from further afield, there are nine smart rooms with satisfyingly firm beds, tweed armchairs and tartan accents. Views are idyllic (and extend to both Cumbria and Scotland if you look out the right window) but the roadside location does mean the occasional car can disturb the peace if you’re a light sleeper.
"Sprouts, kale and chard were all we could spot in the chill winter air, but come spring the walled garden will be a joyous sight"
Keen to discover where some of the local ingredients are sourced, we visited nearby Netherby Hall, where the large Edwardian walled garden has been brought back to use and planted with fruit trees, vegetables and herbs to be used in the kitchen. Owners Gerald and Margo Smith are behind both the garden and the inn’s revamp, and there are plans to rebuild the two glasshouses that once stood at either end of the wall. Sprouts, kale and chard were all we could spot in the chill winter air, but come spring it will be a joyous sight for anyone wishing to immerse themselves in the local food culture. For now though, you can be quite content simply sitting by the fire, cocooned from the cold, knowing that your biggest decision will be what to order for breakfast.
Pentonbridge Inn, Penton, Carlisle, CA6 5QB (01228 586636; pentonbridgeinn.co.uk). Double rooms from £125 weekdays, from £200 at weekends.