1 Michelin Star Chefs: Ben Wilkinson, head chef, The Cottage in the Wood

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th October 2019

Ben Wilkinson is the head chef at The Cottage in the Wood, a restaurant with rooms at the top of Whinlatter Pass, deep in the Lake District National Park. 

The chef took on the role in May 2018, receiving a Michelin star the following year (proof that the inspectors do venture off the beaten track once in a while). 

The Cottage in the Wood

Cottage in the Wood

Braithwaite, Keswick CA12 5TW

Telephone: 017687 78409

Website and reservations: thecottageinthewood.co.uk

Dinner 6 pm - 11 pm
Last orders: 9 pm

Twitter: @Cottage_in_Wood

Facebook: @thecottageinthewood

Biography 

His first foray into the kitchen was two decades ago, when he began working at a golf course restaurant in Derbyshire. 

After this, he went to the Windows at The Hilton Park Lane in London, then to the Netherlands, at a boutique hotel restaurant in  the Hague called Savelberg, where the chef got his first taste for Michelin-level cooking.

He returned to the UK and went to work at Holbeck Ghyll in Windemere for 2 years, followed by a year at Daniel Clifford's Midsummer House before returning to Holbeck for another year. 

His first head chef role was at a four-star country hotel in Derbyshire, which earned 3 AA Rosettes under his tenure. 

What the guides say

Michelin:

Michelin star

AA: 

three rosette logo 3

Ben first came to The Cottage in the Wood to fill in for a sous-chef who was due to start a fortnight later, but when he didn't show up, he decided to stay.

When former head chef Rich Collingwood left, he took over the kitchen, which he currently shares two apprentices and a sous-chef. 

The Cottage in the Wood 

The small roadside inn located in the Whinlatter Forest and Pass belongs to husband and wife Kath and Liam Berney, who, according to Guardian critic Tony Naylor, "in contrast to more forbidding Lake District gastro destinations [...] offer a warm, breezy experience," with their exemplary attention to detail. 

Managing the front of house is other Holbeck Ghyll alumnus Monika Zurawska, who joined the team in 2017.

Part of the building in which the 40-seater restaurant is located dates back to the 17th century; it is surrounded by forest and both the dining area and the rooms offer sprawling views over the valley. 

Ben's food is very much an ode to Cumbria - from the Herdwick Hogget to Lancashire ducks, local cheeses, flour from a nearby mill, to ingredients foraged in the surrounding forests, with little other than seafood coming from further afield. 

These world-class British ingredients are sourced from independent suppliers and artisan producers, and, combined with the chef's highly sophisticated flavour pairings "manage to avoid over-elaboration" while "skillfully making the dishes look eye-catching," according to the guide. 

Customers are given a choice between a six-course tasting menu and a set price menu, with specialities including scallops served with jerusalem artichokes, sea purslane and hazelnut; loin of hogget with asparagus, Jersey Royals, roast sweetbread, anchovy and almond; and, unsurprisingly perhaps, forest gateau. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th October 2019

1 Michelin Star Chefs: Ben Wilkinson, head chef, The Cottage in the Wood