After staying at The Forest Side in Ambleside, Cumbria and absolutely loving everything about it, I was super excited for our visit to their sister hotel and restaurant, Hipping Hall in Kirkby, during a culinary tour of Lancashire.
The building and surrounds have been there for over 350 years. The main building is covered in ivy and even with the bleak northern weather, a walk around the garden is most pleasant. There are modern Stable Rooms or more traditional rooms complete with wonky walls and creaky floorboards in the main house.
The dining room has recently received a refurb and it’s a gorgeous thing with wooden beams galore and a huge, high ceiling. The atmosphere however is deathly quiet. Even with jovial and enthusiastic service, it’s just a bit hush hush for me. And it’s an older clientele that’s for sure.
It’s a choice between the tasting menu (£75 for 9 courses) or a la carte (£55 for 3 courses) – we go for the latter. The little extras start things off brilliantly. Freshly baked rolls with a smearing of lightly whipped butter, some ruby red venison on seeded crackers and a bowl filled with a variety of textures of onion. All exciting, all delicious.
I start with “pigeon, celeriac, elder” which is a solid bit of cooking. The bird is on the rarer side meaning it’s tender and soft. The sharp elderberries cut through the little pockets of black pudding brilliantly.
“Monkfish, cabbage, pear” is a lighter offering. The cabbage has charred edges which elevates its flavour and provides texture. Hidden underneath is a big dollop of caviar. It feels generous.
For main, my gentleman companion’s herb gnocchi could have done with a sauce to bring it all together as it lacks the comfort factor you often get with a plate of gnocchi. A pretty plate of food though.
“Beef, turnip, hay” is on point. The beef has a blackened exterior, smoky and seductive, yet the middle is bright red. It comes with some braised meat wrapped in tiny ribbons of deep fried potato which is every bit moreish.
A little pre dessert of rhubarb and custard is gorgeous. Some puffed rice adds texture but it’s the set custard, all gooey, that send us into meltdown.
“Apple, honey, pine” is just the right balance of sweet. Sometimes appley puddings have the tendency to have a fake-killer-sweet taste of apple. “Chocolate, hibiscus, beetroot” is a most intriguing flavour combo; the beetroot being a mighty fine companion for the chocolate.
The offering at Hipping Hall is an impressive one. It has all the earmarkings of a modern British restaurant; the kitchen care where they source their ingredients, all the crockery is made locally and the staff are young and enthusiastic.
This is one for your Lancashire tick list.
Would we go back? Yes
We dined as guests of the restaurant