My husband and I had a bit of a mini holiday up in the Lake District. I clearly use way too many hair products as I had earned us enough points buying Aveda products for two free nights at a spa hotel on Lake Windermere (annoyingly not good on weekends and also I don’t use that many as it took me about ten years worth of gathering points). It also included two free massages, so it seemed like a nice relaxing trip. We also found out that Simon Rogan’s restaurant L’Enclume in only a twenty minute taxi ride away, so we decided that if we were going to be in the Lake District, we should probably eat at the best restaurant there, right?
To be fair, I wouldn’t have realized it was a restaurant if the taxi driver didn’t point it out. It just seemed like another building. However, inside was a very charming restaurant, and since we arrived a little early for our booking, we had a seat in the bar area and enjoyed some nice English bubbly before being shown to our seats in the conservatory area of the restaurant.
At our table propped up between some rocks was an envelope. Eventually, my husband decided he needed to open it and inside (which I kind of assumed) was the menu. We had 19 courses of what appeared to be a very interesting, local and British menu. We also opted to get the signature wine flight to go with the meal.
The first few courses come out fairly quickly as they are just a bunch of small bites you eat with your hands. First to arrive was the beetroot leaf. I thought it was a real leaf, but perhaps it was just made to look like one. Either way it was gorgeous and delicious. There was also a cabbage and goat’s cheese dish with a bit of soup at the end to cleanse your palate afterwards. There was also a rock that was covered in roe and parsley (to look mossy) that you scraped the “moss” off with flatbreads and ate. Fun presentation and quite delicious. This was followed by a hot truffle dumpling and an oyster cracker. The dumpling was nice, but definitely had more of a mushroom flavor than a truffle flavor for me (but still really good). Finally, we were presented with fried pork and eel and a cold crab dish to contrast with. All of the snacks were really tasty, and honestly, I just wanted to eat tons more of the fried pork and eel. (But alas, one each was all we got!)
Once the snacks ended, we were given wine to go with our courses. The first two courses were paired with the same wine. The first one was a Maran chicken egg yolk confit with stout vinegar and mushrooms. And it was really tasty. The vinegar added a nice hit of sweetness and sharpness to what was really a rich egg and mushroom dish. I wanted to stick my head in the tiny egg shell and lick it clean. (FYI, my head is a bit too big.) Next was a raw scallop dish with pea and mint. Tried and tested flavors, it was a really amazing course. We were also given some freshly made bread and butter. We had two butter options: Raw or pasteurized. They were both made in house, but the raw turned out to be the nicer of the two.
Next we were presented with aged veal tartare. It was another really great dish and one of the better tartares I’ve eaten. There were also some sweet candy bits with a liquid filling that really contrasted the flavor and texture on the plate. Following that we were given lobster with broad beans and elderflower. I can’t say I have ever eaten lobster with elderflower, but the flavor combination worked really well together. We especially liked the lobster cracker it was served with. It’s like a prawn cracker all grown up.
Our next course arrived on the table in what appeared to be a scientific apparatus, but when I saw what they were doing I said, “Oh coffee maker”. They were infusing a vegetable soup using a vacuum coffee maker. It was really a clever use of the gadget, and we got to watch it being made at the table. Afterwards they poured some over some tasty looking vegetables, and we had what amounted to the best vegetable soup of my life. The broth was rich, aromatic and flavorful, and they cooked all the vegetables perfectly. There was quite a bit of left-over broth in the carafe, and we cheekily thought about trying to pour some more into our bowls, but they took the carafe away before we could actually decide if we were going to do it or not. They had also given us a new piece of bread with this course: a malted rye bread. Like the other bread, it was incredibly delicious and worked really well with the last few course.
Our final two savory courses were butter poached turbot with courgettes and nasturtium and duck with cherries and smoked beetroot. The turbot was nice (but I do always seem to have some sort of an issue with fish courses), but not amazing. It didn’t stand up to the turbot we had at L’Arpege last year. The duck course was completely amazing though, with perfectly cooked duck and a nice sweetness from the cherry and earthiness from the beetroot. It also had one of the best duck sauces I’ve ever had. I’m glad I saved some of the bread to the end so I could soak up all that sauce. (Even the one cheeky waiter made a comment about it. That’s right there was just one of them. I got lots of jokes about living in London that night.) We also found the knife that looked like a dagger very amusing. The red wine served with the duck was also served in a massive wine glass. (And I do love massive wine glasses).
After the savories, we were moving on to the sweets, but we were told we could also have some cheese as a supplemental course. In most French restaurants, they would serve the cheese here, but L’Enclume does it the British way, and we had cheese at the very end of the meal. So we moved on to the raspberry and sweet cicely tart followed by “Simon’s sacks” (or something like that). The tart was really refreshing and light, and I just wanted more of them. The sack was a porcelain container filled with blueberry compote, oats and buttermilk ice cream. It also contained local honey which really added something to the dish. I’ve had “desserts” that are basically cereal in the past, and I’m glad that they actually did something better with this.
We then moved on to a cake soaked in booze. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty much my favorite dessert. Everything on the plate went so well together (and booze)! This was followed by Anvil (in case you didn’t know L’Enclume is Anvil in French) which was a caramel mousse. Also very tasty and very sweet.
We finally moved on to the cheese, and we were offered more drinks with it. And apparently there is a wine flight for the cheese. So we had to take that option, right? It consisted of three wines, a sweet white, a not so sweet red and a fortified wine. There were some sort of rules about which to pair with what, but honestly, I’m not sure I remember. I just remember they were all pretty good. For the cheese, we had to choose for the whole table, which caused a bit of a kerfuffle as someone at the table (not me) really isn’t a fan of goat’s cheese, so I just stared longingly at it wishing I could be having some. The cheese we did select was really great though (although really most cheese is), so we enjoyed it quite a bit with the homemade crackers.
Finally, I decided to have some coffee. I was so mesmerized by the precision the guy making my coffee was going through that I completely forgot to get any photos of it! But basically everything was done on a scale. The coffee was weighed out and then 125 g of water was added, followed by another 125 g. When it was done, I was given 150 g of coffee and the rest was whisked away from me. It was all strangely precise and oddly amusing (why I couldn’t have the rest of the coffee, I still won’t know). We were also given tiny ice cream cornets at the end which ended the meal very nicely. And then we were presented with a bag with some sort of seeds for the garden (which I don’t have) and some of the stout vinegar from the egg dish. So of course I had to ask “What do I do with this? I mean besides recreate the egg dish which is clearly going to be very simple.” Apparently no one else asked this question, but the waiter tells me his father is a chef in Italy and has tasted the stout so he is going to find out from him and send me some ideas. We’ll see if that actually happens…
All in all, the meal we had at L’Enclume was something really special. The service was spot on and the food was definitely made with a lot of respect for the ingredients. If you’re in the Lake District, a visit should definitely be on your list. If you’re not, maybe you could try one of his other restaurants in London or in Manchester.
Cavendish Street, Cartmel
Nr Grange over Sands
Cumbria, LA11 6PZ