Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Villa | Levens

On Sunday 28th August 2016, me and my family went to the 'Villa' at Levens for my Grandad's 50th birthday meal.

The 'Villa' is now a hotel and restaurant, however this wasn't always the case. Originally, it was called 'Brettargh Holt', and was a family home for the Brettargh-Yates family in the era of 1871.

Later, it was owned by Sir Charles Walker who had a passion for orchids. This passion led him to build greenhouses against the garden walls which still remain. When Sir Walker died in 1920, Brettargh Holt was auctioned off and turned into 'Levens Hotel' by Micheal G Shaw in 1928.

However, Levens Hotel failed to obtain a liquor licence and was then sold onto the estate by Sam Ashcroft to the 'Sisters of the Sacred Heart'. In 1944, Brettargh Holt was turned into a convent and followed by a home for single mothers in 1946. This provided accommodation for up to 35 mothers and their babies.

Most of the children were adopted onto other families, but some still remained with their mothers. The society arranged for around 30-40 adoptions per year. In 1968 admissions ceased, and then the Salesian Sisters of St John Bosco ran the house and the grounds surrounding it as a retreat from the 1970's. This was for youth groups such as the 'Brownies'. In 2012, the Sisters left the building and it was then sold on to become the 'Villa' as it is now.

When we arrived, we were the first ones there as it was a surprise for my Grandad. We were greeted by a long table which was beautifully decorated, and we added the balloons that we bought. 

The meal was 3 courses. With a wide range of food to choose from, I decided to go with a Twice Baked Cheese Soufflé, Rib-Eye Steak (cooked medium rare with peppercorn sauce), and a Guinness Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

The soufflé came in this huge dish. With minimal garnishing and a sweet cider sauce, it contrasted really well with the cheese in the soufflé. The soufflé itself was light and fluffy as it should have been, and was filling itself for a starter. 

For my main I decided to have a steak because why not? To be honest, my steak was quite hard to cut - even with a steak knife, and it had quite a lot of fat on it. Apart from that, the rest of the second course was delicious. 

I was quite sceptical when it came to dessert. I was very full but I really wanted to try this mousse. I have never had Guinness before, so I did not know if I was going to like the dessert, but it was absolutely gorgeous. The jelly on the top of the dessert was very alcoholic, so it was easy to tell that this contained the most Guinness. The rest of the dessert was a rich chocolate and it went together very well. The ice cream that came with it was salted caramel flavour, and so was the sauce alongside it. I am a fan of salted caramel so I knew that I was going to like this aspect of the dessert. 

Overall, my experience at 'The Villa' was very enjoyable. The food was gorgeous but the company was even better. The hotel still had aspects of the convent, and you could tell that the design of the hotel was thought through to keep history in the building. I would highly recommend coming here if you are visiting the Lake District for a holiday or looking for somewhere to hold a special function, or just want a lovely meal. I couldn't have asked for a better turn out for my Grandad's 50th.