Lovers of luxury are well catered for in the Lake District, the area having more than its fair share of high end - and pricey - places to stay and in which to dine, writes Louise Allonby.

Michelin stars abound at the best of the best; and weekend breaks come with the hefty price tags that attract celebrities and sporting stars.

Leading the pack at this highest end of the luxury Lakes venues is the Gilpin Hotel, hidden away on the Crook Road.

Since I started visiting what was Gilpin Lodge some 20 years ago, it has changed almost beyond recognition. Where once it was an entirely traditional small country house hotel with a restaurant, it is now an impressive estate comprising two hotels (Gilpin Hotel and Lake House) and a veritable abundance of restaurants.

It was to the newest dining establishment in the Gilpin stable (not literally) that I headed last week, with my husband and a group of friends. Gilpin Spice is housed in a new-build a few yards from the main hotel; and the moment you arrive it's clear no expense has been spared.

The place is gorgeous. Traditional Lakeland with a twist on the outside, it's chic and cosmopolitan inside, with private dining rooms and a gorgeous main restaurant with an open kitchen from which is produced tapas-style pan-Asian dishes. Even though we had merely pootled up from Ulverston for lunch, within five minutes of arriving I felt as though I was on a luxury holiday: the lavishness seems to seep into your bones here.

Despite all this high-end glamour, there's nothing stuffy about Gilpin Spice when it comes to the food. Tapas-style as I've mentioned, it's perfect for mixing and matching, with dishes ranging from a very reasonable £5 to £18 - reassuringly far from prohibitive.

Between five of us we had: flatbreads with tomato chutney, chilli jam and tamarin chutney (£5 a serving - we had two of most things between us). You won't get better flatbreads than these - and I could have eaten those spectacular chutneys for ever more. I'm craving them all over again as I write.

A Study in Satay was up next: chicken, beef and prawn (£8 for three) with peanut sauce and a sweet and sour cucumber and chilli salad. Just... Wow! The best prawns I have ever eaten - and I have eaten a lot of prawns, believe me.

My husband Gordon had a vegetable manchow soup (great name) for £6 which looked nothing much but was subtle, spiced and seriously good.

Next up Bengal tiger prawns and mussels in a Thai coconut red curry broth (£9), Schezwan chicken pancakes with chilli and garlic for £8 and a chilli paneer stir fry for £8. All perfect. I was particularly taken with the paneer, which is an Indian pressed cottage cheese that went surprisingly well in its hot sauce with stir fried veg. Faultless cooking here at Gilpin Spice; this pan-Asian cuisine is as good as it gets from a team of chefs who appeared to be serenity itself in their open kitchen.

We were getting very full by this point, but two of us decided to share a Delhi chicken tikka, the dearest dish we tried - £15 plus £4 for rice. Too much for one but perfect for two, again this was good value - and it goes without saying, it was as good a tikka as you can imagine.

A pistachio kulfi (an Indian-style ice cream with candied nuts and rum-soaked raisins) and a Thai basil and strawberry sorbet rounded off this taste sensation Sunday lunch outing.

You might have guessed by now that I was impressed with Gilpin Spice. It's easily the best place I've eaten in a very long time. Our lunch here was memorable from start to finish. I can't fault a thing. Oh, yes, I can... The music when we arrived was beyond awful. Just a loud, intrusive horrible noise that can't really be called music. Clearly the choice of some of the younger staff. A polite request to change it was met with good grace - and the rest of our visit had a 60s and 70s soundtrack. Much better for oldies such as us.

With three bottles of Pinot Grigio (£25 a pop), this meal for five came it at just over £180 - less than £40 a head, which for a place and food of this calibre is far from excessive. The spice was right, the price was right. High fives all rounds.

Food 5

Atmosphere 5

Value 5

Service 5


Beautiful setting

Inventive food

Great value


Evening dining gets booked up very quickly