“ Address: Grasmere / The Lake District / Cumbria / LA22 9RR / England „
I have a great deal of fond memories of this pub - no I'm not a local, but my Dad used to take me on a week's holiday to Grasmere ever year and we would frequent the Traveller's Rest (or Traveller's vest as Dad used to call it) for dinner on many an occasion. On one memorable day when we got stuck up a mountain after dark, we used the lights from the pub to guide us in the right direction down the mountain side! Until last weekend, I hadn't been back to the area for around a decade and I'd really missed the place, so I jumped at the opportunity to photograph a wedding up in Windermere!
My boyfriend and I arrived at our B&B in Grasmere the evening before the wedding, having been driving for 6 hours we were fairly hungry and the Traveller's rest was handily located a couple of hundred yards from the B&B. We popped in about 7.15pm and going through the front door there was a lovely roaring log fire which was an excellent start! Looking around there were only about 3 other tables of guests eating dinner and no one at the bar, a lot quieter than I remember for what I would think was a prime pub day/time.
Service at the bar was very polite if not particularly warm - we got a couple of drinks, but my boyfriend was disappointed at the lack of cider available - just Strongbow on tap (which he's not a fan of) or Magner's in a bottle, I don't drink so I'm always satisfied with tap water.
We seated ourselves down the far end of the pub in a comfortable middle booth where we browsed the menu - this didn't offer a huge amount of choice and seemed fairly up market. In the end we both chose T bone steak which was on the special steak menu (either 2 or 3 course) with a £5 supplement, we went for 2 course and picked ice cream and sticky toffee pudding as our desserts. I went up to the bar to order (no waitress service) and quite clearly stated my partner would like his steak medium to well done and I would like mine rare. Dinner was served within a matter of minutes - can't have been much more than 5, which to be honest makes me a bit suspicious about if something is freshly cooked! That aside the presentation was nice with the steaks served on wooden slabs and chips in little metal buckets. Unfortunately both steaks were served rare so Paul popped to the bar to ask if they could cook it a bit more, this wasn't too much of an irritation and the staff were very apologetic - we weren't fussed as mistakes happen.
Personally I found the steak very tasty although a little tough in a fatty sense around the edges, as I usually eat sirloin rather than T bone I'm not sure if this is normal. The chips were also a little under done for my taste, but still edible. The sticky toffee pudding was delicious - surprisingly it was my first ever time eating this dessert and despite my sweet tooth I did find it on the sickly side, the vanilla ice cream on the side certainly helped combat this.
After our food was cleared away a waitress brought us 2 coffee's on the house - unfortunately neither of us like coffee, so not wanting to be rude we said thank you then when she'd gone we gave them to the couple sitting on the next table so they wouldn't go to waste. Next time the waitress came by she noticed we had no mugs and asked if anything was wrong, we had to explain we'd given the drinks away as we don't like coffee at which point she apologised profusely and asked if we wanted anything else. The main gent at the bar also came up and apologised again and by this point it was getting a bit embarrassing - we really weren't upset about the steak being under cooked!
We did end up leaving a little earlier than we otherwise may have as we didn't like feeling fussed over so much, but to give credit where it's due the staff were definitely customer focused.
I'm, not sure if I'd go back next time I'm in the area - the building is still as I remember it, but everything else doesn't seem quite as good. What I heard from the locals is that Tweedies now seems to be the most popular place to eat in Grasmere, although we didn't get the chance to try it this time.
Anything else you need to know...
Grasmere in Cumbria. The pub is a little way out from the village centre but is within walking distance, if you head out of the village to the main road and take a left it's a little way down the road on the right hand side.
There's a fair sized car park to the side of the pub.
Personally I find the building attractive in all aspects, but I'm particularly fond of the log burning fire. The ceilings are a fair height but the pub still retains quite a cosy and traditional feel to it.
With the location you can rest assured the views are breath taking, you could loose yourself for hours just starting out the windows at all the glorious mountains.
Not cheap as chips but not high end either, I think most main meals were around the £10 to £15 mark. We paid about £36 for 2 T bone steaks and 2 puddings.
We've been going to the Traveller's Rest for many years, as drinkers, diners and as guests in their accomodation. Our 2 most recent visits have left us feeling that something is missing these days, it seems soul-less.I think the pub is losing its identity, it's going 'corporate' and what they need is a return to basics - above all they need some stability behind the bar so that next time you go there you're recognised.At one time the Traveller's was without competition in Grasmere, these days I reckon Tweedies in the heart of the village is a better pub.Shame, I hope it returns to its former glory.
The Traveller's Inn on the main road, just outside the village of Grasmere is perfectly placed to attract passing trade, walkers and visitors to Grasmere itself. Although it doesn't look much from the outside inside it's a different story, with a real sense of history and character (it's an old coach house). On opening the door, you are immediately greeted by a roaring log fire - always welcome on a cold day, with the small bar immediately in front of you.
As soon as you walk in, you normally get a very cheery welcome from the bar staff. Service generally is pretty friendly (although smiles apparently cost extra from the waitress we had on our last visit) There's often quite a subdued atmosphere, with people talking often in low voices, but to be honest, that's a good thing. If I'm out for a meal, I don't want to listen to some opinionated blob holding forth on every subject under the sun!
Still, enough of my prejudices, back to the review! The pub is split into a number of distinct areas. If you just want a relaxing drink, there's the bar area or another section with a TV screen, pool table and some fruit machines. Just inside the door are a series of small tables - perfect if you want a more informal meal. Beyond that there's a more formal dining area. Unless they're very busy, you don't have to wait to be shown to a table and can choose to sit anywhere you like.
As with most Lake District pubs, the Traveller's Rest is a real ale pub. Their range is not that huge, and most belong to the Jennings brewery which owns the pub, but they make my favourite - Snecklifter - so that's fine! Considering the location, drinks are pretty competitively priced and not much different from other pubs in the region.
Food-wise, things have changed quite a bit at the Traveller's Rest recently. It used to offer fairly traditional pub food using local produce. The typical menu would include Gammon, Cumberland sausage, mixed grill etc. - all hearty meals of the kind enjoyed by walkers and tourists. On my recent visit some of the traditional bar snacks had been replaced by more fancy dishes. Clearly, the Traveller's Rest is trying to re-position as a more up-market restaurant.
Personally, I think this is a mistake: the Traveller's Rest had developed a good reputation for good, honest local food and now might be seen as, well, a little bit poncey. Portions are considerably smaller than previously, and presentation a lot more ostentatious. This might put some people off, and have contributed to some of the less than positive reports I have heard about the place recently.
The menu was certainly less varied than previously. There used to be a wide range of starters vying for your attention, now there is just a handful, none of which tempted me or Mrs SWSt. The main meals have been similarly pruned. People looking for traditional pub food may look at the menu and decide to pass on to the next pub. After all, that's one thing you can be sure of in the Lakes - the next place to eat is never far away!
The Traveller's Rest is not cheap. It always was more expensive than other, similar pubs and there is no doubt that you paid a premium for the location. However, it did offer value for money. Food had become even more expensive since the last time we visited. It's moved out of the price range most people would consider spending on a bar snack and moved into the territory that makes it somewhere to go for a special occasion. Gammon, for example, was £12.95 - expensive compared with the £8 or so charged by most pubs in the area. Most of the other dishes showed a similar kind of mark-up.
That said, there were no complaints about the quality. Once you've placed your order, a slice of home-made bread is brought out, which is a nice touch and gives you something to nibble while waiting for your meal. Service was fast and efficient (if lacking in smiles!). From placing the order to our food arriving, we waited around 15 minutes or so. Admittedly, we went in at a quiet time and out of season, so you might have to wait longer at other times.
The food was delicious. I had steak pie with Guinness gravy, mashed potato, carrot, swede and braised red cabbage. The pie was packed with succulent chunks of well-cooked beef and the Guinness gravy actually tasted of the dark stuff. There enough gravy to leave you wanting more, without the dish being drowned in it. Mrs SWSt had a cheese, parsnip and onion pie, served with ratatouille, which was also extremely tasty . The menu may well have changed, but the food is as good as ever.
On the downside, the presentation was a little pretentious. Each dish, for example, came served with a rather large sprig of rosemary. Whilst this both smelt and looked nice, it's not the sort of thing you're going to eat and so just sat on the side of our plates, presumably to be thrown away. Similarly, Mrs SWSt's pie had gold leaf (essentially gold foil!) on parts of the crust, which again seemed unnecessary and probably contributes towards bumping up the prices. The Traveller's Rest of old didn't need these gimmicks to attract custom - it relied on good, home-cooked food and a friendly atmosphere - something I personally value more than a few bits of Bacofoil being lobbed on my dinner.
Portions were quite small and whilst there was enough for Mrs SWSt and myself, others may feel disappointed - particularly when you consider how much they cost. This again emphasises that the Traveller's Rest has moved out of the "value for money" range and into the more up-market "special occasion" bracket
It's a brave move and, to be honest, one which I'm not entirely sure will be successful. The Traveller's Rest had developed a reputation for good, home-cooked food and people who liked it for that reason are starting to shun it. Gorgeous though the food was, neither of us is in a rush to go back any time soon. The more limited menu and increased expense rule it out for casual diners and it's cutting itself off from the more lucrative tourist market. In one regard, it's nice to see somewhere trying to provide something a little different. In practical terms, the Traveller's Rest may be committing commercial suicide. Time alone will tell...
Traveller's Rest Inn
© Copyright SWSt 2009