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Friday, 19 December 2014

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Al fresco delight

THE high season came prematurely to Coniston last Saturday as the village enjoyed a Bank Holiday boost.

Glorious sunshine, coupled with the Coniston Fell Race, ensured the place was bustling and from our vantage point outside the Yewdale Hotel, it seemed every demographic of visitor was represented.

The fell runners were easy to spot – athletic looking types with mud spattered legs – as were the hikers equipped with backpacks and walking poles.

Then there were day trippers, campers, overseas visitors, and a coach party of lads from Barrow.

Being able to watch the world go by from a pavement table is a fair weather pursuit and Yewdale Road, in the centre of Coniston, proved a prime location.

The al fresco dining areas of both the Yewdale Hotel and the Black Bull Inn opposite were fully occupied, but we timed our arrival perfectly and managed to slip in just as a party vacated a table.

The Yewdale must face stiff competition from its neighbour the Black Bull, home of the legendary Bluebird Bitter, but discerning real ale fans will find a well-kept pint of Cumberland Ale among the beers on tap in the Yewdale.

Service is from the bar inside, where the three members of staff were competently juggling food and drink orders during the lunchtime rush-hour.

The Yewdale serves a varied menu, with everything from hot and cold snacks to daily specials.

In no rush to head home we decided to prolong our visit to the Yewdale with a starter to share, choosing the chef’s homemade pate (£5.75) from the specials menu.

Compliments to the chef for this delicious chicken liver pate.

The success was in its simplicity – a generous portion of smooth, fresh pate served with spicy chutney, thin, crispy toast and a mixed green side salad.

It was the ideal dish to share and the generous portion of pate meant there was ample for us both.

Sticking to the specials we opted for Jerk chicken salad (£7.75) and an Aberdeen Angus beefburger and chips (£7.75), representing great value at less than £8 for mains in the Lakes.

We soon discovered that value for money didn’t compromise on quality.

The Jerk chicken was a deliciously simple dish of a succulent chicken breast served on a plate of salad, jazzed up with a mustard seed and balsamic vinegar dressing.

The chicken breast was perfectly cooked – tender inside with a slightly charred coating.

The only complaint was the Jerk flavouring lacked the spicy kick you associate with Caribbean food.

But otherwise the dish was the perfect accompaniment to the sunny weather. The Aberdeen Angus beefburger didn’t score as highly.

This dish was let down by the burger being overcooked.

The dressed salad, chunky chips and floury bap worked well, as did the spicy sauce served on the side, but the burger was dry, which didn’t do justice to the Aberdeen Angus beef.

That said, this dish may simply have been a victim of the busy lunch-hour period, and it’s still relatively early in the season.

Given the change in the weather this week, being able to enjoy an al fresco lunch in the sun was definitely worth the visit.

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