Review: L'Enclume

The drive from Glasgow to Cartmel takes roughly three hours, for us a journey like no other. A rather nostalgic feeling of excitement; the feeling of being a child going to Disney land for the first time or waiting to open your presents on Christmas morning, that’s how we felt on the trip to Simon Rogan’s much acclaimed L’Enclume. Awarded a perfect 10/10 with the good food guide 2014, L’Enclume took over from the Fat Duck as the best restaurant in the country. Michelin has also acknowledged the restaurants credentials awarding the first star in 2005, followed by a second in 2012.


Situated in the quaint village of Cartmel, Rogan’s compact 12 acre farm grows fresh produce in a sustainable manner in order to supply the restaurant with some of the ingredients used to create the wonderful dishes. If you look online there is no set menu available to browse, with head chef Tom Barnes (promoted the day we visited) using the freshest ingredients available each day, thus ensuring the immaculate standards set by the restaurant are maintained.

A leisurely stroll around Cartmel passed the time ahead of our hugely anticipated dinner at the last sitting of 8.45pm. Even though we had booked nearly four months in advance, this was the only time slot available. This fact itself highlighted the popularity of the venue. On arrival we were instantly struck by the d├ęcor of the dining room with the exposed rough stone walls, no overstated table clothes, no grand paintings or elaborate colour scheme. A dining room with no clutter, instead elegant wooden tables and chairs, the minimalist approach made the area bright and airy; a million miles away from some of the stuffy dining rooms on offer in London. After a warm and friendly welcome we were shown to our table for the evening and had a beautiful glass of sparkling (English) white to start the evening. The 20 course tasting menu comes in at £120 and at lunch you can opt for a 6 course menu for £45, the wine list is reasonably priced and we opted for a nice bottle of sweet white wine at a cost of £33.


                                          


Oyster pebbles
                                          
                                   Close up of oyster pebble.                                    


     Oxtail dumpling.

Ragstone, malt, tarragon.
Smoked eel with ham fat.
Raw scallop and caviar.
                                  
A read at the menu only gives a small hint at what awaits, a colourful procession of small bite sized amuses are served in succession; although miniature in portion, each is full of delicate flavours and all are presented beautifully. The cleverly thought out oyster pebble is in fact an apple meringue with an oyster cream centre. These were certainly not just for show and pretence, as the flavours were a match made in heaven, a perfect way to tease the diner for what lies ahead. The oxtail dumpling packed a punch of strong flavour with crispy shallots on top. We liked the clever presentation of the Ragstone cheese as actual stones, a quirky start to what was to be a meal full of surprises. The raw scallop and caviar was the standout amuse dish, beautiful squares of raw scallop, accompanied by strawberry pickled jelly. This combination is the epitome of a taste sensation.


Pea and crab sack
Pea and crab sack
Creamed celeriac, Tunworth and duck gizzards.
                                      Breads;                              
Carmalised onion, Ale and wholemeal with butter and pork fat spreads.
White turnip, maran egg, nasturtium leaves.

After a glass of bubbles, we stated to loose track of the difference between which was said to be the standard starters or then mains. On reflection, we do not think there is a clear boundary between courses, the entire meal flows into one, where the diner is part of a show of presented craft and culinary excellence . The pea and crab sack was a standout dish for us, the presentation sets the diner up for a surprise as you cannot see what's inside, then the punch of the crab can be found at the bottom, the crispy topping finished the dish marvellously. 

                    Valley of venison, charcoal oil, mustard and fennel.                  
  
                        Venison close up.                  
   Raw langoustine, scurvy grass, hazelnuts.
                                     Glazed langoustine, carrot, watercress.                                 
                                    Potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and  wood sorrel.                              
 Close up of onion ash.
                                          
   
                                   Turbot grilled over spruce, mussel, salsify and sea vegetables.                         

  Reg's guinea hen.
                     
Picking a standout dish from the next lot of main courses is near impossible. To serve so many small dishes packed with a top class degree of skill, imagination and flavour is really something special. From the wonderfully presented venison right through to the rich guinea hen we experienced food like no other. The creamed celeriac and duck gizzard was a combination unknown to us, but it worked perfectly and could of been the dish of the night. Langoustine is a firm favourite of ours and here we were certainly not let down, the dish comes in two sections with a raw version and then a cooked portion. The warm portion was cooked to perfection with carrot puree and black pudding, a truly outstanding combination.

Rye, stout, gingerbread.
Toasted malt, mint, hazelnut.
                                   Gooseberry, sheep's milk, anise hyssop.                               
                                        Green strawberries, apple marigold custard and beach leaf.                                      

Meadosweet, cherries, cider and flowers.

Apple, sweet cheese, pineapple weed and iced tea.
Desserts at L'enclume are not like the standard end to a meal, no chocolate or toffee to be found. We weren't over keen on the the rye, stout, ginger and the malt deserts but that was purely down to personal taste. Our personal favourites had to be the last two desserts, the meadowsweet with cherries and cider was outstandingly sweet and then to get so much flavour in three small cones was a perfect way to end a very special meal. We were left in awe, at the depth of flavour within each small plate.


Being wary whether it was the case of everyone jumping on the L’Enclume bandwagon before we visited; now we can wholeheartedly say that everything we had seen or read about L’Enclume is true and then some. We left the restaurant mesmerised by the food and service on offer at L’Enclume. Each course seemed to be better than the one previous and it was near impossible to pick a favourite, each being of an impeccable standard. Out of the twenty courses only two of the dessert courses were just “ok” but every other course was outstanding. Each separate dish had a clear thought out vision, where each component of the dish served a purpose and was not just for the visual effect. It’s great to see all the extravagant equipment on show in the kitchen put to use to enhance the flavour of the food, and not used just as a gimmick. Although 20 courses seems a lot, a procession of small dishes with intense thought provoking flavours leave you comfortably full and at no point bored of the show unfolding in front of you.

Service at L’Enclume must also be amongst the best in the country. From arrival to finish each member of staff was on top of their game and we honestly couldn't find a single fault. It was refreshing to see some locals on the team and not the majority being a native from France, as can be the case in an array of restaurants. The tour of the restaurant and kitchen at the end was greatly appreciated from the knowledgeable and charming waiter.

Simon Rogan has created a special restaurant in Cartmel and is clearly a chef with the magic touch. Training under chefs such as Marco Pierre White and john Burton Race gave him the perfect foundations but Simon with his unique style has elevated himself to be quite possibly the best chef in the country. Every process of the Rogan machine is well thought out, with great care being given to growing and selecting ingredients. Cartmel is now unofficially called "Roganville" with Simon owning three other restaurants and also has restaurants in Manchester and most recently “Fera” at Claridges. All this wouldn't be possible without a great team and Simon Rogan certainly has that. The 2014 Roux scholar winner Tom Barnes had just the day we visited been promoted to head Chef at L’Enclume with another roux scholar ex head chef Mark Birchall being promoted to chef director of all the northern restaurants. “Fera” also has ex L’Enclume head chef and another roux scholar Dan Cox as its head chef. It’s clear to see all these talented chefs are on the same wavelength as their boss, and if our meal is anything to go by Tom Barnes will be  more than capable at the helm of L’Enclume.

For a dinner with wine costing over £300 can we say it was good value for money? Would we go again? Would we recommend L’Enclume? Three easy questions with an even easier answer, a resounding yes for all three. Believe the hype, Simon Rogan is currently serving the best food in the country at present, and with an ever changing menu it already has one up on the Fat Duck and Dinner by Heston. A visit to L’Enclume was a dream come true for us, if you have any doubt about visiting don’t, save and book up. Witness history in the making, a truly unique and unmatched experience is what's on offer at L'Enclume.



Scores

Food 10/10
Service 10/10
Decor 9/10
Toilets 8/10
Value for money 9/10

Overall 46/50- For us L'Enclume was the best dining experience we have had to date. More than deserving of it's two Michelin star's, and we fully expect it to be awarded a third star in the coming years.















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