Fancy food, yes, but not just for the well-heeled
Emma Pearson tries out Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in the picturesque Lake District village of Cartmel
The finest eaters in Britain (that’s probably not what they have on their CV) have already voted Cartmel’s l’Enclume restaurant number one in the Good Food Guide.
I heard a friend saying that l’Enclume is now so fancy it would probably be “all snooty with veloutés and snail sick and the like”.
So I decided to review it because my abiding impression of the place is how friendly and welcoming it is.
Firstly, I am delighted to report that snail sick features are nowhere on the menu.
Nor is velouté, foam or (surely the current holder of the award for the most pointless, faffy chef-nonsense) flavoured air.
That’s not to say the food isn’t fancy, it is.
But it isn’t needlessly fancy, everything on the plate is there for a reason and adds up to a truly delicious dish.
Chef patron Simon Rogan’s philosophy is all about locally-produced seasonal ingredients.
So we had carrot soup made with veg from the garden, slow cooked pork belly from local pigs and a venison tartare made with venison that, as our lovely and chatty waiter put it, “just came down from the estate over the hill”.
This conjured up a slightly disturbing image of a deer sauntering through the pretty village of Cartmel, knocking on the kitchen door and offering itself up to the chef.
Although the knockout deliciousness of the venison tartare with charcoal oil, mustard and fennel is perhaps enough to persuade any deer to sacrifice itself for this pinnacle of culinary art.
The menu changes daily, depending on what’s in season, and for lunch diners can choose between a six-course menu for £45 per person (with £5 extra for an additional cheese course) or a 12-course tasting menu for £120 per person.
Dinner options start at £120.
Two delightful starters, the carrot soup with slow-cooked ox tongue and a beautiful little salt cod mousse, were followed by the aforementioned venison tartare.
But for me the star of the show was the main course – loin of pork and slow cooked belly pork that was so meltingly tender with such wonderful crisp skin that it brought a tear to the eye with its sheer perfection.
A light little brown sugar ice cream with rhubarb granita was followed by the main pudding, a very good frozen honeycomb mousse, then my partner tackled the cheeseboard.
Board is probably underselling it. This was a wheeled chariot of cheese with a dizzying array of wonderful varieties, all from the UK.
After some consideration we voted a Scottish blue, similar in style to a Roquefort, the winner, but there were some serious contenders, including a lovely sharp goat’s cheese and a soft Lancashire cheese.
This wonderful food was all served in a lovely, not too formal, atmosphere with some fun touches. If you want a cup of herbal tea they wheel out a trolley with five different mint plants on it and our espresso cups seemed to have been made by one of the staff’s five-year-old children in pottery class, although I suppose on reflection they could have been some hipster designer brand.
But what really stood out for us was the welcome. The staff were friendly, chatty, funny and knowledgeable about what they were serving.
There were some obvious rich folk there, but others who, like us, had scraped together their pennies for a special occasion (my partner’s birthday. You’re welcome, honey) received the same warm welcome from staff who seemed genuinely pleased that we’d chosen to celebrate something special at their place.
But not quite as pleased as we were with that pork belly. . . .
l’Enclume, Cavendish Street, Cartmel, Grange over Sands. 01539 536 362 www.lenclume.co.uk