Alston House Hotel
Townfoot Alston CA9 3RN
Best place to eat in Alston is the amiable hotel on the road in from Penrith and Hartside Top, just at the foot of town. During the day it's coffee (good coffee too), homemade cakes, sandwiches, panini, all-day breakfasts and the like from the 'House Cafe', which is the space at the front of the building. Come 6pm and dining and drinking shifts to the back bar and restaurant, which has a spacious, contemporary feel and tables lit by candles in chunky ceramic holders that are made just up the road. The food has the same locally sourced, made in-house vibe, kicking off with a hunk of warm organic bread delivered to the table, followed by a menu with Cumbrian produce to the fore – from fishcakes with chilli sauce to lamb shoulder on mash, by way of things like sea bass, steak or Thai curry. They also do a nice line in homemade pizza and pasta, and we couldn't resist a bowl of their very hot, very thin chips either. A short, decently priced wine list does the honours, or there are Cumbrian ales to try (and try again), before sinking gently into a sofa near the roaring fire. It's child-friendly too, with toys, games and plenty of space inside, as well as a largely enclosed garden.