THE MASONS ARMS, Strawberry Bank, nr Cartmel Fell, above Bowland Bridge, Cumbria.
Location: Strawberry Bank above Bowland Bridge, near Cartmel Fell.
Style: Smartly presented, modern British/International influenced food with amazing views.
VIEWS, fine dining, and affordably luxurious accommodation don’t come much better that at the lofty and friendly Mason’s Arms, perched high above the lovely Winster Valley in Cartmel, Cumbria.
In the late 90s, the Masons had an enviable reputation as being one of the best pubs for beer lovers in the country – thanks largely to its remarkable cache of over 200 beers from around the world.
Garnering top awards in other notable guides across the UK, it would have taken both an astute and brave business mind to change an already winning if slightly prosaic formula.
Thankfully, seemingly eschewing the principle of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, the new look Masons – which has seen it become as famous for its sumptuous food as well as its extensive (albeit it slimmed down) range of beers – has made the transition into the 21st century with serene aplomb.
The new owners, who also have interests at the Spread Eagle at Sawley, the Tempest Arms at Elslack and the Foutaine Inn at Linton, Yorkshire, have extended this wondrous gastro pub to incorporate stylish if limited accommodation at the rear, lazy umbrellas with heaters warming a spectacular patio frontage and have created a split level upstairs dining area which has all the charm and sophistication of the smartest of city wine bars or bistros, transplanted to out-of-the-way Cumbria.
In summer, diners can watch hot air balloons drift overhead while sipping Erdinger Weisse beer on draft, or while enjoying dishes such as Cullen Skink, to-die-for Lamb Cartmel nestled alongside among a half moon dish of vegetables, and the glutinously glorious Cartmel Sticky Pudding.
Perhaps the best of the house specialities is the simple but succulent plate of Masons ribs as a starter or a main, backed up by impeccable service.
To those devotees who have been making a pilgrimage for many a year (including this reviewer), the change has definitely been for the better – and a visit to this glorious all rounder is sure to become a Masonic ritual for first time initiates.
Reviewed by Martin Hickes, freelance journalist, publicist, Leeds