Roux Scholar Hrishikesh Desai cooks refined French food with an Indian accent at this Lake District gem
#Love&Laughter is the tagline for Hrishikesh Desai signature restaurant at the Lake District’s Gilpin hotel, signalling a more relaxed and contemporary approach to most country house hotel restaurants. “Though the food is fine dining, there is zero pretentiousness,” he says. Raised in the Indian state of Maharashtra, Desai has an impressive cooking CV – including time at number of French three stars and a spell at California’s The French Laundry – and he’s a highly accomplished competition chef to boot (he is one of only a handful of chefs to win both the Roux Scholarship and National Chef of the Year).
Desai joined Gilpin in 2015 as executive chef and has proceeded to spice up the Windermere hotel’s offering, combining classical French technique with the occasional subcontinental flourish. His cooking is precise and colourful, with dishes on the tasting menu including the likes of Bay of Bengal tiger prawns with hibiscus gel, squid ink cracker, confit egg yolk and garam masala; peanut butter semifreddo with salted caramel candied peanuts, hot fudge and banana ice cream; and Norfolk quail three ways, which sees the lightly spiced breast roasted gently with sesame seeds and partnered with slow-poached legs, a crispy quail’s egg, sweet and sour sultanas and a celeriac and apple velouté.
The hotel is also home to Desai’s more casual Gilpin Spice, which serves tapas-style pan-Asian dishes inspired by countries along the spice trail – spanning the Philippines, the Indian sub-continent, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan and China.