Lancashire Life Luncheon - Miller Howe Hotel, Windermere

It's 40 years since John Tovey made the name of this Lakeland hotel. Now, the current owners plan to take it to new heights

As a youngster, Martin Ainscough recalls his mother cooking family meals from a recipe book written by John Tovey, the flamboyant chef who made the international reputation of the Miller Howe hotel.

Mr Tovey produced a series of highly-regarded cookbooks, including one which was based on the food from the Lakeland hotel’s innovative kitchens.

On the 40th anniversary of Mr Tovey taking over the hotel – almost to the day – Lancashire Life staged a reader lunch in the spectacular dining room, reminding us why this remains one of the UK’s destination hotels.

John Tovey has long gone, now residing in South Africa but still taking an interest in his old stamping ground. It is now in the safe hands of Martin Ainscough and his sister, Helen.

Miller Howe has one of the most breathtaking views of any hotel. On the day of our lunch the weather was kind and guests were able to gather on the terrace – an almost head-spinning eyrie above Windermere.

Inside, this remains a cosy, Arts and Crafts building with a keen eye for comfort and personal service overseen by Nigel Williamson, who has been a key part of the Miller Howe success story.

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The Harrison shipbuilding family had Miller Howe built as a summer retreat during the First World War. By the 1980s it had become established as one of the most luxurious hotels in the country.

Now, Helen and Martin have added it to their stable of already successful establishments and they have been busy with an ambitious renovation programme.

Using Helen’s keen eye for interior design, they have been restoring many of the original features using the designs of William Morris and Francis Voysey. ‘We wanted to give the house some TLC and for it to be more like it was in 1916,’ said Martin, whose family base is Parbold. ‘We were first attracted by the location and the reputation. The location is amazing – better than anything else in the Lakes.’

The view hasn’t changed and neither has the desire to create great food and head chef Andrew Beaton and his team didn’t disappoint, setting a high standard with a outstanding selection of canap�s.

Once seated, we were treated to dressed crab from Devon with scallops, samphire and passion fruit. A roast fillet of local fell-bred beef was the main event, beautifully tender and pink as a hiker’s cheeks. It came with a celeriac puree, creamed potatoes, chestnut mushrooms and a hearty red wine jus.

The finale was certainly grand – a glazed lemon tart, soft meringue, raspberry sorbet and salted butter pecans, which had guests wishing the canap�s hadn’t been quite so moreish.

John Tovey might not be convinced by the decision to cover up the outrageous cherubs who formed the dining room frieze, but we think he’d approve of the cooking.