The team at Whinlatter’s Michelin starred Cottage in the Wood say the time is right for the industry to bounce back after more than a year of devastating restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s latest announcement means it is all systems go for the restaurant with rooms, which will reopen its doors from Tuesday May 18 after four-and-a-half months of closure.
Chef-director Ben Wilkinson said there was a massive sense of anticipation building for next week, with strong consistent bookings already in place at the former 17th century coaching inn for the months ahead.
He said: “Everyone is looking forward to returning, but inevitably, there is a little nervousness.
“For the first couple of services we will factor in a bit more time, spreading the bookings more than usual and just taking our time to get everything right.
“All our team have already returned to work for training in readiness for reopening and we have some new apprentices in place for the kitchen and front of house service team too.
“Although we aren’t making any drastic or sweeping changes, we did tweak the way we ran the kitchen to fit around the restrictions brought in last summer and that’s led to some better ways of working which we will definitely maintain post-pandemic.”
Although step three of the Government’s roadmap to reopening was only fully confirmed last night, serious preparations for the return of indoor dining and overnight stays at The Cottage in the Wood began around six weeks ago.
Ben added: “I started talking to suppliers and producers around the end of March, so we could line up everything we needed for the menu.
“For instance, the local Herdwick hogget takes a month to develop its wonderful flavour, and for the speciality herbs and salad leaves we use, there is a four-week process from seed to sprout.
“On a personal level, I can’t wait to get back to what I love: talking to fellow chefs, suppliers and producers about new products, menus and techniques.
“Last year we became one of only a handful of restaurants in the country to develop a fish dish using sustainably managed Arctic Char as part of a project in Lake Windermere.
“I can’t wait to get dishes like this back on the menu and serve them to guests!
“Foraging ingredients like mushrooms, wild herbs and douglas fir from the forest directly around us makes The Cottage In the Wood really special for me and it will be fantastic to share those unique flavours and food combinations with customers once again.”