Cumbria, a county in North-West England is home to very few vegetarian restaurants. As I spent my Christmas break in a Cumbrian town, driving distance from one of these restaurants, it seemed rude not to pay said restaurant a visit.
So after lashings of (delicious) roasted veg over Christmas, Matt and I headed to the Quince & Medlar restaurant in Cockermouth for something a little different.
The restaurant, which first opened its doors in 1989, is set atop a pretty street, right next to Cockermouth Castle. Very picturesque and very British.
Upon entering, we were led by the friendly hostess to a cosy sitting room filled with mismatched armchairs, end tables and bookshelves. Here we were served drinks and complimentary canapés as we browsed the menu. Having had a rather big night the night before, we skipped the organic wine menu and went instead for Lime & Lemongrass cordials, which were delicious and refreshing.
The canapés were a nice touch but unfortunately, the one food that I cannot train myself to like is olives. I picked the one canapé that wasn’t topped with an olive… it was olive tapenade. I let Matt polish off the rest.
We were joined in the sitting room by a couple of guys, who we got chatting to. One of the guys had picked up the 2014 Good Food Guide from the bookshelf. “Have you seen the review of this place in here?” he asked us. “It’s terrible!”
He passed the book over and in disbelief we read the harsh review describing “frosty service” and dishes that had “fallen out of touch with the vegetarian Zeitgeist”. (That second quote may not be exact but I promise it was that pretentious). That didn’t exactly bode well but I was ready for the restaurant to prove the reviewer wrong.
After a lengthy menu browse, drooling over the sounds of creative and interesting veggie dishes, of which all but one was vegan or veganisable, we finally settled on our choices. We were led to our candlelit table once our starters were ready to be served.
I chose the Courgette, Lime & Garam Fries, which turned out to be more of a salad than the fries I was expecting. No complaints here, though – the dish was fresh and unique with an interesting mix of ingredients from citrusy courgette to gherkins, apple and dried peas. The ‘fries salad’ came with some sort of patties on the side, which I didn’t think were entirely necessary to the dish but they bulked it up and were tasty enough. It’s hard to disappoint me with anything sesame flavoured but the dressing was amazing.
Matt went for the Jerusalem Artichoke & Chicory Gratin, which was made with Cumbrian black dub blue cheese. The report was that it was quite rich and creamy but very tasty.
We were also given a small bread roll with our starters and as I’d ordered the vegan version of both my starter and main, I was given a separate butter dish with vegan margarine. I found this a thoughtful touch without me even having to ask.
For mains, I made a last minute decision change from the Quinoa Squash to the Baked Celeriac, Green Lentil and Celery Cake. I wasn’t disappointed. The ‘cake’ was served atop a roasted tomato and topped with a sliver of sweet potato. It was flavoursome and filling. Unfortunately, the quickly snapped photo below does it no justice!
Matt had the Savoy, Beany Parcels – cabbage parcels stuffed with flageolet and barlotti beans in a chunky tomato sauce and served on paprika sweet potato with a pomegranate reduction and flakes of feta. Despite the range of flavourful items in the dish, Matt commented that it was a little bland. Fine but a bit bland, especially after sampling my lentil dish.
All mains are served with a side plate of market vegetables – we had chunks of potato, cauliflower, carrot and red cabbage. They were well cooked and nicely presented but my main was filling enough that I only managed the cauliflower!
We were too full for dessert but with vegan options from Plum Pudding to Ice Cream Bomb and plenty of other veggie desserts, it was pretty tempting.
The atmosphere of the restaurant is very homely; comfortable and quaint with a wooden interior, open fire and home-made chutneys displayed in cute jars on the bar.
The dishes, right down to the side of vegetables, are all beautifully presented, which adds to the experience.
The menu changes bi-monthly to make use of seasonal vegetables so if you’re in the area, it provides a great reason to keep going back.
My one suggestion to the restaurant is that they remove the scathing Good Food Guide from the sitting room!
Quince & Medlar
13 Castlegate, Cockermouth
Cumbria CA13 9EU