The Hot Mango, Ulverston

EATING places are often very different depending on what time of the day one visits.

There's a natural ebb and flow of clientele in many places, with the breakfast set making way for the coffee brigade, who in turn are replaced by the lunching fraternity, the afternoon tea takers and finally the hardcore three-course diners. And, often, as the clientele changes, so does the atmosphere.

Take this week's offering, the Hot Mango in Ulverston. By day this cafe caters for the beverages and baked potato set (with lots of other food available, it goes without saying). But three nights a week, it turns into a bijou bistro, offering some seriously good gastronomy.

A group of six of us rocked up there a couple of Fridays ago (I say "rocked up" - I was the only member of the group not entitled to a bus pass) to enjoy what turned into a far from quiet, but huge fun, evening.

Thursday to Saturday, the Hot Mango bistro is buzzing. It's bring your own on the drinks front, so after a pitstop at Bargain Booze, my husband and I arrived just after 8pm, carrier bag a-clanking with special offer chardonnay.

Our dining companions were equally well-equipped - and with six bottles of wine on the table, we knew we were in for a good evening. Food at the Hot Mango bistro is cooked by Jonny Laing, a chef who is clearly very talented.

The six of us chose widely from the menu, starters including seared salmon strips with a lemon and chive risotto (£7.50), poached chicken roulade (£7) and scallop and king prawn gratin (£9).

Having provided us with jugs of water and ice buckets, the charming young woman who danced attendance on us all evening did sterling service, advising on different elements of the menu where necessary and keeping up a beaming smile, as the place got louder and louder.

Now, the group I was with may have been past pensionable age, but they're not known for living life quietly. The roar of conversation was pretty deafening (those six bottles played their part), exacerbated by the acoustic challenges the Hot Mango presents with its wooden floor, plaster walls and wooden furniture.

There are simply no soft surfaces anywhere to absorb the noise; and what with another large group of lively diners at an adjacent table, I dread to think what the decibel level was.

Our starters all arrived piping hot and delicious, following a perfectly acceptable wait, given the freshness of the ingredients and the cooking.

The chicken roulade and my prawn and scallop gratin were the stars of this part of the meal - although all the others professed their own choices absolutely delicious. Main courses are gastropub-style.

I chose grilled mackerel fillets with kale, chickpeas and new potatoes (£15.50), while others in the group chose sea bass fillets (£18), cod loin with prawn risotto and Thai curry sauce (£17), pork tenderloin with an apricot and wild mushroom mash (£15.50), and a wild mushroom, spinach, chickpea and pesto stroganoff (£12.50).

All were different in style - and all were excellent. My mackerel was beautifully tender and piquant; the pork was perfectly cooked and complemented beautifully by the apricot element of the mash; and the veggie stroganoff was declared sensational.

We were hearty (and noisy) in our praise. Local ice cream, a knickerbocker glory-esque Eton mess, lemon posset and cheese and biscuits rounded off this superb meal; and only the lemon posset was a bit of let down, it being too set by far.

By the time my indefatigable dining companions were getting round to thinking about coffee (while I was thinking longingly of my bed, despite being a good two decades younger than everyone else), the kitchen was closed and the coffee machine had long been switched off.

The other diners were long gone - the Hot Mango had been full all evening - and, ears buzzing, we finally all headed for home.

A good night had been had by all, we agreed. The food and service had been superb. I very much like the whole "bring your own" drinks thing. While the lively septuagenarians had all polished off their wine, lightweight me left clutching a still-full bottle of chardonnay.

The staff waved us a cheery goodbye and closed the door behind us. I could be mistaken but I'm sure I saw the waitress discreetly remove a pair of earplugs as we left. Septuagenarians certainly know how to enjoy themselves.

If I have a half of their stamina and capacity for booze in another 20 years' time, I'll be delighted. I'm not sure I (or those around me) would want my vocal cords to be in such fine fettle, though.


Food 4.5

Service 4.5

Atmopshere 3.5

Value 4.5


High quality cheffing

Fresh ingredients

Friendly service


Challenging acoustics

Three nights a week only