We tried luxurious Lake District restaurant Gilpin Spice's fabulous menu to celebrate the Chinese New Year

It’s the Year of the Dragon – and this chef’s star power is burning brightly.

Head Chef Tom “Westy” Westerland has launched his new pan-Asian menu at the Gilpin Spice in the Lake District to celebrate the Chinese New Year and being recently crowned the king of the kitchen. I visited the 2 AA Rosette restaurant - one of two belonging to the five-star Gilpin Hotel and Lake House – and have to say that it was fabulous.

Although this foodie favourite with its fine dining is a jewel in the Lake District crown, it is not pretentious. The hotel is set within 21 acres and offers a champagne bar, lounge, terraces, and a spa treatment area. But despite its deluxe setting, the Gilpin Spice is also relaxed, fun, and upbeat, boasting bright decor and an open kitchen.

I sampled Westy’s mouth-watering “7 of the Best” – a selection of small dishes inspired by locations from across the Spice Trail. They were perfect for sharing or, if you’re anything like me, having a taste of everything.

Being a vegetarian, I went for the plant-based version, but meat-eaters can enjoy the Thai roast chicken broth, the Loch Duart salmon chirashi, Westy-fried chicken, and slow-cooked ox cheek among their 7 of the Best. The Westy-fried chicken, served with gochujang and black sesame for a Gilpin Spice twist, went down a storm on our table, with other diners calling it a favourite.

First up for everyone, though, was the pani puri, with chickpea thecha, chevda, and tamarind water. I love street food, and this popular Indian plate was probably one of my favourites as it was fun and packed with vibrant flavours.

Then came a brightly coloured achari carrot soup with bhel, coriander, and lemon, which was as gorgeous as it looked.

Just as sumptuous were the wazman tofu with tomato gravy, truffle honey, and curry leaf and the chatpata aloo tikki with spiced potato, chiwada, yoghurt, coriander, and tamarind.

I loved the tamarind glazed aubergine with coriander chutney and coronation raisins served alongside the egg fried rice with togarashi, barrel-aged soy, and a slow-cooked egg, which created a beautiful sauce.

And though I was already satisfied, I could not resist the mango kulfi “Magnum” boasting a stunning blend of passionfruit, mint, and mango for dessert. It made for a perfect end to a fantastic evening.

The new menu brought all the luxury you’d expect from a chef trained in Michelin Star restaurants. But at the same time, it was playful, full of flair and personality, and a fantastic example of why casual, social dining is so beloved globally. It was easy to see why Westy was named National Chef of the Year for Wales and picked twice to appear on the BBC’s flagship show Great British Menu.

As the restaurant celebrates the Year of the Dragon and Westy’s promotion to head chef, I’m sure Gilpin Spice’s reputation in the Lake District and further afield as a top destination for fine but fun dining will continue to soar.