Eating in a hotel is always an uneasy business; are there certain tables reserved for guests only, will you trip over baggage in the hallway and will the menu try and encompass every taste for the people stopping there?
Luckily Clarence House Country Hotel and Restaurant, has addressed the problem and feels very much more restaurant than hotel. Yes, the name includes the word hotel and when you enter there’s a bell and the front desk and the ubiquitous tourist information leaflets; but apart from that the whole ground floor is given over to the restaurant, bar and lounge; it helps that when you arrive you're immediately whisked in to the conservatory for drinks and canapes. Very suave.
Clarence House Hotel with thanks to themselves
Canapes seem to be the done thing in restaurants of a certain calibre these days and those that imitate them - sometimes you wonder whether the kitchen should have served up the lukewarm attempts at creativity at all; but at Clarence House I can report a consistently high standard - moreish chilli nuts, salty parmesan twists and pork terrine with apple sauce whetted the appetite and ensured we practically bolted in to the dining room when we were called to table.
The dining room itself is understatedly sumptuous and takes up over half of the ground floor – white linens, heavy drapes and an attention to detail that is replicated in the gorgeous dishes that arrive from the kitchen and the attentive, professional staff. There's the main area, an orangery overlooking the manicured garden and the terrace for those few days of the year it's warm enough to eat outside.
Pan roast scallops with curry and cauliflower textures was a tastebud revelation. Beautifully seared the soft shellfish contrasted brilliantly with a curried nut crumble, the spiciness tempered by a beautifully silky foam; the nutty edge of the cauliflower highlighted this usually underrated vegetable and the whole dish was given a dash of freshness and colour from beautiful micro leaves (apparently grown by chef himself).
Soft, salty, spicy, sensational scallops
Local partridge with confit leg was exceptionally well cooked; the small, sweet, crisp little leg was a salty and delectable morsel and I wish there had been more of them; sat atop fondant potatoes and drizzled liberally with a savoury and lip-smacking red wine jus, this dish screamed refinement and continued the high quality and excellent vein of the meal.
Partridge with more of chef's homegrown greens
The menu at Clarence House reads like a what’s what of the region; sitting at the bottom of the Lake District and Cumbria, they are surrounded by a plethora of exceptional produce that this region is so famous for. Thankfully there's a high level of skill present in the kitchen that puts this to exceptional and imaginative use. The menu is short, concentrating on a few exceptional dishes rather than try and cater to every different traveller's taste. Really it should be Clarence House Restaurant and Country Hotel.
Eating at Clarence House is a pleasure. The amazing, almost secret, setting with the orangery, terrace and the gardens ensures the experience is magical. And most surprisingly it’s tucked away on a residential street – you can almost drive past it, if you’re not lucky enough to know that it’s there!
Ps - although Clarence House is located in a little bit of a weird location it's actually very good for accessing the lakes or if you have business in Barrow-in-Furness (let's face it, Barrow isn't known for it's touristy side - although there is an exceptional birding site there called Walney Island, especially good for migrating sea birds and has resident populations of twites and eiders).
Price for two starters and two mains - £64
Food – 9/10
Service – 10/10
Atmosphere – 7/10
Value for money – 7/10
Total – 33/40
Go again? Yes, it would be lovely to stay there and it’s great for a special meal with a loved one or for a family gathering in the orangery.
Clarance House Country Hotel and Restaurant, Skelgate, Dalton-in-Furness,
Nr Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria LA15 8BQ - 01229 462508