The Lake House, Gilpin Spice & HRiSHi – Review

gilpin lake house review exterior

By Matt Callard, October 2022

I don’t know how far you go in search of the utterly pampered, thoroughly rejuvenating experience. Maybe once in a while, like me, you’ll push the boat out for a night away at a restaurant with rooms, or slip away for a quiet day spa and light lunch with friends, as my other half tends to do. Perhaps you’re happy with pie and peas down the local quiz night every couple of weeks. But however you choose to do it, everyone needs a bit of pampering now and again, right?

So here then, in The Lake District, at Gilpin Hotel’s impossibly picturesque Lake House, pampering has surely found its spiritual home. Pampering lives and breathes in the lush and manicured gardens, where every pleasant nook and cranny has a bench where your body batteries can recharge. It’s in the elegant study, filled with interesting books and magazines where you can recline in comfort and feel yourself unwind. And it is, of course, in the spa and the pool and the beautiful lake view room where indulgence and complete escape allows not just your body, but your mind to switch off from the trials and tribulations of normal life and emerge seemingly renewed – and all in the space of 24 hours.

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Gilpin Spice interior

“Works wonderfully”

It all begins at midday, about a mile away from the Lake House, at Gilpin Hotel’s informal brasserie restaurant, Spice. The sister restaurant to nearby Michelin-starred Hrisihi (more of that later), Spice hosts an open kitchen where you can watch skilled chefs prepare tapas-style pan-Asian dishes that are gently fused with local specialities. It’s a concept that comes to full and spectacular fruition in HRiSHi, but at Spice – at least for the lunch sitting we enjoyed – Asian influences are subtle, leaning more heavily on trad specials like Cumberland Beef, Fish and Chips and Cumbrian Pork.

Steamed Prawn Dumplings (£9) are packed with flavour and just crisp to the bite and Tandoori Prawns (£12) give a hint of the Asian-influence that has made Gilpin Hotel’s duo of restaurants so renowned.

Mains of Aubergine and Tofu (£22) and Cumberland Beef in Vietnamese Sauce (£22) are superb. The aubergine delicately balanced with ginger, garlic and lovely shimeji mushrooms, the Featherblade Beef beautifully cooked, falling apart with a gentle pick of the fork. But this is no meat and two veg dish – it is presented, unusually, on a bright and sheeny red curry sauce with sticky rice but it all works wonderfully – and the side of Kimchi makes for a perfect palate cleanser.

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Informal seating at Spice

“Delights have just begun”

Double Kulfi desserts of Mango & Cardamon and Banana & Ginger Crumb are sweet-toothed delights that on any normal day would cap a memorable meal out. But this isn’t any normal day. Actually, the delights have just begun – in fact, so pleasantly indulged are my partner and I in the delights of Gilpin Spice that we forget ourselves and miss our Spa Trail appointment at the Lake House. God knows what logistical issues our poor timings cause, but the staff rearrange our spa booking with the minimum of fuss and, in next to no time, we are taking the one mile car journey from Gilpin Hotel to the Lake House.

With only six bedrooms and a maximum of 12 guests, the Lake House is an archetypal retreat in many ways. The road to it takes a downward plunge along a country road – the kind of road where you hope and pray not to meet a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction – then goes through a slowly opening electronic gate and leads directly to the Lake House front door. The brilliant assistant manager, Gina, so cheery, unassuming and knowledgable during our stay, immediately appears, takes our bags as someone else materialises, seemingly from nowhere, to park our car.

Yes, this is service, but not how you normally know it…

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Comfort inside the Lake House

“Extraordinarily comfortable”

Inside, the house is grand but informal. Seating is everywhere – a private place for everyone. There’s a study, a conservatory-cum-dining room and a decking area overlooking the woods. The grounds are large and wonderfully kept; there’s a lake, of course, with added rowing boat should you be feeling brave (we weren’t) and the wildlife, particularly all manner of birdlife, is a wonderful accompaniment should that be your thing.

Our room is lush. A king size bed is extraordinarily comfortable and the en suite bathroom light and spotless, with a good power shower. The TV, internet and refreshments are all present and correct and we are stunned by a welcome pack that includes beauty goodies, Champagne, soft toy, magazines – even a book about the creation of Gilpin! We have an hour to relax before our rearranged Spa Trail begins.

As we wander around acclimatising, one of the great mysteries of the Lake House becomes apparent – where are the other guests? With full occupancy I know there were at least another ten homo sapiens somewhere within the house and grounds – and yes, I do at one point briefly rub shoulders with a male of the species on the stairs – but it isn’t until breakfast the following morning that I actually see the rest of my fellow guests. I’m not sure whether this was a case of luck, or brilliant and deliberate logistics skill from the in-house team, but our Lake House experience really did feel like our own private paradise for half a day – and I, for one, was grateful for the breathing space.

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A view from the Lake House

“Impeccable taste”

Before long it is time to adorn the white robes and begin the Spa Trail – and believe me, if you weren’t feeling relaxed already then this incredible, immersive experience would slay even the most restless minds and bodies.

It starts with a half-hour head, face and shoulders treatment in a spa room that overlooks the lake and looks like the sort of place a Bond villain with impeccable taste might hatch a world threatening plan. Suffice to say at one point I think I nod off, woken only by my own internal alarm clock ringing and telling me that’s not the right thing to do. Still, the superb therapists don’t seem to mind as they show us the door towards part two of the Spa Trail – the pool.

Greeted there by a silver tray dressed with a mango and passion fruit smoothie, the extremely warm indoor pool is yours and yours alone for an hour. There’s a sauna and showers available too, so you can tiptoe between the loungers and generally do as you please. It works as a welcome spot of exercise between all the indulgences – and if you knew what was coming next, exercise is well advised.

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A hot tub in the grounds of the Lake House


For Part Three we are led down to the lake to the Boat House, a heated cabin with heated blankets. Inside there are sofas with throws, and on a table is a beautifully presented array of fruit, scones, clotted cream jam preserves, teacups and silver teapots. With a gentle breeze drifting in from the lake it might just be the best afternoon tea you’ll ever have. As we munch down on the scones neither of us even thinks to consider that only two hours ago we were polishing off a serving of banana kulfi.

Oh, come on, why not, nobody’s watching…

After a sleepy hour of digesting when, quite spectacularly, the heavens open and we watch the rain flash over the lake, we are taken to the final installment of our Spa Trail. I’d already noticed a few hot tubs dotted around the Lake House grounds and, sure enough, here was our own for an hour, with a glass of Champagne each to enjoy. With spots of rain still in the air it is a thoroughly invigorating experience to sit outside in the bubbling tub with a glass of fizz in your hand.

Presumably other guests are experiencing the same spa trail simultaneously, albeit in different areas of the house and grounds – but again, remarkably, we don’t see anyone else. The lake shimmers in the misty rain…

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Afternoon tea by the lake

“Perfect timing”

Of course, such privelege and – yes, excess – are uncommon. Some people may be used to this sort of thing, but for my partner and I, the sense that we have somehow been transported to an unreal fantasy is strangely real. It is all we can do to embrace it, hold it tight before it disappears – and push away the feelings of working class guilt that inevitably arise in these cash-strapped times. And all of this before we devour a mighty Michelin-Starred meal…

Still, we have four hours to prepare. What else to do but relax in the room, sip a G&T in the study and go for a stroll around the grounds. Before long though, the taxi pulls up with perfect timing and we are travelling through the rain back to Gilpin Hotel and the wonders of HRiSHi, where a man in a suit dashes to our car with an umbrella to escort us inside, red carpet celebrity-style.

A quick and lip-smacking White Russian in the lounge is the precursor to Chef Hrishikesh Desai’s* sumptuous 10-course tasting menu. Desai moved to Gilpin Hotel in the spring of 2015, after winning BBC2’s Alex Polizzi: Chefs on Trial, a programme that searched for a new head chef for the hotel after the owners, the Cunliffe family, failed to find the right person. In 2017 he earned the coveted Michelin Star which has been retained since.

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Scallops, among the starters at Hrisihi

“Gently innovative”

It’s not difficult to see why. HRiSHi might not be the dazzling, dizzy challenge of Leeds’s The Man Behind the Curtain (it doesn’t attempt to be) or equal the best-ever use of homegrown produce this writer has experienced at the late, lamented Yorke Arms, but the Asian-European fusion is subtle, gently innovative and absolutely unique to the chef’s singular vision.

A Spiced Pickle Aubergine Cornetto is amusing to look at and remarkable to eat next to a zinging goats’ cheese mousse with red pepper gel. Use of peppers throughout the courses is certainly unique and might just become the chef’s signature ingredient unless he chooses to downplay it.

The Almond Cream on Dehydrated Tomatoes is extraordinary – an early highlight that showcases an almost obsessive clarity with pristine, gleamingly pure creams and sauces that excel throughout. The accompanying gazpacho positively explodes with flavour.

With each course comes the wine – and an exceptional sommelier. Knowledgable, but never know-it-all, he goes into detail when asked and leaves it short and sweet when he isn’t. I even manage a conversation with him about Lebanese wine – not something I know anything about, bar this article from our own expert, where I pull all my facts from but deliberately fail to pass on my journalistic sources. Knowledge is power.

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A lamb dish from Hrisihi

“Dangerous and delightful”

Three mains dazzle us. A Cured and Poached Duck Liver Parfait somehow goes beautifully with a Jalepeño compote (who’d have thought it!), a Cornish Lobster takes on some of those already mentioned red peppers as a glaze with some South Indian Sambar Sauce and it leaves me wishing I had more, more, more and a Cumbrian Lamb ‘Laal Maas’ lays claim to Chef Desai’s definitive dish, the light and sensual Asian sauce giving the classic lamb loin a whole new taste and texture. It’s a total triumph.

Desserts tick those sweet boxes with panache, including a breathtaking Caramelised Chocolate Namelaka, which takes ‘creamy’ into dangerous and delightful new areas.

Goodness, what a show. And after the day we’ve had, an almost surreally heady experience.

As our taxi takes us back to the Lake House, two passengers sit stuffed, smiling at the Lake District rain in stunned silence.

There’s no problem with sleep, as so often is the case after ultra-rich food (maybe the chef’s lightness of touch helps) – and it seems somewhat immoderate to mention breakfast in the morning is good too. And heck, we even get to see our fellow guests, most of whom share the same saintly glow as us, batteries restored and ready to take on the rush and push of modern living once again thanks to 24-hours in this extraordinary, unforgettable venue.

Located in the beautiful Lake District, just four miles from Windermere, sits the family run Gilpin Hotel & Lake House. Built as a private house in 1901, today Gilpin is run by Zoë and Barney Cunliffe. A luxurious AA 5 Star, Relais & Châteaux property that combines two hotels on two separate estates with a total of 36 rooms and suites. At Gilpin Hotel there are 28 rooms – 12 with private hot tubs, five detached Spa Lodges with hot tubs & saunas, and five new Spa Suites each with private hot tub, sauna and spa room (added 2020/2021). The six-bedroom Lake House sits a mile away where just 12 guests enjoy the 100-acre estate with private lake, swimming pool and spa. 

Guests can dine at the Michelin starred HRiSHi restaurantthe hotel’s casual pan Asian restaurant, Gilpin Spice, in their Spa Suite, or, from Autumn 2022, at the new Lake House Grill Restaurant. 

Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Crook Road, Windermere, Cumbria
o Spa Suites start from £890 per night in summer / £670 per night in winter
o Spa Lodges start at £690 per night in summer / £520 per night in winter
o Garden Suites start from £520 per night in summer / £390 per night in winter
o Junior Suites start from £470 per night in summer / £355 per night in winter
o Master Bedrooms start from £365 per night in summer / £275 per night in winter
o Classic Bedrooms start from £295 per night in summer / £220 per night in winter
o Spa treatments start at £75 per person
o Spa Suite hampers from £60

* In January 2023, Gilpin announced the departure of Hrishikesh Desai and the appointments of Ollie Bridgwater (ex Fat Duck), Aakash Ohol (ex HRiSHi), and Tom ‘Westy’ Westerland (ex Lucknam Park) with a brief of each overseeing one of the kitchens at the property’s three onsite restaurants


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