Baha, 18 Ash St, Bowness-on-Windermere, LA23 3EB – Visit Now
The taxi driver taking me to Baha, a stylish restaurant in Windermere, has a lot to say about it. “Some locals were grumbling about it when it first opened,” he says. “But there are plenty of pubs around here they can go in wearing wellies and trackie bottoms. And look at Baha now. It’s always busy, people love it.”
Its reputation is spreading far beyond the Lake District
He’s not wrong. Baha is packed, full of young, excited couples who’ve travelled over from all around the North to see what the hype is about, plus some friendly older locals who happily lean over to recommend dishes they’ve tried and enjoyed. It’s not a common experience in big city restaurants, and utterly charming.
As is the venue. It’s clear a lot of time, energy and money has been spent on making the place look pitch perfect, and it’s a joy to sit in. The theme is Pacific Rim inspired street food, and the menu is vast, with three main sections: starters, main, dessert. In truth, the starters section hosts some amazing-sounding options, and you could be forgiven for never venturing any further.
First, a little bowl of seaweed. But this isn’t just any seaweed, this is Baha seaweed. Big, swirling clumps of salty, wonderfully-seasoned crispy green bites. It takes all my energy not to gobble the lot.
The tiger wings come highly-recommended from the neighbouring table, and rightly so. A beautiful rusty orange, covered with lines of charcoal peanut yoghurt, and the most lip-smacking Buffalo sauce this side of Scafell Pike. The wings are plump, healthy and tumble apart to reveal moreish hunks of dark meat. They’re a must.
The most lip-smacking Buffalo sauce this side of Scafell Pike
The fried octopus balls are an unusual one to see on the menu. They’re good, but perhaps pale a little next to the other dishes. The octopus inside is a little gloopy, but the crisp clean batter is a treat, as is the pepper pot mayo – spicy enough to deliver a warming-kick, but never about heat for the sake of it (much like everything on the menu, happily). Unexpectedly, the accompanying bok choy slaw is actually one of the most memorable parts of the menu, bright, fresh and wonderfully colourful, a cavalcade of crunchy sweet fruity flavours. It’s a refreshing side dish worth a purchase in its own right.
The Korean fried chicken is another excellent small plate – not officially on the menu at time of writing, but hopefully you’ll be in luck. Deep-fried chunks of soft chicken breast, with a crunchy coating and the correct amount of dark, sweet-but-spicy sauce. Again, it’s a struggle to leave room for mains.
But I do, and the choice is a king prawn pad thai (again, gushingly recommended by my table neighbours). It’s everything you want from a pad thai: delicious hot flat noodles, made for swirling about on a fork (I make no apologies for not using chopsticks), the thickest juiciest prawns I’ve seen outside of Chinatown, just the right amount of crushed peanut scattered over the top, and a solid, powerful sauce so good I catch myself groaning with pleasure.
A solid end to a near-perfect meal
Finally, and probably the most memorable dish of all. A simply trifle, but executed superbly. A raspberry base adds a nice sharp tang to set off the incredible inch-thick central layer of cream, then coconut shavings and almonds across the top. It’s another off-menu dish, but on this showing it deserves to go permanent. It delivers a solid end to a near-perfect meal, light and creamy and uplifting, cutting through the complex, varied flavours of the previous courses.
Baha only opened in its current form around 18 months ago, but its reputation is spreading far beyond the Lake District. It provides a stylish and unique hang-out for the people of Bowness-On-Windermere, offering up smart, original ideas from a passionate and talented chef. If you’re thinking of heading to the Lakes once this pre-springtime storm frenzy clears up, Baha deserves to be high up on your list.