James Cross’ Lakes restaurant has long been regarded as one of the most exciting in the UK, offering dishes that are as innovative as they are accomplished
To describe James Cross’ Ambleside-based restaurant as the Noma of the north may seem trite to some, but it certainly captures the spirit of this enduringly impressive Lake District retreat, which prides itself in using techniques that have stood the test of time for several centuries.
Cross’ cooking is some of the most innovative and accomplished in the UK. He’s a chef with a curiosity about food that most have burned out of them in their first job. His CV saw him go from the Michelin-starred Simpson’s in Birmingham to La Pergola in Rome, then Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York, and finally René Redzepi’s world-renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma.
It is the latter that has arguably had the greatest influence on Cross’ own restaurant, which he opened in 2014. Lake Road Kitchen is imbued and enthused with a similar approach to food and foraging, and embraces hyper-seasonal, climatically local cooking. Interiors, meanwhile, take cues from typical Scandi design, and feature walls lined with wooden planks and chairs covered in sheepskin.
The restaurant’s 12-course tasting menu changes often, and champions techniques of pickling, fermentation, and cooking over flames. Sample dishes include garlic king prawn brioche toast served with Sungold tomato and kelp ketchup; saddleback pork with both puréed and pickled carrots, pickled onions, and a pickled ransom caper-studded sauce; and pine nut and saffron ‘risotto’ topped with raw cep slices, sweet vinegar, and shaved slithers of seven-year-old parmesan.
Given the modest size of the dining room – it only holds a total of 26 covers – Lake Road Kitchen might look unassuming from the outside, but it is one of the best and boldest restaurants in the UK; utilising the best of its Lake District larder to create plate after plate of delicious and distinctive food.