A number of restaurants and cafes are putting Cumbria firmly on the culinary map – and one such institution is Craig’s Kitchen at Virginia House, Ulverston.
Set in an historic building dating back to 1790, Virginia House was built by a tea merchant from – where else – Virginia, America. The grand Georgian townhouse was taken over by Craig and Louise Sherrington in September 2015, who decided to renovate and re-open as a bed & breakfast with a culinary edge. Three years on and the focus remains firmly on food.
Craig’s Kitchen is the heart of Virginia House. A relaxed, welcoming space, the brasserie-style restaurant has gone from strength to strength since opening its doors, and in 2018 earned a place in the Good Food Guide. Local ingredients, like beef from Greenodd and seafood from Morecambe Bay, take pride of place on the menu, which offers both a la carte options as well as a six-course tasting menu. “We serve relaxed brasserie-style food,” says Craig. “We’re always pushing for the food to be better. One of our most popular offerings is called ‘Premeditated Indulgence’. With 48 hours’ notice, our customers can have fresh Morecambe Bay lobster or Chateaubriand.
Originally from Lancaster, Craig has worked in restaurants across the country over the years, honing his culinary skills and expertise along the way. Stints under Michelin starred chefs such as David Everett-Matthias at Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham and Eric Chavot at The Capital Hotel, Knightsbridge allowed an insight into the workings of some of the best kitchens in the country, with Craig citing David as having a huge influence on both his life and his career.
However, the pull of the north was strong and Craig returned to work at Lakeside, Newby Bridge, and Storrs Hall in Windermere, before opening Virginia House with wife and business partner Louise. Rapidly gaining a strong reputation in the local area as a gastronomic experience not to be missed, the pair were rewarded for their hard work with two AA rosettes within the space of just two years.
It was in early 2017 that Craig got the call to appear on the BBC2 series, Great British Menu. “I was on holiday in Spain with my family when they called to say I was in the final three in the North West,” says Craig. “I was in the sea with my two youngest daughters and my eldest daughter came running down the beach to tell me. Then I had two weeks to come up with ideas, a concept and recipes. I really enjoyed doing it. A huge amount of thought went into it.”
This year, the show celebrates 70 years of the NHS and is dedicated to ‘NHS Heroes’. With Louise Sherrington and much of her family having worked in the NHS, the theme was especially poignant for Craig, who this year took part in the North West heat of the competition, receiving high scores from ever-discerning judges.
All this culinary experience makes Craig the perfect person to judge our now infamous Apple Pie competition here at Beetham Nurseries, held on the Sunday of our annual Apple & Fruit Weekend – which takes place on the 13th and 14th of October.
The Great Beetham Apple Pie competition invites entrants to try their hand at making an outstanding apple pie, with a £50 Beetham Nurseries’ Gift Voucher up for grabs as the grand prize.
As well as lending his expert palate to choosing a winner, Craig will also put his extensive chef’s skills to use on the morning of the 14th with a cooking demonstration using various types of apples. After the demonstration Craig will be on hand to answer any culinary questions you may have, and visitors will also receive a copy of Craig's demonstration recipe.
The Great British Menu can be viewed on BBC2, or on iPlayer. Craig Sherrington will join us on Sunday 14th October to demonstrate a variety of ways to cook with apples at 11am, followed by the judging of the Great Beetham Apple Pie competition that afternoon.