Where art lovers and fellwalkers and foodies come together now is an exercise in serenity and style. Mathilde’s, the café which opened this summer in Grasmere is quietly and elegantly proving to be the place to meet and linger. In summer on the long slate-paved terrace, or inside the light-flooded room with a window onto the fells – prominently Stone Arthur –where even the light shades are works of art and a glass door leads to exciting exhibition space.
Now, in winter, the Nordic influence of this new addition to the Heaton Cooper Studio, is adding a cosy and subtly festive air. Cinnamon rolls are served, alongside Carvetii coffee, pumpkin spiced Nordic waffles, on Scandinavian artisan crockery. What you WON’T get at Mathilde’s is piped-music Jingle Bells.
The café is the vision of the Heaton Cooper Studio director Becky Heaton Cooper who is great granddaughter of Mathilde, and also an artist and designer as well as businesswoman. Becky brought in Head Chef Rob McGill and Manager Nicola Tickle who then recruited a team of fine bakers and baristas. Together they have developed an exciting, seasonal menu with a subtle Scandinavian influence. Salads of gravadlax or beetroot, lingonberries and dill; breakfasts of wild mushrooms on sourdough toast with poached eggs currently grace the plates of diners.
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 that was on show in the adjoining Archive Gallery all summer.
Mathilde’s was not an easy life. She arrived in the country with her young husband speaking no English. (They landed at Newcastle on November 5th, and hearing all the fireworks, and seeing light from bonfires, Mathilde asked Alfred if this was a special reception to welcome her.) Alfred was a struggling artist, and they moved around the Lakes from one home to another. They had four children, and Mathilde ran the home and devoted her life to their care. But they were a happy and loving family, occasionally returning to Norway for long holidays where Alfred loved to paint.
Now in the gallery founded by the Heaton Coopers, a new generation of artists is keeping alive their spirit. The latest is a young painter offering a new perspective on the landscape, Stefan Orlowski, whose current show opened as the now-traditional Grasmere curtain raiser for the Kendal Mountain Festival. It’s called Land Lives, and it is curated by Julian Cooper whose Full Circle exhibition has just ended.
Developing the gallery and opening the café has been a labour of love for Becky Heaton Cooper. “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.”
Mathilde’s is open daily from 9.30am until 4.30pm. Breakfast is served till 11.30.