Andrew Wildsmith has been an integral part of the North West’s hospitality offering since 2005. The former Lancaster Grammar School pupil hadn’t originally intended to become an hotelier, however. Having studied organic chemistry at Imperial College and then a PhD at Cambridge, he was destined for a lucrative career in the pharmaceutical industry.
That all changed 11 years ago, when an opportunity presented itself to acquire Hipping Hall in North Lancashire. It was the potential of this property that drew Andrew into the hotel trade; that and the fact he could have a career which involved five of his favourite things; food, wine, property, interiors and people.
Almost immediately the hotel became a success; the Good Hotel Guide named Hipping Hall as Country Hotel of the year in 2008 and the property picked up a César award also.
Gradually Andrew set about building a foodie reputation for Hipping Hall, achieving three AA Rosettes in 2011, and now working with head chef Oli Martin and general manager Robert Scott, he is continuing to build on this reputation and is busily striving for even more plaudits for the future.
In 2010, he took over at The Ryebeck in Bowness, overseeing the property’s name change from Fayrer Garden. He set about trying to create relaxed informal hotel in the heart of the Lakes, quickly achieving three stars and two AA rosettes, working alongside head chef Dom Clarke and general manager Duncan Evans.
Then in 2014, Andrew’s attention was drawn to a former walking hostel in the village of Grasmere. He could certainly see the potential and from that moment plans for the latest addition to the Wildsmith Hotel Group, Forest Side, started to take shape.
Working with his dedicated team, including interior designer James Mackie, Wildsmith group operations manager Tom Lewis, head chef Kevin Tickle and head gardener Catherine Walsh, they set about shaping and bringing to life a very distinct vision for Forest Side – a restaurant with rooms.
After 18 months of refurbishment, Forest Side opened its doors to guests on February 2 2016. Forest Side has already made a strong start, bagging two awards in the recent Cumbria Life Food & Drink Awards, Best Newcomer and Hotel Restaurant of the Year.
Without doubt, there is more to come from this collection, so it’s a matter of watching this space.