When we arrived in our room at the Miller Howe Hotel on Lake Windermere, we were somewhat prepared for the dramatic approach that that Hotelkeeper, John Tovey, practiced. A retired actor, he brought a theatrical presentation that few hotels can match to that luxury English hotel with its panoramic views.
Our room looked out over the lake to the Langdale Pikes, and a booklet in our room told us just how to get full appreciation out of this well-loved walking country. There were instructions about ordering a packed lunch for the next day’s trek. “These are a specialty at the Miller Howe and represent excellent value for money. Away from the general run-of-the-mill sandwich-type lunches, we do plated salad meals which are exciting, interesting and very filling.” The brochure did not lie.
We also found his instructions about the Bowness Bay Boating Company to be helpful, although we had no need to heed the directions that “Mooring sites on the Lake can be obtained for visiting craft.”
Here we were in Wordsworth Country, beautiful and serene, bursting with flowers at the beginning of June. We visited his house and also Hill Top Farm, the country residence of Beatrix Potter who wrote so many charming children’s stories that she modeled on the nearby village of Sawrey. In Grasmere, we visited an artist’s gallery that has influenced the way that I structured my own gallery in Waterloo. We climbed and trekked in preparation for the real reason that brought us to the Miller Howe, the food.
My bride had read somewhere that John Tovey had planned to duplicate the five-course meal served by Constance Spry to Queen Elizabeth II and her guests in the Great Hall of Westminster School after her Coronation on 2nd June 1952. Since this was the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of that event, the dinner was appropriate.
Starting with cheese and herb pâté in a puff pastry coronet, we progressed to a tomato and tarragon soup. In turn that was followed by farm trout in aspic and then Coronation Breast of Chicken with accompaniments. Our tables were then cleared for a “Loyal Toast” lead by Mr. Tovey and his staff, after which we were entertained by twenty minutes of harpsichord music. That respite gave us a chance to gather ourselves for Lemon Soufflé, Brandy Roulade, Strawberry Galette, or Stilton with homemade biscuits. Given the amount of wine that we had enjoyed with the meal, we were only too happy to see the coffee arrive, but, of course, Petit Fours also were presented.
Lest you think that we were absolute pigs, I should point out that we did not eat like that every night of the three that we stayed there, although a quick perusal of the menus that Marilyn has cleverly kept show that we were there for a reason.
One of the delights that we did not expect, however, was the way the awnings that shielded the dining room from the late afternoon sun were so dramatically raised in unison during the dinner. “Ladies and gentlemen, the sunset over Lake Windermere.”