The Lakes Distillery, Bassenthwaite Lake

In the week that the Lakes Distillery signed a deal with Tesco to sell its products in the supermarket chain’s stores, it seemed timely to head up to Bassenthwaite Lake, to see what goes on at this award-winning business.

The production of alcohol, obviously; but the distillery is also an increasingly popular tourist attraction, and home to an (as I discovered) fantastically popular bistro.

My husband and I arrived at the very smart site - a beautiful conversion of a Victorian working farm - to find the last place in the car park, even though it was a pretty dull day out of peak season. Wondering if it would have been prudent to book, we headed down the steps towards the complex, bypassing the shop and distillery tour and secured what seemed to be the only free table left in the bistro.

Outside, there are canopied seating areas in the distillery’s courtyard, along with outdoor heaters which, I feel sure, get much use during our Cumbrian summers.

Inside, one of the farm’s barns has been converted into an elegant and airy space, with a large bar area facing customers on arrival. It goes without saying that the company’s products - gin, vodka and whisky - feature heavily in the bar’s display.

On the walls are photos showing the story of the business’s evolution from a collection of ramshackle farm buildings to the contemporary and stylish visitor attraction it is today.

Settled in our seats we felt delightfully obliged to order gin and tonics, while we decided what to eat.

The menu at the bistro is classic European fare, with snacks, sandwiches and salads, an all day menu (served 11am to 5pm) and afternoon teas from 3pm to 5pm.

In addition to that, there is a restaurant menu, served up to 7pm, offering two courses for £12 or three for £15.

I chose a croque madame from the sandwich menu, Cumbrian ham and gruyere cheese on sourdough bread, with a fried egg (£8.50), while Gordon decided to go for the three-course set menu.

The atmosphere inside the bistro is exactly as it should be - buzzy and busy, with customers coming and going, and the (it seemed entirely female) rushing to and fro bearing trays of drinks and meals.

The tasting tour of the distillery is clearly a huge draw here (there’s also an alpaca farm tour available), as customers kept coming in bearing bags of goodies; and a very well-behaved gaggle of blokes - possibly on a stag party - surged in for post-tour drinks, which they were hardy enough to take outside to enjoy.

Gordon’s starter was smoked mackerel, served with three differently-coloured beetroots, creme fraiche and samphire. It was a small but perfectly-formed little starter, with the beetroots the stars of the show, from the forkfuls I nabbed while he nipped out to the loos.

Our mains came together. Gordon had hake fillet with a sweet pepper stew, Parma ham and basil, which looked as good as it apparently tasted: flaky, delicate fish in a rich stew, cooked beautifully.

I was more than happy with my croque madame, which was simply splendid. Top quality local ham, meltingly delicious gruyere cheese and topped with a perfectly fried, runny egg. It was utterly scrumptious, classic bistro fare.

Gordon’s pudding was little short of sensational. A delicate roulade, subtly infused with rose water and served with macerated raspberries and an edible rose leaf on top. He adored it for its lightness and for the delightful rose water taste.

While some of the a la carte dishes are on the expensive side (up to £16.75), the set menu is fantastic value.

The busy staff were extremely friendly throughout our visit; lots of locals who are clearly very happy to work at such a popular place.

Afterwards, we wandered over to the shop, had a mooch among the bottles of booze, and took our leave, resolving to return to do the tasting tour of the distillery.

If you like gin and you like good food, you’ll love this place. Little wonder it’s winning so many awards.

Food 4.5

Service 4.5

Atmopshere 4.5

Value 4.5


Casual, buzzy atmosphere

Al fresco dining area

Gin on tap should you require


Mains quite expensive a la carte

Very busy at peak times