WE were following the star and there was room at the Inn.  

And it felt like a pilgrimage of sorts perched on the back of a carriage drawn by two swarthy black horses dashing under the leaden skies along the Cumbria/Scottish border.

Trotting down the winding drive towards Michelin starred Pentonbridge Inn had all the trappings of a romantic escapade.

We were guests at the grade II-listed Netherby Hall.  

A beautifully situated lavish country establishment steeped in history dating back to Roman Times overlooking the River Esk and the Scottish plains.

Cumberland's iconic Netherby Hall has been lovingly restored retaining its charisma and heritage which guests can enjoy in a beautifully presented selection of luxury apartments and annexed holiday homes. 

The hall has beautiful sweeping manicured lawns, gardens, flowers and follies are pristine

There is further enchantment in the fortified walled garden with a secret sunken Italian style garden and pond. 

The garden supplies a carefully regimented harvest of delicate fine tasting legumes and fruits to be sliced, peeled and carved for presentation at Pentonbridge Inn.

It is religiously hand picked with standards that make the man from Del Monte look like a lightweight. 

The illustrious hall itself is very homely - adorned with wondrous portraits and exquisite furnishings. 

You could spend a solid afternoon exploring the house with its ornate ceilings and its walls thick with intrigue.

Former guests include Walter De La Mare and King George VI

We were staying in the Grooms' quarters in the courtyard accompanied by our two cockapoos. This is a dog friendly establishment - the owners love dogs and are always  accompanied by their black labradors. 

The spacious cottage was immaculately presented with en-suite bedrooms and a cosy living room. 

There was a bowl of home grown seedless grapes and delicious Netherby Hall gin in the fridge. This was hospitality par-excellence.

News and Star: Netherby Hall owners at Gerald and Margo SmithNetherby Hall owners at Gerald and Margo Smith (Image: Newsquest)

It was Netherby Hall owners Margo and Gerald Smith who were at the helm of the horse and carriage. 

We were darting through lush shades of Cumberland countryside swept between sloping Dumfriesshire foothills to the north and the distant lakeland fells south as we neared what is affectionately known as 'PBI'. 

News and Star: The horse drawn carriage excursions at Netherby HallThe horse drawn carriage excursions at Netherby Hall (Image: Newsquest)


Something had been brewing at the former Penton coach-house for some months. This brilliantly converted restaurant perched atop the sweeping valley had become a house of wonder.  

Rumour was that PBIs maestro head chef Chris Archer had been conjuring up culinary kerosene to light up the region. There were fireworks on the frontier setting tongues wagging.

We were ushered and seated by the front of house and handed upon request a very convivial gin and tonic aperitif, a bracing segue into a taster menu of eight worldly wonders. 

The textures and eruption of flavours from the canapes washed down with the West Sussex Ambriel Classic Cuvee was a warning shot that this taster menu meant business.

The divine tastes lingered

The second course shortly followed with cheddar, onion, ale.

A delicious foam broth and crunchy cheddar biscuit and desiccated onion - one of a number of signature dishes quickly pulled you into a rip-tide of culinary sensations. 

An unheralded accompaniment of potted beef dripping, perfectly warmed loaf and Penrith butter. 

I ripped a slab of bread, slapping on the dripping and butter with wild abandon. Well who dares wins they say, so roll with it and I was prepared to man up to the calorie collateral.

The butter and dripping danced cheek to cheek across the taste buds like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

‘I’m in heaven’.


Suitably charmed?

It was time to be ravished as the St Ewes Egg Yolk Ravioli with Beurre noisette black truffle was dispatched like a seranade. This fourth dish was food theatre turned science expo. Overawed by this hand grenade of feisty flavours I nearly rose from my chair and applauded.

Where do these flavours come from? 

The wild Scottish Turbot and langoustine in bouillabaisse sauce was another subtle and elegant arrangement of flavours

The incomparable sommelier taking us on the 'wine flight' added flair and imagination to the evening's proceedings. 

I loved his anecdotes!  

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The desserts were sublime.

The Kaffir Lime Raspberry coconut dessert with Netherby Garden and Elderflower honey was cold to the touch and delicately delicious. In quick succession followed by the Mille Feuille - another Archer bullseye. 

With meticulous timing as the sun dipped below the Scottish hills the kitchen shutters quietly slid over the pass - signalling the end. 

That’s all folks!  

The show was over.  

News and Star: Chris Archer head chef at Pentonbridge InnChris Archer head chef at Pentonbridge Inn (Image: Newsquest)

A subtle finale to an immense exhibition of culinary brilliance.

Incredibly this hard graft and precision cooking is executed free of Hell's Kitchen hulloaboo. No cacophony of clanking pans. 

The team were focused with clinical skills surgically placing the delicious morsels to optimum aesthetic effect. 

This is a serious crew!

This is an elite team executing serene, precise, cerebral cooking that blindsides you with its authenticity. It’s genius is in its simplicity…You are left stranded in a whirlwind of heady conundrums.

When you crunch down on asparagus - I mean next level asparagus you ask - How? 

My other half called it, saying: “No fluff or flounce, comfortable slick dining with a craftsman in charge - that was something.”

As guests tottered out into the car park and gazed across the valley in reverential silence. I felt dazed-floored by a heavyweight chef after eight rounds. 

Cumberland provenanced food packs a punch with global reach

The cat's out the bag. This place has already been noticed. Food pilgrims and anointed scribes are already flocking to pay homage.  

Celebrated food writer Grace Dent was blown away. More will come. The power of good publicity.


It felt like nine courses because the view is another dessert. 

And I loved the moody setting.

Where Eagles Dare does fine dining or Wuthering Heights take your pick. In modern parlance - PBI is OMG.

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The ‘godfather’ of modern British cooking Marco Pierre White famously talked of affordable glamour.  These eight gastronomic delights are absolutely value for money.

This is food sprinkled with Michelin grade stardust. 

This is by no means a one star enterprise. This is a fiercely motivated team strapped in on a countdown to go interstellar..

If I could travel in time I would rewind to dish six and tackle that Cumbrian Texel Lamb with wild garlic and asparagus all over again…and press pause.      


The next carriage weekends are August 30–31; September 28–30). Mini-breaks without the experiences are also available to book throughout the year. 

Contact netherbyhall.co.uk

Tel: 01228 792732

Address: Netherby Hall, Longtown, Carlisle, Cumbria CA6 5PR

Contact Pentonbridge Inn


01228 586636