It’s always rainy in Windermere, a small town in the Lake District of England very much like Bar Harbor, Maine. Windermere was the final leg of our honeymoon before returning home and back to the grind. I was determined to get out of the city and into the idyllic English countryside in the Lake District – Windermere did not disappoint.
After spending the afternoon we arrived walking around, browsing the little shops and taking in the changes in architecture, it was time to eat. The first restaurant we went to was Porto Restaurant in Bowness. The restaurant itself spans two floors, and my husband and I were seated on the second floor. Not your typical fine dining place, they played some pretty good electronica beats in the background. They serve a contemporary British cuisine, but for some reason that night we decided we wanted some non-British food and ordered all of the specials.
For an appetizer, we ordered the arancini with shrimp. As you can see below, the arancini were a little smaller than the ones you find in Boston, but still quite crispy. A lot of places will just give arancini with some sauce. What I like about this one was the addition of other flavors like shrimp and salad. And the sauce was a cream sauce when most places give a red tomato sauce.
For the main course, we both ordered a lamb dish with couscous and mango chutney. The combination of the flavors surprised us, considering this was a British restaurant, but they combined in a beautiful way. The savory flavor of the lamb and red tomato sauce was well-balanced with the sweetness of the mango.
Finally for dessert, we ordered a chocolate tart. The dish was laid out well and presented well, with berries and celery marinated in wine (a pleasant surprise!). The tart itself left something to be desired. The crust was a bit hard. The ice cream, however, was homemade, chocolatey, and somewhat sugary.
The next day we spent hiking the rolling green hills on the Lake District and taking a boat cruise around the area. There’s nothing like it here in the States. Supple grass and easily more sheep than people.
But that night we needed another good meal, and after eating so much quintessentially British food, we decided an Italian restaurant suited our immediate needs: Villa Positano. This restaurant had a manager who ran a tight ship. We watched him direct the servers like nobody’s business. We thought he was the owner because acted almost like a Don from The Godfather, but when we asked he said he was not the owner.
Anyway, we started off with some garlic bread (no photos) which was essentially a thin pizza dough. Very good and very doughy. For the main course, I ordered simple pasta with sausage.
My husband ordered chicken cacciatore, which looked to me to be half chicken half sauce, but my husband swears it was delicious and had a rich tomato flavor.
Finally, for dessert we had tiramisu. Normally you see this presented as a slice of cake, but here the presented it to us in a deep dish, almost to be eaten like chocolate mousse or ice cream and topped with cocoa powder and chocolate sauce. It was very light and the right amount for two people after two large main courses.
The following day it poured for hours on end, so rather than go hiking we chose to do a mountain tour with one of the local guide companies. The tour us through many hills and valleys, on roads not wide enough for two cars. No joke, every time a car came in the opposite direction, we had to pull over onto the grass to let them go by. The highlight of the tour was Muncaster Castle where they have a daily birds of prey show. Several of the birds swooped right over our heads. Here’s a money shot:
But after a long day, it was again time to eat dinner. Keep in mind that throughout this trip, we had been staying at a B&B where we had a classic English breakfast everyday. We saved the best restaurant in Windermere, Francine’s, for last. While it doesn’t have a Michelin star, it is listed in the Michelin guide as somewhere that has quality food.
For an appetizer, we ordered duck confit, which came with a toasted brioche and cranberries. The duck had some fruit and a large chunk of cheese in it. The cranberries added a hint of sweetness, but they probably weren’t needed. The duck was good on its own.
My main course was a zucchini and leek souffle, which seemed like the healthiest option on the menu. The souffle itself was moist and fluffy, though I really didn’t taste much of the zucchini or leeks. The rest of the dish consisted of parmesan cheese, peppers, and lettuce. Now that I think about it, which it added to the presentation, I’m not convinced it added to the flavor. I probably would have selected a different cheese (one that had a smokey flavor to balance the subtle flavor of the souffle). I also probably would have roasted the red peppers for a stronger flavor.
Finally came dessert, a special consisting of a pear marinated in white wine, almond and chocolate mousse, and vanilla ice cream. The pear was quite sweet and soft to cut. It must have been marinated for hours. The chocolate mousse had the perfect consistency and a chocolate flavor that did not overpower the other parts of the dish. Overall this was a pleasing dessert.
Key Takeaways: If you ever get the chance to go to England, the Lake District and specifically Windermere are worth a visit. Scenic views and good food, but don’t forget an umbrella!