One of the primary reasons I wanted to go to the Lake District on honeymoon (other than neither of us having ever been) was so that we could visit Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume - a two Michelin star restaurant in the most charming medieval village of Cartmel, just off the southern coast of the Lake District.
After a visit to Roganic last year (Simon Rogan’s London-based ‘pop-up’ restaurant which is sadly closing in June 2013) we were both left stunned and amazed by the food (I do not exaggerate…well, not in this instance) and we decided that our UK honeymoon would present an excellent excuse to visit the ‘mother-ship’ (as they call it) restaurant based in the Lake District. Thereupon followed much umming and aahing trying to find the ‘right’ accommodation to make the trip ‘special’ enough and not just focused on one lunchtime meal but we eventually got it all finalised and booked.
To say I had high hopes for our lunch would be somewhat of an understatement and we even arrived half an hour earlier than our 12pm booking and sat in the car outside because I was so excited The building looks so unprepossessing from the exterior and I was more than a little nervous that my high hopes would be dashed, but I shouldn’t have worried (as with 95% of the things I worry about), the moment we stepped through the door we were treated like actual royalty. Not royalty in a stuffy, white table clothed, ‘am I using the wrong piece of cutlery?’ kind of way, but in a manner that left you feeling like nothing you required would be too much trouble for the staff – though following me to the toilet was a little odd!
I had dropped into conversation that we were on honeymoon when I made the booking (shameless I know) and they were lovely enough to offer us a glass each of English sparkling wine in congratulations when we arrived – which we very happily accepted! We were then asked if we wanted the 5 course or the 9 course set menu. It was more a case of how much food we thought we could manage than what was on the menu as, just as with Roganic, the menu is set with no choice of what you have for each course, what you see is what you get…providing you understand it (although they offer constantly to cater to any dietary needs/food hates that you might have). The beauty of this is that you’re both eating exactly the same thing and the theatre of the food can be enjoyed together – plus you don’t have to share – a fact Mr B was more than a little happy about!
We decided to go for the 5 course, it being lunch and us trying not to be too glutinous, and what followed was one of the most delicious and surprising meals I’ve ever had the joy of eating. My most favourite thing about the meal though was the constant look of bewilderment on Mr B’s face throughout all of the courses, like a monkey presented with a nut for the first time The ingredients used at L’Enclume are so unusual and the menu descriptions somewhat cryptic that you are left wondering what on earth you are going to get next – but that’s the beauty of it. You put yourself in their, most capable, hands and just enjoy the ride/meal.
Along with the fantastic food, we had some lovely drink and the sommelier was really knowledgeable (as you would expect!), recommending a fantastic ale for Mr B (which was brewed in Cartmel) and a delicious sparkling wine (Balfour Rose, Heath Estate, England 2009) and red wine (Spatburgunder Meyer Nakel, Germany 2011) for me. He even took our menu away when I asked him to jot down the names of the wines and came back having printed them all on the back – such a lovely touch!
Bread rolls and amazing butter
Cod ‘yolk’, broad bean shoots, douglas fir, salt and vinegar
Valley venison, charcoal oil, mustard and fennel
Tokyo turnips and hen of the woods, truffle and nasturtium
Mutton fillet from Lindal, grilled celeriac and ramsons
Coniston oatmeal stout with rye, pear and elderberry vinegar
Rhubarb, yoghurt, hazelnuts and sorrel
Coffee and petit fours
The absolute star of the meal for me was the venison which was served raw – I didn’t even think I liked venison - as it left me wondering why anyone ever cooks it. It was so deliciously tender and full of rich flavour without the heaviness that you end up with when it’s cooked. Mr B was more than a little wowed by the mutton as he loved the garlicky ramson.
We even managed to fit in a little cheese at the end and were treated to the ‘friend-maker’ (as the maître d’ so charmingly referred to it) cheese trolley being rolled out and given the choice of about 20 cheeses, all made locally or within the UK. If I had one of these trolleys I would NOT show it to friends – it would be ALL mine! Despite the heady cheesy smell distracting me from having any focus, we finally managed to select about 6 cheeses to go with the handmade crackers and home-made chutney, but it was a hard choice – particularly as we could literally have selected as many and as much as we liked. I really don’t think he understood just how much we love cheese!
Coffee and petit fours
Even our bill was amazing, I’m still convinced that they intentionally undercharged us, we only paid £29 per head for the 5 course menu, had loads of bread rolls (which they offered to refresh), paid for only 1 cheese course (though we did go quite light as we were pretty full) and got some delicious petit-fours with our coffee. That’s a lot of food, a lot of beautifully prepared, unusual, amazing food but our bill came to just under £150 which is just ludicrous for the very attentive service, the superb quality of food and the sheer amazement on Mr B’s face – I would have paid twice that. Though now it just means we can go back again without too much guilt…and we will be back!
We also made a visit to the local cheese shop which was beyond fantastic (though we decided against purchasing anything, having already been greedy, greedy), the bakery (where we bought an awesome sour dough baguette) and wine shop, where Mr B purchased some of the local ales and I got a bottle of locally made gin – Bedrock - which I was told should be drunk neat, no tainting with tonic…clearly he’s not seen the amount of gin we tend to put away!!!?! Messy! But the small amount I tasted there had none of that ‘nail-varnish’ smell or taste and was lovely and lemony so I’m looking forward to a G&T or two…or just a G…
- Hart Barn, Hartsop (dreamalittledreamalot.wordpress.com)
- The Hardwick, Abergavenny (dreamalittledreamalot.wordpress.com)
- Lunch at L’enclume, April 17 2013 (murraykarlwilson.com)
- L’Enclume (chezshamwari.com)