Nowadays every restaurant worth its salt proclaims that they are passionate about using local produce. Most of them lie. As a matter of fact 70% of all the food that restaurants use is imported, so there are a lot of porkies being told. But one restaurant which is true to their word, I’m sure, is the lovely Cottage in the Wood and tonight the food was not only local but, for a good part, foraged by hand by the owners, Liam and Kath Berney. The Cottage in the Wood is in the middle of the Whinlatter Forest, overlooking Skiddaw – in other words prime foraging country. I was there for a “Cumbria on a Plate ” dinner, hosted by the fabulous Annette Gibbons and I’m sure that I wasn’t alone in getting a sinking feeling when Annette announced that the menu would revolve around ‘foraging’.
I couldn’t have been more wrong – the meal was delightful – delicious, inventive and just plain different. As an example, a dish of home smoked mackerel was served with foraged herbs and hogweed “capers”. Hogweed is that poisonous plant which grows 18ft tall and which you are supposed to report to the authorities if you see it. But, as Annette pointed out (we were glad of the reassurance), it’s only poisonous if the sap gets on your skin and Liam had collected the berries to create the capers. Another inventive dish was game terrine, made from grouse, pigeon, pheasant and partridge, which was served with damson gin sorbet (damsons are found in the hedgerows in these parts) and hot bon bons. Because wine wouldn’t go with a gin sorbet this was accompanied by Loweswater Gold Beer.
When my elderly mother ate at L’Enclume she proclaimed in a loud voice, so that all the stern, solemn waiters could hear, that the meal was “pretentious rubbish”. There’s nothing pretentious about the Cottage in the Wood. Liam and Kath are enjoying themselves too much and their infectious enthusiasm make an evening there just plain good fun.