My excursion today was across the border into Lancashire. As I headed west the sun began to peak through the clouds and as I neared my destination, the hunger pangs began to rumble.
As a keen fell walker I have driven past Hipping Hall zillions of times on my way to and from the Lake District. Today, there are no walking boots in sight; the sole objective is to indulge in what I hope to be a sumptuous Sunday lunch.
The history of Hipping Hall is fascinating and dates back to the 17th Century. I quote the information provided on their website about the building:
“Hipping Hall takes its name from the Hipping, or stepping, Stones that crossed Broken Beck, the little stream that runs past our wash house. The stones allowed travellers across the road that has for a long time been an important artery between the West coast of England and the cities of Leeds and York.
One enterprising individual saw this opportunity and Hipping Hall was for a long time a Blacksmiths and who knows, maybe even provided sustenance and accommodation to those wanting to break up their journey. In the early 17th Century the owner of the Hall, an Edward Tatham married the daughter of a local lawyer from Dent and became gentry in a generation, building the Hall and creating his legacy in the process.”
The reception is very polite and welcoming. I am ushered into the lounge where there are comfortable sofas and armchairs with a warming, open, gas fire, adding to the ambience of the room. With low ceilings, it’s all very cosy.
I considered taking the gourmand tasting menu but after examining both in detail decided, in the end, on the three course lunch menu.
Whilst making my final choices, the canapés arrived: smoked mackerel topped with a little beetroot (apparently the mackerel is smoked in house) and risotto balls. I could have had plenty more of these; they were great.
The dining room is set in the original hall; a magnificent room with wooden floor boards and a high ceiling decked with wonderful, old, wooden beams. The room doesn’t feel cavernous but is relaxed yet slightly formal, but pleasantly so. There is also some light jazz music being piped in in the background, hardly audible above the conversations taking place at the other 4 tables of diners.
My table is neatly laid with a crispy white table cloth and table decoration.
Once seated, a selection of bread rolls arrives and the waitress explains what each of them are: white, granary and chestnut. Soft and warm; they are all excellent. Although, I was expecting some nuttiness of the chestnut version with some light crunchiness of the chestnuts but couldn’t detect any.
My starter is shrimp risotto with shellfish bisque. It was a delight this dish with bags of flavour. So many risottos I’ve had in other restaurants have had too much butter added to them (if you are a regular to my musings, my dislike for too much butter will be familiar by now).
Main: Gardners pie. This was just like a cottage pie except a vegetarian version with veg and lentils instead of any minced meat. It came with pickled red cabbage, swede and turnip shaped in moons (moons?; yes moons!; would love to know how they made these!) , butternut purée, carrots and curley kale.
I really enjoyed this whole dish; everything on the plate was great. The swede, turnip and cabbage added texture to the softness of the pie whose filling of veg and lentils was lovely. The appearance of what must be one of my favourite veges, butternut, in a purée, was sublime.
Dessert took no choosing. It had to be the chocolate brownie. Recently I’ve been challenged, nay obsessed (!), with trying out a variety of brownie recipes experimenting with all sorts of different combinations of ingredients (blog will follow at some point!). I was keen to compare my efforts and results against the standard of cuisine here.
The plate looked great with the brown of the chocolate and green of the pistachio ice cream. The brownies turned out to be extremely gooey and ‘claggy’, sticking to my mouth. They were more mousse than ‘cake’; not the texture I was expecting. They were very rich and think a bit too sweet for me too.
The pistachio ice cream had a very delicate flavour; I might have liked something stronger to offset and complement the richness of the chocolate more. Overall, I have to be honest that I was disappointed here. Dare I say I preferred my brownies! I hasten to add this is all down to personal preference as was evident in overhearing positive feedback on the brownie experience from the next door table.
Coffee and petit fours followed: tiny choc chip cookies and a pistachio & chocolate truffle.
I very much enjoyed this feast and would be interested to return at some point. I’ve heard their afternoon teas are a treat. Now there’s a thought …Hipping Hall Cowan Bridge Kirkby Lonsdale LA6 2JJ England, UK Tel: +44 (0)152 427 1187 http://www.hippinghall.com/