Review of Rothay Garden Hotel


Hotel: 7

Food: 2

Staff: 6

Another review of an hotel in Grasmere, we found ourselves in this pretty Lakeland village again inside 2 months so decided to try somewhere else this time but again could only stay the one night again.

The Rothay Garden is another hotel that I have known and had some dealings with over the years. Where I had put the chef into the Wordsworth all those years ago his good friend Andrew who was also working for me went and joined him as his Sous Chef. Andrew then moved over to the Rothay as it’s Head Chef and he stayed there until his retirement quite recently, so a long time.

In his later years there the hotel was sold and now has new owners and has also undergone a lot of improvements over the years both prior to its sale and after.

It is a very nice hotel built of Lakeland stone, at the opposite end of the village to the Wordsworth, the river runs behind it and it has a sizeable car park to its front with delightful gardens behind along with its spa. 

When Andrew first went there it was a humble 2 star hotel, but he and the then owners, built it up to 3 star with 2 AA Rosettes then eventually up to 4 star once renovations had been completed. They went on to win numerous other awards across the years including best Cumbrian Hotel 4 times in a little over 10 years. It currently still has the 4 star 2 AA Rosette awards so all good reasons for a visit.

We had booked a standard room plus a table for 3 for dinner that night in the restaurant. When Andrew was the Chef the menu was classical and the cooking extremely competent, I looked forward to dinner.

On arrival we were pleasantly surprised, we had been upgraded! It’s always nice when that happens and greatly appreciated. The Rothay Suite was of a good size with an additional area which provided comfortable seating and access via French doors to our own terrace as it was a ground floor room. All plainly but attractively decorated, it had a good-sized bathroom, we were pleased with what we were given. Quality bathroom toiletries although not abundant, were sufficient but the room lacked any information on either the hotel or the locality which I found both surprising and wanting.

We had a guest with us for dinner, hence a table for 3. We’d arranged to meet in the bar for a drink while perusing the menu, again a nice enough room with plenty of comfortable seating and staff. My wife chose a non-alcoholic cocktail, I wish she hadn’t. We’d sat next to but not at the bar and the noise! I can only liken it to a bag of spanners in a spin drier, the result being a natural conversation stopper. What was causing it of course was Jane’s cocktail order, or rather it was the ice crusher! Either it was not working properly or it needs to be housed in a different room away from what one would expect to be a quite relaxed contemplative atmosphere conducive to quiet conversation. So rather than sitting quietly, chatting between the 3 of us, the option was either to shout or sit and stare till the noise stopped. We sat and starred, for what seemed like an eternity!

Then came the menu, not the sort of contents to it that I had expected to be honest, the choice of main courses was limited, extremely. Never before have I experienced a menu quite like it in fact, I was flabbergasted. So much so I am struggling to write much about both the menu and the food, nothing positive that’s for sure. I was expecting something of a fine dining experience, I was in a nice hotel, (4 star) with an AA 2 Rosette award for food. I know 2 AA Rosettes is not a massive accolade but it still ought to be pretty good. The fact that half of the main courses on the menu were a Korma style curry with different meat options, or badly cooked and presented fish, the starters were not much better and the desserts abysmal to be honest. I understand that the chef is relatively new there, about 12 months, and it being a Monday could well have been his day off so one does allow a little leeway – to a point. There are however two joint head chefs, I’m not sure how that works but I would have hoped better than it evidently did that night.

Here are some photo’s of the food and how it was served, please make your own mind up, I certainly have.

These first three are left to right: Bread Rolls, Prawn Cocktail, Duck Liver Paté. The bread was so hard it must have been bought in then either kept warm for too long or reheated more than once. The white one was inedible it was so hard. The Cocktail on a slice of Beef tomato was just about okay while the paté was again just okay but the toasted brioche too thick and too dry. Having said all that the first courses were the best of the meal overall hence the score of 2.5, it may have been 3 if any of the bread had been edible.

These next ones are: The Chicken Curry exactly as it came. A Sea Bass dish that, when asked if there were any onions in it, we were told no, yet the salsa was full of them, the potatoes were hard to the point they could not be eaten, the French beans one could call them al dente but I would call them raw, the carrot badly cleaned and prepared leaving soil still in the green top. Mains 1.5. The next plate is a pre dessert. Yep, a small oblong of cold chocolate brownie – why?

Then desserts, the first a Strawberry Mousse/Bavarois topped with strawberry jelly, although I did not taste it I’m sorry to say it certainly looked about a week old, the bavarois turning grey the jelly topping dull and drying out and curling slightly, the other the Chocolate Fondant, complete with bought in chocolate pencil. As is quite evident the fondant was not cooked enough, it was collapsed like this when it arrived at the table, so the kitchen knew perfectly well that it was wrong. 1.5

The staff were nice and pleasant, happy to chat and showed interest in us and our reason for being there, they did a pretty good job but when the food is so poor no matter what the restaurant staff did could never cover for it. I hope we caught them on the hop on a bad night and that it really is better than this, the chefs have a good pedigree and I am so shocked to be given the food such a low score, sorry chaps but I really can not give you more, I will just have to go back another day and hope it has improved. It is fair to say that the example menu on their web site reads far better than I have portrayed it as and none of the dishes I’ve mentioned are actually on it, perhaps the chef has left and someone else (not as good) has taken over and the web site has not changed, best check before you go.

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