I don’t know where to start with this blog because when we visited The Forest Side last night everything, I mean everything, was perfect. Within 30 seconds of entering the building and being welcomed by someone in a rather nice tweed jacket, we were ushered into the bar and I was trying to persuade Mr Frivolitea that the wallpaper would look lovely in our house. (he suitably brought me back to reality about the size of our house in comparison to the room we were sat in!)I have been looking forward to visiting here for some time and booked it quite a while ago. The chef Kevin Tickle worked at L’Enclume and the menus, using local produce and many herbs and vegetable from the kitchen garden of the hotel, are my kind of eating. We started the evening as we meant to go on, with cocktails. I decided to pace myself with a mocktail called Berry Blast. Mr Frivolitea went straight for the Fennel in Love. Oh my, what a drink! Dark rum, over proof rum, fennel juice, lime juice, Demerara syrup, homemade ginger beer and angostura.
We looked at the menu selection. You can have A La Carte, the Lil Un (6 course tasting menu) and the Grand Un (10 course tasting menu). Mr Frivolitea and I realised rather quickly that we would feel like we had missed out if we didn’t opt for the Grand Un, especially as it had many things we particularly like that you don’t often see on menus such as hen of the woods, sweet cicely apple marigold and goats curd. The attention to detail in the dining room was also wonderful. Staff were attentive but relaxed and there were reminders of Cumbria everywhere including the beautiful central table made from tree roots with a wild flower display. This is somewhere of the highest quality that ensures you feel relaxed and welcome.
Our second course was heritage tomatoes cooked in elderflower, goats curd, caviar and tomato consommé. This was an absolutely stunning dish and one of my favourites of the evening.
Alongside this course we were given the most perfect miniature loaf of bread with parsley, lovage and celery butter. Something I am keen to recreate when I get home. The flavour in the butter was truly wonderful.
The third course was venison pastrami, smoked juniper yoghurt, mooli, Corra Linn ( goats cheese) and pickled allium flowers. The pickled allium flowers were incredible. I would very happily work my way through a jar of them!
The fourth course was west coast langoustine, cucumber, mallow, ‘Our Guanciale’ ( Pork fat) and conifer honey. The langoustine was beautifully sweet.
I ordered a glass of Davenport (Bacchus, Ortega, Limney Estate, Daveport, East Sussex, 2014) which was the perfect accompaniment.
The fifth course, one of Mr Frivolitea’s favourites of the evening, was courgette scorched over embers with mint and pumpernickel. The charcoal emulsion on this was amazing and reminded me of the tartare dish at L’Enclume and The French.
The sixth course was line caught halibut, dittander, charred lettuce and razor clam. I’m always amazed at how charring or barbecuing some lettuce can bring out such flavour.
The seventh course was dry aged middle white, mugwort, artichoke ( confit and purée) and daisies.
The eighth dish and the first dessert was a beautiful palate cleanser of ewes milk, loganberry and verbena. Beautifully sharp and fresh.
The ninth course was strawberry, acidic yoghurt ( as a meringue that was like sherbet dancing in the mouth) and sweet marigold. This was an absolutely incredible dish, a dish that I will be talking about for a long time.
Our final course was gooseberry, buttermilk ( as a custard) and sweet cicely soda. The flavour of sweet cicily is one of my favourite things so this was an absolute hit for me and a great way to end the meal.
Well I say end the meal but of course we chose to relax in the lounge with coffee and petit fours. Even here the attention to detail was wonderful. We had meadowsweet icecream that was made to look like a pebble. A bit of a visual test at the end of the evening! And douglas fir infused Turkish delight.
This was a truly outstanding menu. Everything was balanced beautifully and every dish full of culinary surprises. The last time I had a tasting menu that filled me with this much joy was Fera in 2014. I think it’s going to take a lot to beat last night at the Forest Side.