With hindsight, I should have seen this one coming. "What's on at Linthwaite House tonight?" said our taxi driver as we made the short trip from our B&B on a wet Saturday evening . "Oh nothing, I said, we're just going for dinner". Cue a long pause. "Oh right, well, I'm sure you'll have a nice time..." was the distinctly concerned reply. Come to think of it, the owners of the B&B we were staying at less than two miles away had never even heard of the place. Was I, a poor ignorant tourist, about to become the butt of some terrible Cumbrian joke?
Well, quite possibly. The welcome on arrival was warm enough and I really have no complaints about the staff during our visit; all perfectly polite and friendly. We were there for dinner at what I thought was a fine dining restaurant and given their website stated smart casual for the dress code, I'd worn a jacket. That was a decision I regretted pretty quickly. Of course those people of a certain vintage were looking very dapper in suits, as they always do in a place like this, but there were people in jeans and trainers and groups shouting at each other, it just wasn't what I expected.
As I sat in the corner of the lounge supping on the most miserable looking G&T I'd seen in a long time, whilst dipping breadsticks into a depressing yellow gloop, the basis of which might as well have been processed cheese slices, I turned to my wife and muttered "I don't like it". She was pretty much aligned with my view having been equally unimpressed with her non-alcoholic cocktail. At this point perhaps I should have been smart enough to just have one course and leave, but no, my curiosity overpowered my common sense and I just had to try the tasting menu. Good job I'm not a cat.
We were shown to our seats in the extraordinarily warm dining room. It's a large, dated room but with little period charm; the tables were adorned with blue stemmed water glasses (not seen those for a while) and accompanied by some less than modern upholstery. On the table next to us a very loud gentleman was shouting facts about Chelsea football club to his bemused compatriot; when a noise emanated from his pocket, I was half expecting him to pull out a fax machine rather than a mobile phone. It was a very surreal time warp of an experience.
It's fair to say only some truly spectacular food could have saved what was becoming a bit of a nightmare evening. Sadly, it was anything but. The first couple of courses including a decent soup appetiser were fine but the duck that followed was at best, horrible. It was a really strange looking dish; on the left of a white rectangular plate was a slab of under-seasoned duck terrine with nasty ginger biscuit walls. On the right, complete emptiness aside from a small brown blob of something completely nondescript. I do think there's a decent idea in there somewhere but the version that was served to me was dismal.
The next two courses of sea bream and then a venison dish, where literally everything on the plate was black (works in some places, not here) were not enjoyable. However, things improved vastly with dessert including a very tasty cheesecake and sorbet combination. Praise be.
The wine pairings too were a rather unique experience. Never in this kind of setting have I had a tasting menu flight where the wines were delivered in such a peculiar way. The waiter simply emerged from a room with a glass full of wine, plonked it down and said "wine name". There were only three glasses for the whole meal and he still managed to deliver one of them late. Comical stuff.
Sadly, comical would seem to be a fair description of the evening as a whole. There's no doubt based on the good couple of courses I ate that the chef can cook and the service too, aside from the wine delivery, was absolutely fine.
But it really irks me to see a place like this trying to promote itself as top class fine dining when they're absolutely light years away from being able to offer that succesfully. Linthwaite House has a lot of positive qualities and I'd probably really enjoy Sunday lunch there (if not barred after this review). However I left that night almost angry at being duped by a promise of an experience they didn't even get close to delivering.
|Ratings||Michelin Guide||AA Guide||Good Food Guide|
|At time of review||Listed||5|