The Drunken Duck, near Ambleside

If you get married on a Saturday, as most people still tend to do, your silver wedding will always take place on a Tuesday - as mine did this week.

With a family meal planned for the weekend, we decided to spend the day itself enjoying a trip out and a quiet lunch a deux.

We headed out past the place where we held our reception (Stonecross Mansion in Ulverston, now converted into private houses) and past the place where we got married (Sparkbridge Methodist church, now converted into a private house) and decided to go somewhere entirely unconnected with our big day back in 1994 - largely on the grounds that there was a high chance that wherever we chose would have since been converted into private housing.

By an almost calamitously circuitous route we eventually pitched up at the Drunken Duck between Ambleside and Hawkshead, it being an establishment I remember as a smart country pub providing high end bar meals.

It's still very smart, and newly done up if the decor is anything to go by.

It's a mix of old and new, with a traditional bar leading into myriad dining rooms.

There is an open-style kitchen, which makes one of the dining rooms noisy - too noisy for us - but we settled in a room off the main reception area, with a window seat to enjoy the views.

While the evening menu is a more traditional (if pricy - starters £9.50, mains £23) gastro-pub style experience, heaven only knows what the lunchtime menu is supposed to be about.

This is a pub in the middle of the Lakes, right?

Here is a sample of the lunch dishes at the Drunken Duck: Brinjal fritter, labneh, herb aioli, harissa, ciabatta. Don't fancy that (whatever the heck it might be)?

How about a warm sumac chicken salad with a sherry caramel dressing, hazelnuts and garlic yoghurt?

Perplexed, we ordered Reuben grilled cheese, salt beef, gherkin ketchup, Marmite mayo and chips for £12 for Gordon, with an oyster mushroom and miso burger with fried onions and chips (£10) for me.

A friendly black and white cat came to join us while we enjoyed a pre-lunch drink and earwigged on a group of well-bred women who had clearly come to the pub in search of a traditional meal and were struggling with the menu as much as we were.

It looks like the sort of food you'd expect to get in a hipster bar in east London - but this is the Lake District.

As some sort of sop to the philistines, scampi is available, according to the "specials" board - presumably put there as an ironic touch.

The Reuben grilled cheese and salt beef turned out to be a sort of toasted sandwich. It was tasty enough but absolutely nothing special - and terrible value for £12.

As for the Marmite mayo - plain silly. There is nothing clever about stirring some Marmite into a bowl of mayonnaise, any more than it would be a clever culinary concept to concoct a Branston pickle mayo, or a mint sauce mayo.

I don't know about the duck in the pub's name being drunk, but I'm convinced that whoever dreamt that one up must have had one too many when they did.

There are more traditional sandwiches available, costing £7: ham and piccalilli, cheese and tomato chutney and roast beef with onion marmalade, which come wrapped in greaseproof paper, according to the menu. Why greaseproof paper for eating in purposes, I can't imagine.

My oyster mushroom and miso burger was, unfortunately, unpleasant. Not a "burger" but a tasteless brown mush on a toasted ciabatta. Horrible and I left most of it uneaten. Gordon tasted it and agreed it was a very poor dish.

For pudding Gordon chose rice pudding with blood orange marmalade for £7, which was by far the most successful part of the meal.

Lovely rice pudding, complemented by the delicious marmalade and with good caramelisation on the top. It wasn't as hot as it should have been, but it was certainly a good dish.

All in all, though, this had been a largely disappointing experience. Maybe things are different in the evenings but at lunchtimes the Drunken Duck needs to get over itself. You might be able to get away with serving brinjal fritters with labneh (whatever the blue blazes it might be) in Shoreditch, but such dishes don't wash in these parts.

Food 2.5

Service 3.5

Value 2.5

Atmosphere 4


Friendly cat

Smart surroundings

Beautiful setting


Difficult to find

Too hipster by half