Restored by husband and wife team Kevin and Nicola, this 17th-century inn won its first Michelin star in 2023. Heft High Newton has made a name for itself – serving up high-end fine dining set menus and informal pub bar snacks.
The Herdwick sheep is an iconic Lake District feature. Sheltering in one spot for generations, they are “hefted” here – tied to their landscape. Inspired by this sense of connection with and reliance upon their surroundings, the name ‘Heft’ was born.
Nicola and Kevin have both been shaped by the nuances of the Cumbrian landscape. They both grew up against the county’s backdrop of strikingly rugged heaths, verdant lakes and becks, and powerful coastline. Nicola’s family has farmed the fells and valleys since the 1600s, and Kevin grew up fishing and foraging here. Their menu reflects this, lauding the best local provenance, treated respectfully. Superficially simple dishes reward further attention, revealing complexity, intelligence, and a contemporary skillset – all meted out with masterful restraint.
Michelin-starred restaurants in Cumbria
The high esteem Heft High Newton is held in might conjure images of snooty silver service and inaccessible tastes. This couldn’t be further from the Heft experience. Whether arriving for a 10-course tasting menu or to enjoy bar snacks, the warm welcome remains the same. Enjoy a sausage roll with a pint by the fire and expert service that is friendly, knowledgeable and gentle throughout.
This is a marvel. Heft is a village pub which successfully juggles the (usually polarising) challenge of appealing to regulars whilst also serving up cutting-edge, high-end, special occasion dining.
Undiscovered fine dining in Cumbria
Cumbria has an amazing roster of internationally renowned, Michelin-starred establishments – such as the Simon Rogan empire, based in Cartmel. Heft flew under the radar somewhat during its first couple of years of service. All that is changing now, as it received its first Michelin star in 2023.
Although this off-the-beaten-track gem is now bound to receive more interest, it retains a sense of intimacy, tranquillity, and seclusion. Travel through the traditional front bar and you will find the open, Scandi-inspired dining room. Carefully balancing comfort with style, the space is attractive and calm, with ancient white-washed walls and generously proportioned ash furniture. Guest rooms above the inn are on the cards to open late in 2023. All this works to make Heft High Newton a must-visit stopover on any foodie’s map of Cumbria and the Lake District
Seasonal set menus
The Heft approach is a little different. For most of the restaurant’s services, diners are seated simultaneously. What could feel like awkward tasting menu rigour instead gives a dinner party feel. All diners start their meal at a similar point and then progress at their own pace.
Proudly Cumbrian ingredients shine throughout. Kevin also employs tastes from afar to add depth, subtlety, and nuance to such Cumbrian produce as local Hoggett. Hoggett is “from Will and Emma Benson in Grasmere,” Nicola, the co-owner who runs Front of House, adds. This is the kind of supply chain showcased throughout – as short as possible, to ensure minimal food miles and maximum flavour.
They also show stalwart support for the excellent local produce and skilled artisans around them.
Menu Options: Lunch, Dinner, and Sunday Service
Heft serves lunch and a dinner set menu through Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The lunch menu features four courses, a snack and their homemade sourdough bread and butter. The 10-course evening menu also includes homemade sourdough and butter.
Courses such as ‘Gotty’s squeaky cheese’ and ‘Stotty’s red deer, fennel, hen of the woods, naughty sauce’ showcase their intimate relationships with local suppliers and illustrate the breadth of their offering. From the unassuming-sounding ‘mussels, chip shop sauce, scraps’ to ‘venison tartare dressed in its own tallow, fennel & ramson, spent einkorn sour’, dishes are thoughtful and inventive. Enjoy wines by the glass, local cask beers, inventive cocktails and mocktails, or a full wine tasting to complement your menu.
On Sundays, they serve up an indulgent two-course menu, with sides, right through the day. Current menu options include ‘24 oz dry-aged beef rib, served pink, with thyme roasted shallot, wild mushrooms, ramson béarnaise’ for two to share, and ‘herb & onion 12 oz pork chop, sauerkraut, fancy gravy’. These are offered alongside sides such as ‘Tunworth & truffle mash’, ‘chorizo macaroni cheese’ and ‘chargrilled sweetcorn rolled in butter, herbs and grana padano.
The menus change regularly, shaped as they are by both the availability of local produce and the seasons and Kevin’s passion for hunting, foraging, and fishing.
Opening Times: Heft serves lunch and a dinner set menus through Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Sunday service runs through the day.
Address: Heft. Inn & Restaurant, Newton in Cartmel, Grange over Sands LA11 6JH