The Lakes can feel inaccessible without your own car, but for those public transport users amongst you, The Forest Side couldn’t be easier to get to - trains to Windermere are frequent these days, and a short bus ride gets you right outside the hotel.
As the name suggests, The Forest Side wants to blur the line between inside and outside, translating the Cumbrian landscape into an intriguing tasting menu. Take a walk around the gardens and you’ll see chefs foraging in the grounds, nabbing ingredients from the kitchen garden or wild surroundings.
Lots of these ingredients find their way onto the subsequent tasting menu. Oyster and green strawberry seem an unlikely pairing, but they turn out to be perfect partners, merging gentle salinity and fresh, fruity acidity. Tiny, bursting summer peas pop up in a dish of rabbit and elderflower, and a beautiful piece of aged lamb - rose pink in the centre - is served with turnip from the garden and a foraged hen of the woods mushroom. A langoustine - gently cooked over coals and served with a smoky butter sauce and a crisp garden leaf - is utterly sublime.
No dish is taken a step too far - this is a kitchen cooking with huge understanding of flavour, but also with restraint. Even a dish of chocolate and sea buckthorn - the latter is so often the bane of a tasting menu - works, because the buckthorn is kept on a leash.
Cocktails are similarly excellent - The Forest Side will happily whip up a classic, but don’t miss out on signature cocktails like the cherry blossom negroni. Like the food, the bar menu endeavours to make use of local, wild ingredients, and does a fine job with them.
As for the restaurant itself, the tall ceilings and a series of windowed patio doors give the room a bright, spacious vibe. On nicer days the doors open out onto a patio, which overlooks the gardens. All in all, The Forest Side is well worth its outstanding reputation, and undoubtedly deserves to be seen as one of the best restaurants in the Lake District.