The Netherwood Hotel, Grange

WE are lucky here in south Cumbria to have a thriving charitable sector, with groups and organisations throughout their area doing their bit to swell the coffers of good causes.

Our local ladies certainly know how to do fundraising events in style - and this week's review comes courtesy of the Furness NSPCC.

A group of us went out for a ladies' lunch to the Netherwood Hotel in Grange recently. When I say "group", there were actually 154 of us, which is no mean feat for any catering establishment, even one so used to large events as the Netherwood - a veritable grande dame of the function scene in these parts.

With glasses of fizz inside us from the pre-lunch reception, we stampeded genteelly (we are laydees, after all) into the main dining room, ready to be fed in style, after a hard hour or more of raffle-ticket buying and general chit chat. I can't speak for the other 153 ladies, but I was chomping at the bit for my meal, a three-course affair.

I started with pressed ham hock, with a tomato and apple chutney and sourdough: a juicy and sizeable terrine, packed with meat and flavour. My next door lunch companion Andrea had chosen a goats cheese and red onion tart which, as a vegetarian, she enjoyed, it being a crisp pastry case with good quality cheese and nicely caramelised onions. A good start - and the other eight women on my table agreed.

Three choice for mains, which is pretty impressive for a large function - it's rare to go to an event and be offered more than one main course. The Netherwood choices were Autumn lamb with hot pot potatoes, cauliflower, pickled beetroot and a rosemary and lemon jus; baked cod with Parmesan, parsley crumb, spinach and butternut risotto; and pan-fried polenta with piperade (no idea), Parmesan, squash and pine nuts for the veggies among us.

Lamb to the right of me, polenta to the left of me, and cod in the middle (me), meant that I and my immediate companions had got the mains menu well covered.

My cod was thick and flaky, the only niggle for me being the somewhat livid-looking green risotto, which tasted a lot better than it looked.

More traditional in appearance was the lamb, which former lady mayor of Barrow Hazel was enjoying on my right. The hot pot potatoes were a lovely autumnal touch - after all, it is the season of hearty food; and the slow-cooked lamb was as tender as could be. Slightly over-salted for some of the ladies' palates, was the only negative comment to be had. Pleasantly al dente green beans and carrots, along with new potatoes, completed the main course. Andrea's fried polenta was colourful, mainly due to the piperade (I still have no idea what it is - at a guess I'd say something to do with peppers). I'm not a fan of polenta personally, and would reject it for being boring, but Andrea assured me it was actually very tasty. I'll take her word for it.

Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce, or English strawberry mousse with charred sabayon, raspberry jelly and almond crumb completed the feast. I went for the mousse, which was light and airy once I'd dug through the almond crumb, of which, for my taste, there was too much.

Coffee and mints to end; and I can't tell you how much I paid because it was for charity - but what I will say is that for the full ticket price (which obviously included a donation for the NSPCC), it was excellent value for money.

For non-group diners, lunch in the Netherwood restaurant at this time of year is £15.95 for a two-course meal, or £19.95 for three courses. On Sundays, there's a traditional lunch menu at £16.95 or £21.95.

Whether there's four of you or 154, the Netherwood certainly knows what it's doing; and the quintessentially Edwardian English country house surroundings enhance the experience. Gorgeous views over the bay, too.

My autumn lunch had been a great success, all in a good cause. I can't speak entirely for my fellow 153 lunch companions, some of whom may well have had a terrible afternoon - not least because I was the guest speaker at the event.

Food 4

Service 4

Atmosphere 4

Value 4


Charming surroundings

Lovely gardens and views

Classic fare


Exit from the drive needs to be negotiated with care