I don’t often have much luck when it comes to weather but choosing to visit L’Enclume in the pretty Lake District village of Cartmel on by far the best weekend of the entire year was certainly very lucky indeed. It’s a beautiful place anyway but with clear blue skies and 30degrees heat it was absolutely stunning.
It was still hot by the time we arrived at L’Enclume in the evening so we had a glass of champagne in their gorgeous garden which was most enjoyable.
We were then taken through to the dining room. I think it’s fairly small but has been cleverly designed to look bigger than it is. It’s very open and the whitewashed stone walls make it very bright. The stone walls and wooden beams give it a rustic look, the fresh plants dotted around add a freshness and the tables and chairs a modern and stylish twist.
Anyway, on to the food. There are 2 menus available with 7 or 10 courses, needless to say we went for the 10 course option.
We were first served an amuse-bouche of pea mousse with crab & calamint. They arrived in cute little white enamel sacks on a piece of serrated slate. They really looked fantastic. I have to confess that I didn’t have a clue what calamint was which would become a bit of a running theme. I did know that they tasted even better than they looked. The pea mousse was as light as a feather with a sweet pea and delicate crab flavour which worked really well and the calamint added an almost minty flavour. We were off to a good start.
Next up was ‘Mushroom & smoked yolk, sour cream & samphire’. It looked as beautiful as the previous dish and was just as intriguing. The smoked yolk was coated in breadcrumbs in the centre of the plate on a bed of sour cream and surrounded with mushroom and samphire. The yolk was soft and runny inside with a great smokey flavour which tasted fantastic with the earthy mushrooms and sour cream. The samphire was a great addition which i’m sure i’ve only ever had with seafood before and now i’m wondering why?
The next dish was probably my favourite of the night and perhaps my favourite for a very long time. ‘Spring broth and artichoke dumplings, dried tomatoes and pineapple weed’. The photo seriously does not do this dish justice, the flavours were absolutely epic. The artichoke dumplings are genius, the spring broth was packed with flavour, the tomatoes the sweetest I have ever tasted and the pineapple weed like nothing i’ve ever experienced before. With the texture of a green herb but the exact taste of fresh pineapple it’s an odd but very pleasing sensation. I later learned that pineapple weed actually has nothing to do with pineapple! The real genius of this dish was the marriage of flavours, when eaten together every element blended into one truly unforgettable taste.
‘Raw mackerel with pickled radish, clams and fennel cream’ arrived shortly after. Although I love seafood i’m not a huge fan of raw fish. This dish was very enjoyable though. Another lesson in perfect flavour combinations. The fish was light soft and delicious with the clams and fennel cream whilst the pickled radish added touch of bitterness and acidity.
‘Heritage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel’ wasn’t as enjoyable as the previous 4 courses. Although I may have been partly put off by the fact that the onion ashes looked as though somebody had been using the plate as an ashtray. I didn’t feel that they tasted that good either to be honest.
The next dish got us right back on track though. ‘Carrots with ham fat & nasturtiums’. The carrots were cooked but cold, the ham fat tasted like the best bacon you’ve ever eaten and the nasturtiums peppery, a bit like rocket or watercress. Another stunning flavour combination and a great dish.
I have to say that was we received next was by far the least appetising looking fine-dining dish that i’ve ever been served. ‘Salt baked white vienna in kale leaf, thyme and chicken offal’ was much tastier than it looked. Even my partner enjoyed it and she is not a lover of offal at all.
The fish dish of ‘Cod tongues with broad beans, sea greens and marjoram’ was excellent. If you don’t know, cod tongues are not actual tongues, they are a small muscle from the neck of the fish and they are amazing. So soft and succulent.
I’d been looking forward to the meat course the most after reading the menu and it didn’t disappoint. ‘Yew tree Herdwick Hogget, turnips, cider and chenopodiums’ looked and tasted stunning. Hogget is essentially in-between lamb and mutton, the sheep must be between one and two years of age. It’s the first time i’d ever had it but I hope I do again, it has the best qualities of both lamb and mutton. The cider sauce was divine, a little more of it would have been appreciated however. Obviously I had no idea what chenopodiums are, the leaves looked a bit like cabbage and tasted good.
Dessert time! The first was a little disappointing unfortunately. ‘Merchant cherries, macerated and iced, sweet woodruff’ just sort of vanished. The cream somehow just collapsed in my mouth and disappeared while the cherries were tasty but had very little bite to them and were washed away with the cream. The dish really needed some sort of texture in my opinion.
The next dessert of ‘Sticky gingerbread, buttermilk and chervil granite’ certainly made up for it though. It is definitely one of my favourite ever desserts. The bottom was a base of super gingery and super sticky gingerbread & buttermilk which was topped with chervil ice. I can honestly say i’d never dream of using chervil in a dessert but it really worked.
The final course of ‘Sweet cheese with walnut, gooseberry, Douglas fir’ was good but not a patch of the previous. Another example of perfect balance of flavour and texture. The cheese was very sweet, the gooseberry added sharpness, the Douglas fir a sort of piney flavour whilst the walnuts and tuile added interesting crunchy textures.
As if we hadn’t already eaten enough we were brought one last treat. Petit-fours of mini lavender cakes with shots of lavender milkshake. The cakes were brilliant, despite being so full I could have eaten 10 of them. The milkshake was even better, ice cold, milky and frothy with a beautiful floral taste. A fitting end to a fantastic meal.
I enjoyed almost everything I ate at L’Enclume, some of the dishes were stunning. Simon Rogan is clearly a genius and how they only have 1 Michelin star I do not know. They must surely be upgraded to 2 soon! His use of unusual plants, herbs and flowers makes the food like nothing you can get from anywhere else.
Service was good without being over the top. Overall I had an amazing time and I can’t wait to get back there someday, my only worry is that it won’t be quite the same on a cold, rainy autumn night as the weather definitely played a part this time.
Date of visit: 02.07.2011
* Update * At the time of my visit & review L’Enclume held 1 Michelin star, however it was upgraded to 2 stars in November 2012Follow @FoodGeekUK