Best places to eat in Cumbria and the Lake District

Visit Cumbria and the Lakes for breathtaking scenery and fine cuisine using local ingredients. We’ve got everything you need to know about this foodie haven.

Landscape shot of Buttermere lake and mountains

After a day of hiking across the Lake District’s scenic trails and exploring the area’s pretty towns, you will likely have worked up a good appetite. See our list of recommendations for excellent tuck which showcases the region's seasonal produce. Whether you’re looking for Michelin-star dining experiences, cosy inns, or quirky cafés, Cumbria has it all...

The Cottage in the Wood
Best for: Special occasions, casual dining 

Two circular rsbbit terrines serves with sliced herbs and beetroot

Hidden in Whinlatter mountain forest near Keswick, there is a fairy-tale quality to this whitewashed 17th-century property. It even sits on Magic Hill, a spot renowned for its optical illusions. The sense of seclusion is blissful, but this restaurant with rooms is thoroughly plugged into the modern world. Owners Kath and Liam Berney are engaging foodie enthusiasts who love new-wave small-producer wines.

Herdwick hogget on a plate with vegetables, green beans and sauces

Chef Rich Collingwood’s distinctive cooking – including dishes such as rabbit with curried granola, date, tamarind and pickled carrot and a North African interpretation of Cumbria’s iconic Herdwick hogget – confidently blends classical, molecular and new Nordic techniques, intense global flavours and incredible local produce. Dinner from £45.  

L’Enclume
Best for: Special occasions

Exterior of L'Enclume and garden

Simon Rogan’s two-Michelin-star flagship in a former blacksmith’s in Cartmel is a world-class restaurant. Rogan’s early avant-garde ideas and theatrical flourishes have been folded into a more natural, ingredient-led style inspired by his 12-acre farm. The tasting menu is quite an experience. Recover the next day at the informal Rogan & Co, also in Cartmel. Tasting menu £145. 

Pork belly slices served with dots of colourful sauce and salad leaves

Hare & Hounds
Best for: Casual dining

This unfussy Bowland Bridge pub – all log burners, scrubbed tables and garlands of hops – has a lot to recommend it. From the chatty welcome of GM Kerry Gossio to the beer garden’s views across Cartmel Valley, it immediately puts a smile on your face. A menu of pub staples is affordable, portions are generous, and the execution is a cut above. Lamb hotpot (mined with black pudding beneath layers of softly creamy, distinctly dauphinoise-like potato) is unorthodox but very tasty. Mains from £10.95.

Baba Ganoush soup kitchen
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats, child-friendly 

Bowl of potato, mixed grain and vegetable stew topped with beetroot and lettuce

The coolest kids on Kendal’s block, this takeaway café specialises in soups, jazzy post-Ottolenghi salads and hip comfort foods – smoked bacon poutine, a gussied-up fish finger sandwich, spaghetti carbonara frittata – all boosted by chef-owner Nigel Platt’s commitment to proper cooking. Note: Baba will soon launch a new Sydney-inspired veggie brunch café, also in Berry’s Yard. Dishes from £4.50.  

Old Stamp House
Best for: Special occasions, casual dining

Hogget served three-ways with mushrooms, artichoke and potatoes

A prominent sketch of a ram from nearby Yew Tree Farm on the wall of this Ambleside restaurant is emblematic of chef-owner Ryan Blackburn’s love of Cumbrian produce. His signature dish – hogget three ways, with mushrooms, artichoke and potatoes cooked in rendered fat – is soul-stirring. Blackburn will soon open the casual Kysty (meaning ‘fussy about food’). Mains from £24.  

Rice cake serve with pea puree and elegantly slices vegetables

The Drunken Duck
Best for: Casual dining, special occasions

Perched high in Barngates outside Ambleside, the bar area at this upmarket inn does a roaring lunch trade in global bowl meals and sandwiches (channa masala, ribollita, kofta and more). At night, after the walkers have drifted away, the kitchen moves up a gear or three with its on-point plates (mains £22) of lamb neck and spiced belly with freekeh, yoghurt and whey onions, or guinea fowl with salt-baked kohlrabi, watercress and onion. Lunch mains from £10.

The Beer Hall
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats  

Interior of wooden table and chairs overlooking metal beer crates of brewery

A kind of boho trading estate in Staveley (home to art galleries, bike shops and the ace bakery-café More?), Mill Yard also counts Hawkshead brewery among its tenants. Its buzzing brewery-tap bar serves A1 craft ales (try the NZPA), alongside unusually good beer bites, from sticky BBQ ribs to a tellingly cheffy cheese soufflé. Small plates from £2.50. 

Bowl of goat's cheese pasta served with cheese Yorkshire pudding

Chesters By The River
Best for: Cheap eats, casual dining, child-friendly

Given its pretty location and outdoor seating, this modish canteen could pack in the tourists without lifting a finger. Instead this Skelwith Bridge star works hard to impress. Its veggie menu runs from hip brunch dishes (sweet potato fritter with peanut salsa and cucumber raita), to wood-fired pizzas and flatbreads which you can enjoy with innovative salads. Think: kimchi, jasmine rice, cauli, broccoli, chillies and peas, with a sesame dressing. Excellent cakes, too. Meals £5.95 – £11.95.

Forest Side
Best for: Special occasions

Elegant restaurant interior overlooking forest

With its bare tables and aproned waiting staff, Grasmere’s Forest Side is a modern take on the country house hotel. Like the decor, chef Kevin Tickle’s Michelin-star food blends classical and contemporary ideas.  

Bowl of mushroom broth served with salad garnish

Foraged ingredients (used in a sensational mushroom broth, for instance) and vegetables grown in the kitchen gardens feature prominently in elegant dishes such as Tickle’s salt cod, kohlrabi, capers and lovage cream. The £35 ‘bait’ lunch is a steal. Dinner from £60.

Beetroot and sourdough crumpet served with tuile

Pentonbridge Inn
Best for: Casual dining, special occasions
 

An offshoot from Netherby Hall (its walled garden supplies the kitchen with produce), this swanky pub and restaurant is one to watch. Opened late 2017, its husband-and-wife chefs, Jake and Cassie White, were previously key players in Marcus Wareing’s two-Michelin-starred London team. A five-course seasonal tasting menu (£60) is indicative of the restaurant’s ambition. In the dog-friendly bar, choose classy versions of, say, beef and ale pie and fish curry. Pub mains from £12.

The Hazelmere café & bakery
Best for: Casual dining, child-friendly, cheap eats

Exterior of Hazelmere tea rooms with green pillared frontage

Cumbria has endless quaint tea rooms, but this find in Grange-over-Sands has a notable contemporary vigour. An award-winning tea specialist, the Hazelmere serves numerous rare leaves with its afternoon teas and its lunch dishes such as potted Morecambe Bay shrimps or Cumberland sausage ‘n’ mash. Alternatively, grab a sandwich or cake (do not miss the Yorkshire curd tart) from the deli-bakery. Light meals from £6.95, afternoon tea from £14.95. 

Afternoon tea selection of cakes and sandwiches served on circular stand

Angel Lane Chippie
Best for: Cheap eats, casual dining, child-friendly

Good chippies are rare, so if you find yourself in Penrith, make a beeline for this chip shop café off Market Square. Owner Dan Harding, Young Fish Frier of the Year 2010, is a stickler for quality – hence the queues at peak times. Most folk are here for freshly cooked, glistening fish ‘n’ chips, but the Angel’s tray-bake pies (minced beef, steak ‘n’ ale), are cracking. Fish and chips from £6.30.

The Punch Bowl Inn
Best for: Casual dining

Exterior of white pub with church in the background

This handsome Crosthwaite inn has been setting standards ever since Steven Doherty, former head chef of Le Gavroche, put it on the map in the 90s. The kitchen’s locally sourced cooking – try the twice-baked Lancashire cheese soufflé or braised beef and mash – has a real touch of class. Mains from £14.95. 

Lake Road Kitchen
Best for: Special occasions, casual dining

Cheesecake slice topped with strawberries

Noma alumnus James Cross has brought the famous Copenhagen restaurant’s ethos to Ambleside. He uses only seasonal, northern European ingredients, many of which he grows or forages. Creatively, however, Cross is his own chef. From a whole fried cauliflower with Finnish viili yogurt and pine to the mindbending beef he ages for up to 300 days, the food served in Lake Road Kitchen’s wood-lined dining room is flavour-stacked and revelatory. Dinner from £65.

Salad and flower petals on a plate

Tebay Services
Best for: Cheap eats, casual dining, child-friendly

A motorway services? Yes, but Tebay is no ordinary M6 pit stop. Family-run for 46 years, Tebay has evolved into a remarkable showcase for Cumbrian produce. Its farmshop is one of the region’s best delis and butchers, while – from curries and stews to a steak and Eden Gold ale pie – its cafeteria delivers the freshest, most flavoursome motorway food you will ever eat (this side of Tebay’s sister services on the M5 in Gloucester). Meals from £8.50.

Three Hares
Best for: Casual dining, child-friendly

Assortment of cakes and loaves

Sedbergh sits on Cumbria’s Yorkshire Dales border. Thanks to Nina Matsunaga’s inspired cooking and baking (and her partner James Ratcliffe’s fastidious sourcing), the modest Three Hares – more café than restaurant – has a mighty rep.

Lamb faggots with salad leaves and flowers

From a breakfast of homemade blood cake and fried eggs to a sensational lamb faggots and mash, everything shines. This summer, the duo will open the nearby Black Bull Inn. Lunch from £3.50. 

The Jumble Room
Best for: Casual dining

This quirky little Grasmere gem – its menu is as idiosyncratic as its colourful interior – has been run by self-taught chef Chrissy Hill and husband Andy for 22 years. It is an outpost of individuality in a sea of Cumbrian twee. From Persian lamb or a Malay seafood curry to fish ‘n’ chips, the menu does a Phileas Fogg in some style. Mains from £14.50.

Askham Hall
Best for: Special occasions

Exterior of Askahm Hall with garden

This gorgeous 13th century pile near Penrith, ancestral home of the Lowther family, has been transformed into a stylish restaurant-with-rooms with serious field-to-fork credentials. 

Sorbet ice cream with blackcurrant crumb

Chef Richard Swale’s dishes (think: lamb loin and neck, carrots, onions, beer, barley), make stellar use of produce from Askham’s gardens and the Lowther estate. Owner Charles Lowther also runs Clifton’s George & Dragon inn. Dinner from £50.

Comida
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats, child-friendly

Two sourdough toast slices topped with poached eggs

Kendal’s Iberian evangelist, Comida pushes a bueno line in all-day Spanish food in a colourful, hard-edged space that’s more Dalston than Derwentwater. At breakfast, try the sourdough with sobrasada, shaved manchego and poached eggs, alongside a first-rate flat white. Later the menu takes in sassy bocadillos and well-executed tapas, from albondigas to Valencian fried popcorn chicken. Tapas £2.50 – £6.50.

Cartmel Village Shop
Best for: cheap eats, casual dining, child-friendly

Sticky toffee pudding, inf ront of Cartmel packaging

This deli-café is best known as the home of the eponymous Cartmel sticky toffee pudding, the version which made this Cumbrian favourite famous. The puddings are now made at a separate facility, but you can still sink into a portion in the shop’s 16-seat café. The shop’s reliably good sandwiches, soups and quiches – some of its baking is mega! – are also available to take away. Light meals around £5.50.


5 foodie places to try

Great North Pie Co

From 14-hour braised beef and ale to classic cheese and onion, this Ambleside café and shop sells sublime pies. 

Unsworth’s Yard

Unsworth Yard cheese shop with shop staff member

Located in Cartmel, Unsworth’s Yard is home to a brewery, cheese shop, vintners and kitchenware store. What more could you want? 

Tweedies Bar

Traditional cask ales dominate in Cumbria, but Tweedies in Grasmere also has a strong selection of modern craft beers.  

Lovingly Artisan

Artisan long loaf of bread

Aidan Monks’ sourdough is the real deal. This slow-fermented bread has taken decades to develop, and boasts enormous depth and complexity. 

Homeground

A third-wave coffee spot and brunch café in Windermere that has local foodies frothing with enthusiasm. 

Discover more local cuisine in our guide on top 10 foods to try in Cumbria and the Lakes
 

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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of May 2018 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out of date information in this guide, please email us at goodfoodwebsite@bbc.com

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