Saturday, 23 August 2008
The Drunken Duck, Ambleside
In the Lake District there is a wonderful gastropub called the Drunken Duck. In 4 visits to the Lakes we've only managed to get a table for dinner once, so I was really keen to get in this time. And when I went to the website to find the phone number I discovered that they have rooms as well! What serendipity. So I got a Courtyard View room and a table for dinner in the restaurant.
We checked in at about 3.30 to discover the most civilised thing in the world. The (quite reasonable) room rate included bed, breakfast AND afternoon tea! The lovely girl on reception said "Just call down when you want your tea", and 10 minutes after that a tray of fresh, hot scones, homemade mixed berry jam and a generous dish of clotted cream arrived. The tea was proper leaf tea with a strainer and everything. How absolutely perfect.
Paul went down to his favourite lake to fish, the sun came out and I lay on the bed and read. Brilliant afternoon. Although I should probably have had a good walk to prepare myself for the dinner to come.
The people sat on both sides of us in the restaurant were a bit dreadful. Paul has this hypothesis that people who are uncomfortable in restaurants behave badly and I think it is true. I suspect they thought they were coming to a pubby pub and to have white tablecloths and good glassware was a bit much for them.
The menu was very, very tempting. I started with a game terrine with pear and vanilla chutney. Unusual, but perfect. Shreds of slow cooked meat (I suspect venison shin) surrounded lean chunks of rare meat - pigeon, venison and pheasant, I think. The only way I can figure that they got the texture is to have cooked the bits separately, then pressed them into the terrine and weighted them while they cooled and the jelly from the slow-cooked meat glued it all together. Heaven.
Paul started with beef carpaccio. Which was good, but I won the first round.
As a main course, I had lamb with beans and sweetbreads. I'd never tried sweetbreads before and I figured that this was a good, non-threatening introduction to them. And if anyone is going to make something taste good, I back the Drunken Duck to do it. The lamb (fillet) was delicious. Herby and tender and lovely. The beans (a mixture of little white and green beans - maybe fresh navy beans and broadbeans?) were delicious, but the sweetbreads were a bit of a non-event. They were cut into very small pieces, so I just got fleeting tastes of something sort of creamy and fatty before they were gone. Can't really see why they are a gourmet treat. The only thing that let the dish down was the spinach. It hadn't been washed properly and was very gritty. That sensation of grit rubbing against your teeth is horrible. I did mention it to the waitress, but her English wasn't very good and I don't think she understood. And I am sure she didn't tell the kitchen.
Paul had venison for his main course. It was served with red cabbage and a sauce that involved chocolate. Also tender and delicious.
We couldn't face dessert or cheese, so we wandered outside to finish our wine while we looked across the valley at the twinkling lights of Ambleside.