This week we enjoyed the warmest February day on record. It was wall to wall sunshine on Tuesday, with temperatures in the high teens.

Such a glorious day deserved enjoying, so I set out with a friend to have a sunny lunch at The Dunes Hotel.

Situated near Roanhead (which I’m never quite sure is in Dalton or Barrow), the hotel, formerly The Fairway, is now owned by the Lucidity Group who, since taking it over, have embarked upon - and have nearly completed - an ambitious and very attractive makeover of both the business and the building itself.

We settled in the airy conservatory part of the Coast restaurant and lounge at the Dunes, which is as pleasant a place for lunch as one could imagine.

Lunch and dinner is served between noon and 9.30pm seven days a week; with afternoon teas - both traditional and now a savoury version - also served throughout the week.

Armed with lime and sodas, my friend Hazel and I chose from the extensive lunch menu, which includes a set lunch for £18.95 for two courses, £19.95 for three, along with a range of nibbles, sandwiches, pizza, pasta and mains.

We shared Stilton and garlic mushrooms to start, which came in a white wine and cream sauce, with a generous hunk of herb baked ciabatta. For just £3.50, as most of the starters are (the dearest is just £3.95), this was superb value and quality. The mushrooms were moist and meaty, the sauce rich and creamy, with plenty of Stilton tang. Delicious.

It was such a stunning day, I was almost tempted to suggest partaking of our mains al fresco. Some major landscaping works have been carried out at the hotel and there is a lovely outdoor seating area overlooking the smart new driveway and entrance, which in turn overlooks the garden - a popular place for summer weddings, I’m sure.

Back inside, the decor at the Dunes is cool, light and elegant. Expensive-looking soft furnishings and accessories abound; and the overall effect is hugely pleasing on the eye. This is now a very stylish hotel; and the new owners are very much making their distinctive mark.

For our main courses, Hazel chose the Coast burger at £9.95, a piece of battered haddock in a toasted brioche, with tartare sauce and chunky chips. I went for the Dunes Pasta Speciality at £6.95, which that day was rigatoni with bacon, chicken, peppers and spinach in a creamy sauce.

All the pasta and pizza dishes are gluten free, as are many of the other dishes on the menu.

We were both impressed with the mains. Hazel’s fish was light and tender - and the chips were handmade, golden, crispy and delicious.

My pasta was superb. The vegetables were pleasingly crunchy, the sauce was creamy and it was packed with bacon and chicken. Great value for the price - and far too much for me to manage. One of the very friendly waitresses insisted on having it packed up for me to take home; and my husband enjoyed it as a late lunch, which he ate while sitting in the garden under an umbrella, such are the vagaries of an English February.

On your behalf, Hazel and I indulged in a mango brûlée for pudding, which came with a refreshing apple sorbet and a shortbread biscuit, all for £4.95. It was just great. A thick crust of crunchy caramel topping, under which lay a rich, smooth and dreamy mango custard. Top notch.

By the time we left, the restaurant was buzzing, so with the lunch trade about to be overtaken by those in search of afternoon tea.

There was some building work going on above our heads, which wasn’t loud enough to spoil our enjoyment and which, upon inquiry, turned out to be the finishing touches being put to the hotel’s new bridal suite.

Service throughout was very efficient and friendly; and the atmosphere was certainly conducive to a leisurely meal.

The improvements to the Dunes are impressive. This is a stylish hotel and restaurant catering for a range of tastes and budgets. Our lunch had been fantastic quality and value.

In the end, we had eaten all our meal indoors (albeit with the conservatory doors open). But if the weather of the past week is a foretaste for the summer to come, the new-look Dunes will be high on my list of al fresco dining venues in 2019.

Food 5

Value 5

Service 5

Atmosphere 5


Stylish setting

Varied menu

Quality ingredients


Slightly off the beaten track if you don’t know where it is