AS a hotel in its own right, it has its fair share of claims to fame.
Designed by the revered architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, and with gardens crafted by the pre-eminent horticulturalist of her time, Gertrude Jeckyll, the Abbey House, a one-time stately home, is a place with an enviable history.
Now an imposing hotel, nestled among the rolling fells of Cumbria and a mere stone’s throw away from Furness Abbey, one of the North West’s most historically significant sites, it is used to its fair share of glamour.
But in February, for two nights only, its star will rise exponentially as some of the UK’s most revered Michelin Starred chefs – along with the team from one of the world’s best steakhouses – exit the M6 at Junction 36 .
For Operations Director of the Abbey House Hotel and Gardens, Brian Conroy, the event is a way of shining a light on the hotel – one of Cumbria’s undiscovered gems – whilst making a positive contribution to the local community; on the evening, the venue and staff are laid on for free by the hotel due to the event’s charitable status.
Brian said: “Over the course of a year the Abbey House will welcome guests from across the UK and beyond. While our reach is national – and indeed international – we remain at heart a family owned business which is very much a part of the local community.
“It has been a pleasure in previous years to welcome some of the country’s best chefs to the Abbey House Hotel and Gardens, and we are very much looking forward to sharing our kitchens once again with some incredible talent.”
The weekend – fast becoming an annual fixture in the Abbey House Hotel and Gardens’ calendar – raises money for a foundation set up in memory of a man held firmly in the hearts of the UK’s culinary elite.
Ray Armstrong established Lake District Farmers in the years before his death. Under the enigmatic entrepreneur, the business grew to be a supplier of the finest cuts of meat to the country’s top chefs and restaurants.
And so in two weeks time, some of those who know the company well will make the pilgrimage to Ray’s home town of Barrow-in-Furness. Their aim: to raise cash for the Lake District Farmers Armstrong Family Charitable Trust which in turn awards it to those people in the local community who are most in need.
Among their number will be Clare Smyth and Brett Graham. Between them they have enough Michelin Stars to perform an impressive juggling act. Their restaurants were named in positions one and two respectively in a recent UK Top 100, as voted by users of OpenTable.
Alongside them will be chef Phil Campbell and the team behind Beast – the London-based steak restaurant ranked among the best in the world.
On Friday, February 7, the Beast team will take to the pass, as they prepare four courses inspired by their mantra of creating food which is the epitome of land and sea on a plate.
Executive chef Phil Campbell will bring four chefs and four front-of-house staff with him as they recreate the surf and turf for which Beast has become famous.
He spoke of a reciprocal relationship with Lake District Farmers: “They support us and its right that we support them with what they are trying to achieve. What guests can look forward to this weekend is the culmination of a ten year relationship between myself and Dan Austin from Lake District Farmers.
“We will be serving Nigerian prawns which weigh in at around 250 gramms per prawn; that’s quite a statement. Beef will form a massive part of what we are doing too.”
Saturday will see, Smyth and Graham joined by David Simms, the culinary director of the high end RA Group who previously worked with the Roux family and Simon Rogan.
Between them, the trio and their kitchen teams will create a six course meal for those lucky enough to have a place at the table.
Dan has been the Managing Director of Lake District Farmers for eight years. He said: “Abbey House is a business that shares our ethos for excellence and provides the perfect venue for such a special event, which of course, means a great deal to everybody at Lake District Farmers.
“When our guys step into the kitchen anything other than a perfect service is not enough by their standards. Abbey House has ensured we’ve delivered exactly that over the past few years and will undoubtedly do the same once again. They contribute a great deal to ensure the charity raises as much money as possible and it’s a partnership we’re extremely proud of.
“This year we’ve put together two menus equal in quality but completely different in terms of style and execution.
“Friday’s menu, produced by Phil Campbell and the team at Beast is centred around amazing proteins cooked over an open flame. Beast pride themselves on being the world’s best surf and turf and we wanted to capture that. So the wild Nigerian Prawns and the bone-in steaks will be particular highlights.
“On Saturday we revert to our traditional six-course tasting menu with David Simms, Brett Graham and Clare Smyth producing two courses each, so it promises to be a really special evening.”