Grace Dent, the cumbrian native and once Evening Standard, now Guardian, restaurant critic is an understandably vocal proponent of her home-county. All the better for my family who spend a lot of time there, as the place my mother is also from. But whilst it is not unusual for Grace to shine a light on Cumbria’s burgeoning foodie scene, to see her recommend Fellpack twice in her column last year, made a visit over Christmas almost requisite.
Apparently fully booked every night, we wisely booked an early evening table to follow a windy walk up the Cat Bells mountains that day. And whilst it is true that almost anything would have tasted good after a long walk, Fellpack exceeded expectations. This is hearty, but modern food. Their main dishes are aptly named ‘Fellpots’ and updated seasonly and on our visit included braised pulled beef chilli, lamb meatballs with pecorino polenta, sweet potato and chick pea curry and roast chicken nduja as well as a full, considered selection of vegan and vegetarian options, fairly unusual outside of major cities.
But whilst the warming food and bottle of red wine went down a treat, what I found most captivating was the wider Fellpack brand. This is more than a restaurant for tourists – it is a local community. The servers are all young, friendly and united through their love of fell-running and the outdoors. So much so, the menu includes bios of all of the staff which includes their favourite fell-run routes, encouraging you to get to know the staff and enrich your Lake District experience. The walls are adorned with photos of fell views and runners and there is even a projector showing unbelievable footage of the terrain and conditions faced by these incredibly nimble runners as they amble across the mountains.
There has been a lot of talk nationally about whether the Lake District National Park needs to improve its diversity – and they may have a point! On a typical walk in the cumbrian fells, the area feels largely white, middle-aged and middle-class. So to visit somewhere like Fellpack which feels so young and passionate is really inspiring. The Fellpack has been such a huge success for the team that they have opened another Keswick venue ‘The Round’ which is definitely next on mine, and likely Grace Dent’s list too.