WE were invited to sample a fine dining experience at the acclaimed restaurant, The Gathering, at The Samling Hotel.

Opened in 2022, the restaurant offers a casual lunch or dinner high above Windermere in one of the estate's stunningly renovated Dutch barns.

Staff at The Gathering explained the restaurant was designed for a 'relaxed dining' experience alternative to The Samling’s main restaurant, which serves a tasting menu and fine-dining cuisine.

Although we didn't get to experience the breathtaking views over the lakes and the expansive grounds of majestic woodlands, as soon as we entered the hotel, placed on the top of a hill, we were welcomed by a clear, starry sky, setting us up for an unforgettable relaxed meal. The Mail: A view of the colourful salad with pear, grilled tofu, chicory and candied walnuts. A view of the colourful salad with pear, grilled tofu, chicory and candied walnuts. (Image: Filipa Gaspar, Newsquest)For starters, we indulged in first-class roasted tomato bread with poppy seeds accompanied by lightly salted butter. We also ordered a pear and chicory salad with candied walnuts and grilled tofu - one of the starters on the vegan menu, and scallops with celeriac and apple.

The salad came in a great proportion, opening up the appetite for the main course. The sweet elements from the pear and the candied walnuts balanced the bitterness of the chicory salad, which, topped up with the creamy grilled tofu, presents itself as a great recommendation for a starter that will leave you enough room for the next set of dishes.

The Mail: Scallops, celeriac and apple.Scallops, celeriac and apple. (Image: Daniel Pye, Newsquest)

The beautifully presented scallop was delicate with the fish falling away at a touch of the fork. The apple and the celeriac added crunch to the plate.

The mains arrived shortly after our plates were cleared by the rather friendly garçon, who ensured we had a pleasant experience. 

It was now time to bite into the Carvey creedy duck with truffle mash and red wine sauce and the lentil cottage pie accompanied by maple-roasted carrots and broccoli.

The duck was heavier than the scallop, and the truffle mash and red wine sauce made it a rich dish. The combinations of textures and flavours with the starter made it more interesting than the main dish, which, while presented to the high standard you would expect, did not have an edge above or a spin on other similar dishes tried in the past.

The Mail: Carvey Creedy duck dish.Carvey Creedy duck dish. (Image: Filipa Gaspar, Newsquest)

The lentil cottage pie was certainly a comforting and tasty dish, yet perhaps not the most original choice when a dish such as beetroot risotto with roasted apple, fennel and pickled kohlrabi was on the menu. Having the chance to try one at a high-quality restaurant, it just hit all the right spots, especially when combined with the maple-roasted vegetables.

After all these well-portioned dishes, we still had space to try the desserts on offer.

The chocolate bread and butter pudding was a hearty dessert with a generous portion size. The presentation was again outstanding, and the chocolate was clearly a premium ingredient. Similar to the main duck dish though, it as a whole never quite left the 'very good' stage.

The Mail: Exotic trifle.Exotic trifle. (Image: Filipa Gaspar, Newsquest)

The exotic trifle with passion fruit, coconut and mango was the right option to conclude the experience at The Gathering - sweet, comforting and delicious. 

Considering the price of the dishes, the Gathering is on the cheaper end of fine dining eateries, which means that eating here is a worthwhile experience, especially given the top-quality service.

The non-vegan main course and the dessert did not quite live up to the expectations delivered by the starter; however, if the food options were a little more creative, it would elevate the dining experience much further.

On the other hand, the vegan menu presented rather interesting options that we wish we could have tried. It is definitely recommended for vegans and vegetarians looking for food with fresh seasonal ingredients.

The total cost of the dishes, excluding drinks, varies from £43 to £80 for a three-course dinner. 

The Gathering is open throughout the week for lunches between 12.15 and 1.45pm and Sunday and Monday evenings from 6pm to 8pm. They also have a £45 two-course lunch offer. 

The Samling has a wonderful literary history, having been owned in the late 1800s by John Benson, the landlord to William Wordsworth, who visited monthly to pay his rent. The house became a hotel in 2002 and enjoyed a complete renovation in 2017, making it the luxury destination of today.