Ambleside. The Old Stamp House

William Wordsworth’s old office - when Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland - is the setting for this Michelin starred restaurant, number one fine dining restaurant in the world in Trip Advisor’s 2021 Restaurant Awards. The same awards saw the restaurant take the top spot for the UK in the new ‘Date Night’ category.

Opened in 2014 by chef Ryan Blackburn and his brother Craig (front of house), the Old Stamp House is a ‘love letter to the area’s bountiful produce,’ says the National Restaurant Awards 2022 which placed the OSH in its top 100 UK restaurants.

The food here is food inspired by Cumbria, its heritage, people and landscape. The spice trade with the Americas and the Caribbean, for instance, was a big factor in the growth of Whitehaven in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Look forward, then, to dishes using fish and shellfish from the west coast of Cumbria, Herdwick hogget from Yew Tree Farm near Coniston, game from the Cartmel Valley, Waberthwaite air dried ham, potted shrimps from Morecambe Bay, Cumbrian gingerbread and more.

There’s a six course tasting menu for both lunch and dinner, with dinner having slightly more choice of dishes and the theme for the meals changing with the seasons. 

Hand dived scallops, black pudding ‘bon bon’, crab from the west coast, Arctic char, potted shrimps, Yew Tree Farm Herdwick hogget and caramelised rum and gingerbread tart may well be included in the menus. 

‘The cooking is triumphant,’ said the Good Food Guide 2020. This in a 28-cover restaurant of flagstoned floors and whitewashed stone walls where the artwork includes a picture of a Herdwick sheep.

Before he opened the Old Stamp House Ryan was head chef of Cottage in the Wood at Whinlatter near Keswick and before that he’d done spells at Holbeck Ghyll in Cumbria and Restaurant Martin Wishart in Leith, Edinburgh. 

‘A man to watch,’ said the Food Editor of The Times after he’d visited the Old Stamp House some years ago. And having tasted a beetroot and horseradish macaroon at the start of his meal, he declared ‘That’s not a snack, that’s a work of genius’.

The Old Stamp House, Church Street, LA22 0BU: 015394 32775, Check website for changing menus. Kysty in Ambleside is in the same family ownership. Ryan writes a monthly column in Cumbria Life magazine. 

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