Tuesday 20 August 2013

The Drunken Duck Inn – Ambleside, Cumbria

If you are looking for a pub in the Lake District, The Drunken Duck has the lot - away from the heaving tourist honeypots of Bowness and Keswick, it’s location at the top of a woodland hill with stunning views across the fells to the lakes and mountains beyond is picture book perfect.

The Michelin guide says, ‘Attractive pub in the heart of the beautiful Lakeland countryside, with a characterful, fire-lit bar and two more formal dining rooms. Simple lunches and elaborate dinners with prices to match; cooking is generous and service, attentive. Ales are brewed on-site.

We went of a rainy, hazy day that seemed to make the vistas even more magical. The drive there is lovely but it is also a popular spot with walkers – not least because it has its own microbrewery for that well-earned post ramble libation.

The bar area is a real cosy spot – taxidermied creatures look down from the walls and the beams are charmingly festooned with dried hops. Behind the slate topped bar, chalkboards list a number of wines available by the glass and, the real draw, the house brews courtesy of Barngates Brewery.

We ordered a ‘Barngates Beer Bat’ (three 1/3 pint tasters for £3.70) – great to sample a selection or for those unable to decide. We opted for “Catnip” “Cracker” and “Brathay Gold” – the latter, darker and stronger brew (4%) being the pick of our bunch.

For food, we opted to sit in one of the two restaurant areas adjoining the bar.

I chose to start with the Kipper Scotch Egg, aioli & confit tomato. I’m a huge fan of scotch eggs but as this was my first one made with fish, I was a little apprehensive that it would “work” – I needn’t have been, it was really good. Great flavours, well balanced and cooked to runny yolked perfection.

My wife’s Grilled mackerel, cockles, samphire & gooseberries – another dish of great flavours brought together well – the sharp gooseberries and salty crunch of the samphire balancing well with the tempura cockles and oily fish.

For our main we chose their namesake sharing-dish “The Drunken Duck”. The pub’s name came before the dish, read ‘the legend’ involving a Victorian landlady, some beer guzzling ducks and knitted waistcoats - here). At £44 and as their “signature dish” this should have been a real winner – unfortunately ours was a little dry and overcooked for our preference. What’s more, we felt the accompaniments were under seasoned. I’m guessing we were just unlucky and this is not usual.

Still half full from a late lunch, we skipped dessert. Despite the “inconsistencies” with the main, we enjoyed our experience at The Drunken Duck… we’d definitely return when back in The Lakes.

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