Short stay: Rothay Manor, Ambleside, Lake District, UK: By Michael Edwards on 06 Jun 2021 in Accommodation, Europe, Food and drink, Outings, Hotels, Regions, Restaurants, Travel Miscellaneous, United Kingdom, Western Europe
Rothay Manor is a wonderfully elegant Regency manor house that has become a boutique hotel in the heart of the Lake District. Privately owned by Jamie and Jenna Shails, the hotel is renowned for its fine dining, which continues to grow stronger, with Dan McGeorge leading a fantastic culinary team.
While the house remains true to its Regency origins, it was built in 1835 for a wealthy Liverpool merchant seeking Lakeland’s tranquillity; there is a slight contemporary touch to the decor. The decanters on horizontal stacks of books allude to the 19th century, but today’s Regency stripes are thinner and lighter, simply an understated echo of the Georgian era.
Although we have already checked in online, great care is taken in the organization of our stay: reservations for meals are confirmed while a porter takes our luggage to our room on the first floor. As this is a carefully preserved Grade 2 listed house, there is no elevator.
A relaxing colour palette brings the spirit of Lakeland’s natural surroundings into our great room. There is ample space for a large cabinet containing an ironing board and safe, a five-drawer chest of drawers and a dressing table. A well-equipped tea/coffee maker and mini-fridge, complete with fresh milk, are hidden from view in this vast cabinet.
Antique black-and-white framed postcards and pages from 19th-century Lakeland-themed publications decorate the walls and give a sense of the area’s historic appeal.
There is ample space to store toiletries in a bathroom with a quick-fill tub and separate shower.
Noble Island, Willow Song toiletries, is an appropriately scented choice of flowers that complement a place of such natural beauty. A low-level sensor sets off a nightlight that’s increasingly appearing on travellers’ hotel wishlists.
With an established reputation for fine dining, Rothay Manor’s reputation grew further after Dan McGeorge’s victory in the BBC’s Great British Menu desserts section.
While ironically, her TV Give a Dog a Bone winner is a cinch compared to her spectacular Peach Melba. The sugar is spread out, pumped into a sphere, left to set, then filled with an almond cookie, raspberry sorbet, vanilla cream and peach slices. Unsurprisingly, this is the most popular dessert on the a la carte menu.
Suppose you’d instead try to Give a Dog a Bone, celebrating the first four guide dogs of 1931, which is on the Great British McGeorge tasting menu. A flight of assorted wine selected by Miles Cornish is available to accompany the meal.
It’s a heavy meal with inventive canapes, an appetizer, a choice of bread and butter – all before the starter and the main course – then a real dairy with a cheese board is offered before the aperitif and dessert.
Main courses include duck served with duck tortellini and duck consomme, stone sea bass with oyster, and Lakeland lamb.
It’s an easy walk into the center of Ambleside for its galleries and shops – many of which specialize in outdoor living amenities. Yet Lake Windermere is also a sort of boardwalk for cruising, fishing, sailing, whitewater swimming, or just a cafe with a view.
Traffic is heavy, and parking is often a challenge in the Lake District, so many guests arrive and park their cars for the duration of their stay. Rothay Manor is so well placed that guests happily go about their business for days without ever looking for their car keys.
Other nice touches
The gardens of Manoir Rothay are magnificent, idyllic for afternoon tea or an aperitif on the terrace.
An expansion is currently under construction, opening very soon, including a Dog Wash and Boot Room.
Bed and breakfast in a classic double room for £ 200. The a la carte menu, which is also available to non-residents, costs £ 60 per person.
Rothay’s restaurant has 3 AA rosettes, but McGeorge is approaching Michelin star territory.
Exceptional technical skills combine with creativity and impeccable sourcing. Additionally, McGeorge has a passion for Japanese cuisine, occasionally using oriental flavours to good effect. Don’t miss a pinch of wasabi to top the duck on a brioche couch or the cherry blossom froze pre-dessert.
The Final Verdict
Superb fine dining in the heart of the Lake District in a beautifully maintained Regency country house. Chef Dan McGeorge is taking cuisine to new heights.