Spending a night at the Barnsdale Lodge Hotel, Mark Bibby Jackson experiences a touch of Scandinavia in Middle England to discover a restaurant that highlights the best of British cuisine and local fare.

Close to peaceful Rutland Water, Barnsdale Lodge makes for the perfect place to explore the surrounding area as well as the general Hidden England region – the name given to this part of Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, for its undiscovered heritage sites, such as Grimsthorpe and Rockingham castles.

Barnsdale Lodge itself is steeped in history, with the original building dating back some 250 years. The 46 rooms either overlook the Rutland countryside or the beautiful courtyard with its trellised vines that makes the perfect place to enjoy some late afternoon sun.

Barnsdale Lodge Hotel
A Scandinavian-inspired retreat at Barnsdale Lodge Hotel

However, it is the much more modern retreats, just across the road, where we are booked in to stay. Cladded with solid cedar and with moss sedum roofs ceilings, presumably to preserve the heat, these two- and three-bed villas more resemble a Scandinavian lodge than a snippet of Middle England. The fully equipped kitchen allows for guests to cook for themselves, but this would be a shame considering the treat that awaits just across the road.

Executive head chef David Bukowicki has created an imaginative and excellent menu sourcing local ingredients wherever possible. Resisting the temptation of the octopus carpaccio, I opted for the Rutland Water trout ceviche, served with an avocado and mango salsa. Now, I am not a fan of the tropical fruit, but the combination worked well and the freshness of the fish set me up for the main, grilled turbot accompanied by the most wonderful seasonal vegetables and with a dab of brown shrimp and caper butter to finish things off. A passionate lover of fish, I was in heaven.

Rear about Mark’s experience in Middle England, at: Hidden England: Four Castles and a Cathedral.

This was washed down with a bottle of Vina Edmara, a Chilean pinot noir that boasted a surprisingly high 14% alcohol content. Surprisingly, this did not diminish the subtlety of the grape’s complex flavours – imagine the bang of a Malbec but with far greater intrigue. We rounded proceedings off with a selection of local cheeses that did not disappoint. Indeed, the whole meal was quite spectacular, and more than compensated for a rather desultory meal we had endured in a Marco Pierre White outlet the previous evening. With the service excellent, my faith in local English restaurants was reaffirmed.

If staying in Hidden England or just passing through, both Barnsdale Lodge Hotel and its restaurant make excellent options to make your trip even more enjoyable. Highly recommended.

Barnsdale Lodge Hotel

The Avenue, Exton, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 8AH. Tel: 01572 724678