CROSTHWAITE, Nr Kendal, LA8 8HR
Very much a destination dining inn, the Punch Bowl stands alongside the village church in the delightfully unspoilt Lyth Valley. The slates on the bar floor, which were found beneath the old dining room, complement the Brathay slate bar top and antique furnishings. Ales from Cumbrian microbreweries include Tag Lag from Barngates Brewery, and Bluebird from Coniston. The restaurant has comfortable leather chairs, polished oak floorboards and an eye-catching stone fireplace. Two rooms off the bar add extra space for eating or relaxing with a pint and the daily paper in front of an open fire. Head chef Scott Fairweather focuses on the best local and seasonal produce, winning two AA Rosettes for his expertise. Sourcing ingredients extensively from the area's estates, farms and coastal villages, the lunch and dinner menus in both the bar and the restaurant might begin with traditional steak tartare with Bloody Mary dressing; or twice-baked mature cheddar soufflé with wilted spinach. For the main event, choose from the likes of roast cod loin cooked in Thatchers cider with mussels, leeks, bacon and mash; or roast venison haunch with parsnip, blue cheese, blackberry and apple. If potatoes are a must, choose between twice-cooked chips or sautéed with crème fraîche and spring onions. Desserts are accomplished, and tempt with uncommon flavours: vanilla cheesecake with mulled wine, blackcurrant and liquorice, for example; or dark chocolate delice with parsnip, yogurt and cranberry. In addition to a good list of dessert wines, champagne is available by the glass. Individually furnished guest rooms featuring freestanding roll-top baths can be booked.