Multi dining room Asian fusion concept from The Gilpin Hotel
Gilpin Spice is the second restaurant of The Gilpin Hotel which has a Michelin star at their primary hotel restaurant. The head chef here is Hrishikesh Desai who opened his ode to Pan-Asian cooking as an Annex building metres away from the main hotel. The three different dining areas within Gilpin Spice are styled from the principle areas of Asia with the main dining room called ‘Malaysia’, the smaller red room labelled ‘China’ and the third, darker room (immediately on the left as you walk in) designated ‘India’. We ate in ‘Malaysia’ although the menu is exactly the same for all rooms. Perhaps my expectations were raised somewhat, thinking that the Michelin starred Mr Desai was trying to replicate this trend in his second restaurant, but it was evident Gilpin Spice was not on the same level as his principle (British) restaurant. The £50 per head for the dishes and small beers somehow felt a little steep for what it was.
The building itself has an alluring feel in its Lake District, dry stoned style and it is noticeable how pleasant this is on approach. The two outer dining rooms struck me as being spill over areas rather than places that are specifically requested and unless you wish a dark room or a tiny dining area in close proximity to another 6 diners, my recommendation to gain a table within ‘Malaysia’ which has the open kitchen and more atmospheric feel to it.
Gilpin showcases spice, naturally as its purpose and whilst there are some interesting things about spice on the menu, sadly it did not feel as show-cased in the mouth in comparison. Flat bread duck was essentially a form of pizza with duck, mozzarella and Asian spiced BBQ sauce which was fine but really nothing more than that. The turkey, chopped finely and fried in a buttermilk and rice flour batter was crispy enough, supported by a spicy tomato and onion gravy that was warming but unremarkable at the same time. Khadi Patta beef was pleasantly sweet having been marinated in pineapple and paw paw and served with a mint chutney that was nicely balanced. Although this was the case, one cannot escape from the fact that this was spiced sirloin with a dip.
The pork belly itself was well done and probably the most prized part of the meal in terms of flavour but personally I felt the fat was not rendered enough as the thick layer did make the dish somewhat overly gelatinous.
Sweatcorn soup was harmless as well as the egg noodles in garlic oil – these are hard dishes to make stand out but satisfied for what they were. Five spice basmati rice was a little difficult to get a real sense of the spices involved however, the satay selection was good to see all three (pork, chicken and beef) on one dish with a satay sauce that was not too oily as is very often the case. The dessert was a play on Nastar, a Chinese pineapple jam tart which was added to an apple and vanilla crumble with cardamom, fennel and sesame. This was pleasant enough but simply lacked the wow factor that other simple crumbles that are out there.
The menu serves tapas dishes and these were priced between £5-12 and the larger ‘sharing’ dishes (such as the butter milk turkey) priced between £12-17.50. Although these seem like reasonable prices, they still go pretty quickly and tend to add up as a result. The bill came to £94.75 for two with 3 beers and tea which, at just under £50 per head does seem quite a lot for a lunch and for what was served. Had it been a more refined meal, this would have been easier to fathom. Service was a little aloof and not at the highest levels one can expect, but the restaurant itself is nicely designed and has a welcoming feel. Asian restaurants are not in abundant supply in Cumbria, so this is another addition and relatively up market (price and location wise) version to this small group.
Food Grade: 62%