As indoor hospitality re-opens from today, Cottage in the Wood Chef Director Ben Wilkinson says the time is right for the industry to bounce back after more than a year of devastating Covid-19 restrictions.
The Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms – situated 1,000ft up in Whinlatter Forest above Keswick in the Lake District – reopens its doors from Tuesday 18 May after four and a half months of closure.
Ben says there’s been a massive sense of anticipation building for this week, with strong consistent bookings already in place at the former 17th century coaching inn for the months ahead.
“Everyone is looking forward to returning, but inevitably, there is a little nervousness,” he says. “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 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.”
Preparations for the expected return of indoor dining and overnight stays at The Cottage in the Wood began two months ago.
“I started talking to suppliers and producers around the end of March, so we could line up everything we needed for the menu,” says Ben.
“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.”
Cottage in the Wood owners Kath and Liam Berney said they had been overwhelmed by guests’ good wishes and thanked all those who have rescheduled their bookings already or indicated they would like to defer their visits to a later date.
“A huge thank you to all our guests who have supported us throughout the pandemic. We very much look forward to extending a ‘Cottage Welcome’ to our guests once again, and in the meantime we’d like to send good wishes to all our guests for better times ahead.”