“ Address: Bassenthwaite Lake / Near Cockermouth / Cumbria / CA13 9YE / United Kingdom / Tel: 0044 (0)17687 76234 „
Whilst going through old reviews I discovered that I never brought my review of "The Pheasant" over from Ciao, so what follows is an edited version of that review, focusing mainly on our particular experience there in May 2007. However since we have visited in May and July 2009 for dinner (including staying overnight in May) I am confident that the experience is still very much up-to-date, and even more balanced!
The "Pheasant" (sometimes known as the 'Pheasant Inn' as this is what it used to be called) which is a well-known restaurant and hotel near Cockermouth and Keswick in Cumbria. The Pheasant is an old coaching inn, and the building is over 500 years old. It was converted into an Alehouse in 1778. It is a traditional Cumbrian hotel, serving traditional Cumbrian produce. The location is stunning, and it is situated near Bassenthwaite Lake. It's on the A66, and well-signposted, so easy to find!
More information about the Pheasant can be found at their website - www.the-pheasant.co.uk where you can see some pictures and go on a virtual tour, and see a sample menu. You can also find out about the surrounding area, and things to do while you are staying there. Up-to date information about rates can be found on the website. A meal for two with drinks will set you back approximately £110, and bed and breakfast for two is currently £156 on a weekday, £166 at the weekend.
This review is about my personal experiences of the Pheasant. However, I do feel that any words I can say will not do it justice, and it really is a place worth visiting if you are in the Lake District. Please note, you can visit the Pheasant for lunches, morning coffees and afternoon teas as well as for evening meals and staying the night. My experiences focus on dinner, bed and breakfast.
---2006 - Our second anniversary - and going to the Pheasant---
We are so lucky living where we do in Cumbria (even though I didn't want to come initially - long story), and in 2006 we decided to go to the Pheasant for dinner on the day of our 2nd wedding anniversary as something special. We had tried to go before (and since), but had not booked far enough in advance (so make sure you book!). We pass the turn off to the Pheasant so frequently....and we'd heard from various people that it is an excellent restaurant, and we certainly weren't disappointed.
As soon as we arrived we were aware that this was not like the more downmarket restaurants we're used to. Our coats were taken from us, and we were taken into the lounge where we were given canapés and drinks while we ordered. When we went into the restaurant, the waiter carried our drinks for us.
The meal started with a pre-starter (something the chef was experimenting with), followed by a starter (I had the warm pigeon salad), soup or fish, main course (duck with chocolate), and dessert. It was a stunning meal (certainly in my top 10 of meals I've ever had), although perhaps a few too many flavours in the main course (that's the food critic in me speaking). The high level of cuisine is reflecting in the Pheasant's AA rosette. We washed our meal down with a nice bottle of red wine, followed by drinks (soft drinks for hubby as he had to drive home). The whole meal including drinks came to £95. Yes, expensive, but still excellent value. It was worth it just for the treatment - being treated as valued customers - not something you seem to get in most restaurants.
As we left we enquired about staying the night and picked up a brochure. We pretty much decided then and there that the next year we would stay the night - that way we could both drink!
***Booking for our third anniversary***
I booked via e-mail back in January of the year, because I didn't want to forget - for a weeknight it's certainly not necessary to book that far in advance, although I would expect it is during the summer. The manager phoned me up to confirm, and he seemed surprised when I gave him my postcode. Put it this way, the Pheasant's postcode is CA13, and ours is CA14. I decided that we would go on the Monday night, and that way wake up in the hotel on my birthday/anniversary. I received an e-mail confirmation, and put the date in our diaries!
*** 21st May 2007***
---Arrival and settling in---
We arrived at the Pheasant at 4:30pm. It was a good journey getting there (after all it is only 15 minutes away!) We were personally shown to our room which was named "Honister". There are 13 bedrooms, and they have a homely feel rather than that of chain and more commercial hotels.
The bedroom itself was nice (as was the bedroom we stayed in in 2009), but I was particularly impressed with the bathroom which was huge. Bigger than ours at home. I always notice the pictures on the walls in hotels, and was impressed by the seven pictures in our room - views of the Lake District. There was a big bouquet of flowers waiting for us, sent by the in-laws to the hotel.
We contemplated having afternoon tea (which is served from 3:30 until 5pm), but decided against it, and went to sit outside in the residents garden. The Pheasant has 40 acres of land, but there was a pleasant little garden, full of pansies and butterflies, and a resident cat who was quite friendly.
However, when we returned in May 2009 we did indulge in the afternoon tea, which was quite an indulgence to say the least - very pricey (and not something I think we'd do again), but a LOT of cakes and scones! Admittedly on that occasion it did take us a long time to get served (as we couldn't find the bell to attract the attention of the waiter, and that was a slight niggle.
Back to our 2007 experience, when the bar opened at 5:30pm, hubby sent me to get a bottle of wine. I opted for a Spanish Rose for £18 - not the cheapest, but certainly not one of the most expensive. The barman brought it out to us in the garden with a cooler, and glasses of tap water (which I'd requested).
It was lovely sitting outside in the sun (it was a gorgeous day - the gorgeous weather was not repeated in 2009), drinking our wine and talking. Hubby had noticed that there was only decaf coffee in our room, so a staff member brought him some coffee for us to take back to the room.
At 6:30pm we returned to our room and both had baths - we would have shared one, but I was a bit disappointed that there was no bubble bath or rubber duck (I'm sure I could have asked). I enjoyed my bath (even though I don't really like baths) because it was just so deep, and much bigger than a normal bath. When I got out I put on the Pheasant bathrobe (very comfy), and watched Coronation Street on the flat-screen TV as I dried my hair and got dressed. It's not a place where you need to be dressed up, but most people are fairly smart.
We went downstairs to the lounge where hubby had a whisky, and I had a glass of wine. We were given complimentary canapés - breadsticks, olives and mushrooms, and nuts, and ordered our dinner - we opted for the four course at £33.95 per person. In 2009 this now costs £37 per person, but that's inflation for you!
We had booked dinner for 8pm, (we probably ordered just before), and sat in the lounge until we were shown through to the dining room (about 10 minutes later). We were pleased to find we were sat on the same table as the previous year (and I believe we did in 2009 too). Our pre-starter starters were brought out. Basically, the chef tries out new things, and they are the complimentary starters. It was thin strips of raw beef, which I did like, but I wasn't sure about the yoghurt sauce at all, as that is not my kind of thing. The waitress then brought round little rolls, which were very nice.
As a starter I had scallops on cauliflower puree. Hubby had Gressingham duck with pineapple chutney. Both were served with salad, and both were fantastic.
The next course was either sorbet or smoked haddock chowder. We both opted for the fish which had a delicious flavour and just the right amount of sauce. At every meal since at the Pheasant I have opted for the haddock.
Main course I chose the trio of Wild Boar - belly, sausage and steak. The wild boar cracking was the best crackling I've ever tasted. The sausage was very meaty, but went well with the creamy mashed potato, and red cabbage. Now I'm not really a cabbage fan, but I did enjoy this cabbage - and hubby is determined to replicate it at home.
Hubby went for a mini shepherd's pie and loin of lamb, served with potatoes and beetroot. Both dishes (in fact all courses) are served attractively. However, portion sizes are good, it's not one of these minimalist places!
With our meals we drank a bottle of Chilean red - again, not the cheapest at £25. I really did enjoy it though - normally with wine I'm glugging it down, but I really savoured the flavour of this one. We also had a jug of water - I like it in a restaurant where you don't have to ask for water, that it's just there!
The one flaw was that dessert was either dessert or cheese and biscuits (although I'm sure you can have both if you ask, and if you want to pay more). I had the sticky toffee pudding (which I seem to remember I had last year as well), and hubby went for the Cumberland Farmhouse cheese. The sticky toffee pudding was served with ice-cream, a couple of strawberries and a dollop of cream. I think it would have been sufficient just to have the ice-cream with it. The portion was big, and toffee sauce exquisite. At the three meals we've had at the Pheasant since then I have always gone for the sticky toffee pudding, it really is out of this world!
After our meal hubby and I were both full!
I should note that on the menu there is a seasonal menu, but also daily specials, therefore if you were staying for more than one night then there would be different options. However, the seasonal menu does seem to be similar from year to year with some dishes identical, so hubby and I are still looking forward to going at a completely different time of year!
We retired to the lounge where hubby had coffee (I'm not a big hot drinks person), and chocolates.
Hubby bought a cigar which he had in the smoking lounge - for old times sake, of course now in 2009 there is no smoking lounge, although there are ashtrays outside for smokers.
Then it was time for drinks in the bar where hubby discovered to his delight that there was a choice of 55 whiskeys! I stuck to a brandy followed by a Baileys, while hubby sampled a couple of the whiskeys - which range in price from £3 to £6.50 a shot, in age from 8 to 25 years, and from 37.5 to 61.9%. This is a whisky lover's haven. Hubby had quite a chat with the barman and told him that they should really advertise the whiskey choice more on the website.
We paid for the drinks at the bar separately, everything else we'd been putting on the room tab. It was a really relaxing evening. There were some other customers, mainly older couples who were on holiday in the Lake District. We were the youngest there by about 30 years, but we were certainly treated with respect. There is nothing worse than being treated as inferior customers just because you are younger - at the end of the day we have money as good as anyone else's! We went up to bed at about 11am, to find that the hotel staff had been rearranging our bed covers, which I found a bit unnecessary.
I had a good night's sleep, although woke up at 4am to the sound of the birds. I didn't mind that at all, it was a welcome change from the seagulls we hear at home. There was also the bleating of a little lamb (well, it might not have been little), but I had it in my head that there was a poor little lost lamb.
The bed was comfy - it was actually two singles pushed together, so was big. I don't really like having sheets instead of a duvet, but that seems to be the case in lots of hotels, so only a minor niggle really. The bed we had in 2009 was unusual in that it was very high up, so a bit of a jump down to get out!
Breakfast in the Pheasant is served from 7:30am until 9:45am. We had a fairly early start (for a day off work anyway!) and went down at 8:30am. Hubby had a bowl of cornflakes and coffee, while I rehydrated myself with the fresh orange juice. There was the usual selection of cereals, grapefruit (etc), fruit juices, and porridge available on request.
Assorted toast was brought out, and we both ordered a full grilled breakfast. This consisted of egg (fried, poached or scrambled), tomato, mushroom, fried bread, a fried apple ring, smoked bacon, sausage, lambs kidneys, and black pudding. Really it was one of the best breakfasts I've ever had - having a breakfast cooked to order really does make all the difference. I'm not a black pudding or kidney fan, but I was determined to try everything, and I was pleasantly surprised. But really for me, it was the scrambled egg which made it!
Of course any combination of foods can be ordered for breakfast. There is also the alternative of having kedgeree, or kippers, or a cold meats platter. I think that the breakfast we had in May 2009 was not quite so good (can't put my finger on why, perhaps over inflated expectations) which was slightly unfortunate, but it was still good.
***Settling the bill***
We left shortly after breakfast, in order to get home before the postman came with my presents (!) The bill came to £270, which included dinner, bed and breakfast (oh, and a copy of the Telegraph).
Not the cheapest night out, but we had a lovely evening and it was certainly money well spent. 2 years later our bill came to slightly more, but as mentioned before, that's inflation!
In my opinion, the Pheasant really is a lovely place both to eat and to stay. If you are a tourist it is in an excellent location for sightseeing in Keswick and Cockermouth (and you can even venture to see hubby and I in Workington if you so desire).
It's the sort of place that if I wrote poetry, that I would be inspired to write. I did attempt with hubby in the garden, but got as far as "The grass is green, and so is the chimney as it is covered in leaves" - so perhaps don't think I have a talent for it!
It was a lovely birthday and anniversary celebration, one which was replicated for our fifth anniversary in May 2009 (in 2008 we took a chance by trying the Overwater Hotel which wasn't as good). We will certainly miss these DINKY (Dual Income No Kids Yet) days when we have children. But in the mean time we're looking forward to taking both sets of parents to the Pheasant for dinner in January 2010 (we have already taken my parents twice), and looking forward to trying a slightly different seasonal menu since we have tended to visit only in the late spring/summer before.