I've been wanting to try the food of chef Ryan Blackburn since Jay Rayner's great review of Cottage in the Wood a few years back. He has a very impressive CV, including previous positions at Michelin starred Holbeck Ghyll and Martin Wishart. My budget just won't allow me too many visits to these established high end restaurants unfortunately. Luckily for me, several months ago he opened up for himself (with his brother Craig) still in The Lakes, in the centre of Ambleside. As I'm a pauper with very expensive tastes, my problem can be overcome by going to restaurants like this. Young talented chefs who are very well trained and really know what they're doing but perhaps they're not quite so well known yet. So they're not charging an arm and a leg for essentially a similar standard of food. In this case, the taster menu at lunchtime is an absolute steal at just £35 for 7 courses. (It's a shade under £50 in the evening). We'd both had bouts of illness and were forced to cancel our reservation once, so when it came time to our weekend away, we were in desperate need for a treat. The Old Stamp House is in a cave like downstairs, a series of small adjoining rooms. Simply decorated yet still cosy, apparently this was the former work place of Cumbrian poet William Wordsworth, at the time 'Distributer of Stamps', hence the name. We began with Black Pudding Bon Bons , Cumberland Sauce. Great little bites, I can imagine the same thing but with the sauce inside , giving you an explosion of liquid as you bite into it. Potted Shrimps , cauliflower and spiced mead velouté was our first real 'wow' moment. That silent exchange of nods and raised eyebrows as we dug in. Gorgeously silky smooth, with a beautiful, buttery, luscious texture and so wonderfully bold and flavoursome. The bread was used to full effect to mop up every single drop.
Fulfillingness First Finale
You know wot!?, having just spent the last few weeks in some of the more popular big city destinations, where people flock like lemmings, it is brilliant to be in the wilds again. So good not having to step over crashed out crackheads or be subject to street detritus holding out a hand asking for a few pounds in an attempt at psychological manipulation.Fuck that shit.
This is the Lake District with its mountains, valleys & rivers and herds of wildlife and I had spent the day walking the Fells before yomping it back in to Ambleside for dinner at the Old Stamp House with its William Wordsworth heritage "I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills"
Two low-ceilinged rooms feature exposed beams and slate floors. The natural flavours of Cumbrian ingredients are championed in concise menus which showcase modern cooking. They serve seasonal food 'Insired by Cumbria'and sourced locally wherever possible.
I was here when it first opened 5 years ago and chef Ryan Blackburn has gone from strength to strength since his time as head chef at "The Cottage in the Wood @ Whinlatter". Your bill here will be relative to the food you have been served. Quality will always have a price but I have yet to think that the price is OTT. People travel all the way from London just to eat the "Herdwick Hogget" speciality.
Fed, watered and suitably satiated by a bottle of Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot, I made my way back along the winding lamplit streets and through the door of the cottage before crashing facedown on to my featherdown four poster.
I could almost be back in the Shire in Hobbiton ...