Dining in lockdown can be a stressful affair. Dining in lockdown in the staycation-packed Lake District is even more so.
Which is why Charlotte and I drove the of the iconic A591 through the Lake District to head for a magical Sunday lunch in the Yorkshire Dales instead.
As we passed abandoned cars, queues outside average eateries, and crowds taking every square foot of pavement, we knew we’d made the right decision.
Our destination was the Black Bull in Sedbergh, and as we entered the town and then the pub, we knew we’d made the right decision.
Sedbergh is small enough and remote enough to still have a bit of an undiscovered gem vibe, and this is especially the case on a Sunday, when most of the town is closed.
Thankfully, the Black Bull was open and expecting us, and it put on a bit of a show too.
It was clear as soon as we entered that we were going to have an enjoyable and relaxed meal.
The whole hotel was laid out spaciously, so that people could come and go without interrupting others.
We’d informed them we’d be bringing Teddy in a pram, so we could be given a suitable space, but in reality they could have sat us at any of the tables, such was the spacious layout.
As we were presented with the menus, we knew we were in for a treat. After all, not nearly enough places have a pre-starter course (crispy guinea fowl croquettes, at £3.50 for two. How could we not?).
The menu was as good a Sunday lunch offering as I’ve seen in sometime. Some places chop their menu right down to offering you a roast or something simple as an alternative. This isn’t the case as the Bull. The menu included a few roast options, along with their trademark pie, fish and other inventive options.
I plumped for the wild rabbit starter, while Charlotte chose the slow cooked beef brisket. Both starters were an ideal size – especially after a croquette – of beautifully presented food. My rabbit was served with middle eastern accompaniments, all of which were perfectly balanced.
After two light starters, we were presented with hearty mains. I couldn’t resist the pie, and my good decision making continued. Tender chunks of beef were served in a tasty gravy. The pie came with silky mash and the richest of red wine gravies and seasonal greens. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Charlotte chose the roast lamb and she was rewarded with a plate full of tasty treats. The local lamb belly was moist and tender. The crispy roast potato boulders and intense, decadent cauliflower cheese were highlights.
I swerved the desserts, having filled myself up. But I can confirm the choices were as interesting as the rest of the menu. The egg custard with gooseberries was good as you’d want it to be.
The service throughout was impeccable, and the staff were welcoming. They accommodated us and our young child perfectly.
Following lunch, we explored the town further, before heading in the sun through beautiful Dentdale, for a pint in the cobbled village of Dent.
Again, social distancing was strong and the service and the pint were perfect.
As we drove back through the Lakes and saw the chaos of crowds, we knew we’d made the right decision.
My tip for anyone looking for a good food experience during these uncharted times is to find somewhere off the beaten track. There are some amazing places out there, and if they’re not as busy with crowds, your experience is likely to be better.
If you are in the Lakes, then book well in advance. If you can’t, then turn up early and expect to wait.