Café culture in the Lake District has moved to a new level this summer with the opening of Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere.
It’s a café which is an integral part of the long-established gallery where even the light shades are works of art and a glass door leads to exciting exhibition space.
Mathilde was the young country girl from Norway who fell in love with an English painter and together they founded a dynasty of great landscape artists. Naming the café after her is a fitting tribute to the woman who played a quietly supportive role in the life of Alfred Heaton Cooper, and gave birth to their son, William. The father and son became known as the most famous of the English landscape artists of their respective generations. Her grandson, Julian Cooper, is now Britain’s foremost painter of mountain scenes and it’s his exhibition on show there now.
But the food is also causing a stir in the Lakes where the celebrations are under way in the new World Heritage Site; as the Lake District Centre for the Interpretation of Landscape, the Heaton Cooper studio was one of the original stakeholders in the bid by the National Park. Now the studio and café have a new team already winning praise for the menu and the style.
Newly appointed head chef Rob McGill, previously sous chef at the Forest Side restaurant, is joined by studio and café manager Nicola Tickle. McGill began his career on the Cumbrian Tourism chef apprentice programme, and subsequently worked at The Wild Boar, the Low Wood, and Rothay Garden in Grasmere. He did a five year stint at Harvey Nichols in Manchester, eventually as sous chef, before joining the Forest Side. He’s developing a distinctive Scandinavian influence now at Mathilde’s.
Nicola Tickle has worked at the famous Lakes pub and restaurant, the Drunken Duck, before joining Wildsmith Hotels at Hipping Hall and the Ryebeck in Windermere. “This is a wonderful opportunity,” she says. “The Heaton Cooper Studio has always had a special place at the heart of Grasmere but now Mathilde’s adds a really exciting new dimension.”
It’s been a labour of love for studio director Becky Heaton Cooper, Mathilde’s great grand-daughter. “Mathilde was the love of Alfred’s life,” she says. “It really was a love match. Alfred was the centre of her world, and we think it’s wonderful to have her name here now at the centre of our new expansion.”
- The first major event at Mathilde’s and the new gallery was the official opening of Full Circle, the last in a trio of exhibitions showing the work of Julian Cooper, Britain’s foremost living mountain artist, to mark his 70th Julian, the son of William Heaton Cooper and grandson of Alfred Heaton Cooper, has seen two other major exhibitions this year. A London exhibition, Upstream, ran at Art Space Gallery in the spring, devoted to new paintings on the theme of going upstream from Cockermouth, his home town. And in Kendal, the Abbot Hall Art Gallery had an exhibition of more than 30 monumental paintings from Cooper’s extensive output over 45 years and reflecting the artist’s travels. The Grasmere exhibition, which will run throughout the summer, includes previously unseen work covering a range of time and subjects, including urban scenes set in different European cities .
- See also this about Full Circle