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Feb 9, 2012 08:21 AM

[Cumbria, Cartmel] L'Enclume

It’s just on two years since we were last at L’Enclume and there’s been some changes in that time. The thirteen course menu was then priced at £70 and is now £89. But the food is now much “cleaner” in its flavours and preparation. Gone are the foams and slightly wacky presentations. In are much more straightforward flavours but, of course, still in interesting combinations. Frankly, it’s an improvement (in my view, of course). There’s been staff changes – a new sommelier started at Christmas and a waiter was working his first shift. Service remained seamless, however. This is a well oiled machine and you know you’re going to be looked after.

Vegetarians are well catered for by a thirteen courser, which can be cut down to eight. However, as omnivores we opted for the mixed thirteen courser (well, eight was never going to be enough for a couple of greedy so-and-so’s). Here’s the menu:

Onion cheese wafers, oyster pebbles, carrot lobster sacks.

Cod “yolk” with ham and radish, salt and vinegar

Dumplings of turnip in Westcombe cheddar, alexanders and rock samphire

Valley venison, shallots, mustard and fennel

Jerusalem artichokes, Ragstone cream, tarragon, malt

Roasted snow crown in beef broth, parsley and English cultivated mushrooms

Pink Fir cooked in chicken fat, crab and horseradish

Roasted monkfish in our spices, kiri squash, yoghurt and raspberry vinegar

Reg’s duck breast with chicory, duck sweetbread and mulled cider

Chestnut, honeyoats, anise hyssop, apple

Fig and malted cream, Williams pear ice

Sweet clover yoghurt with nuts, rhubarb, brown sugar

Aerated parkin meringue

To our somewhat surprise, there were no duffers amongst this lot, although we agreed the Jerusalem artichoke dish was our least favourite. It just didn’t seem to come together.

Stand-outs were led by the cod “yolk – in fact a cod mousse, coloured to effect and topped with a small sheet of ham jelly. Sweet, salty and slippery in the mouth. The roasted snow crown cauliflower was a masterpiece – intense flavour of the veg boosted even more by the excellent rich broth. The seemingly simple fried Pink Fir, sat on a little crabmeat, tasting of potato and chicken, the hint of horseradish giving a little bite. Inevitable, the duck was from Reg Johnson at Goosnargh and, inevitably, it was superb – just a couple of thin slices, perfectly rare – but the addition of crisped sweetbreads made it a lovely thing to eat.

Desserts were all very good, with perhaps the fig one winning a tight race. The fig sat at the bottom of the bowl, topped with the rich cream, itself topped with the pear granita. Truly excellent.

There was good coffee and petit fours to finish off.

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  1. Excellent report Harters - we ate their twice in succession in November and had many of the dishes you tried. I thought the cod yolk dish was superb and very clever and completely agree about the Jeruslaem Artichoke dish.
    Very envious of your duck dish, we got a short rib for our main meat course and it was decent but nothing incredible. The pink fir is a wonderful plate too.

    What did you think of the carrot sacks? Ours had beetroot and horseradish in and was incredible, set the bar so high the rest of the first meal almost didn't compare.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ManInTransit

      Thought the carrot sacks were excellent (as were the other two "nibbles").

      I really don't understand how Rogan keeps failing to get his second Michelin star. I really don't.

      1. re: Harters

        Lucky lady that I am, off there for a long Valentine's weekend. We're eating in the brasserie on Friday and the main restaurant on Saturday night, but any recommendations for a nice pub lunch locally? Characterful, roaring fire, simple steak baguette or the like?

        1. re: helen b


          Not on the immediate Cartmel plot, but I could thoroughly recommend the Punch Bowl at Crosthwaite (not too far away, towards Ambleside). Nearer, I've heard mention of the Masons Arms at Cartmel Fell, but no personal experience.

          By the by, Rogan is taking over the running of the French Restaurant at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. I'm not convinced that this is a "good thing" - progress not always being a "good thing". Please post If you can glean any gossip about when he's due to open (March?) and how close the style is likely to be to that at Cartmel.

          1. re: Harters

            Thanks for the reccs. Mission accepted. I agree about the Midland; haven't been but you and others have written winningly about its grand old dame feel, and I think there's a place for that. Sometimes I'd prefer a crepe suzette flamed at the table over parsnip foam and beetroot ash for me pudding. And it does make one worry, for both L'Enclume and Roganic that he'll be stretched as thin as the aforementioned crepe...

            1. re: helen b

              Their chateaubriand & bearnaise sauce was a thing of joy.

              Oh, and the bread trolley. Yes, trolley. I kid you not - there was so much variety a trolley was needed.

              1. re: Harters

                Have seen he's just bought the Pig and Whistle in Cartmel too. Blimey. So that's a Michelin flagship, a brasserie and a pub in the same village (Heston who?), the world's longest pop up in London and now the entire service for a huge Manchester hotel. It'll be Waitrose Xmas puds afore we know it...Good luck to him though. I will give him the benefit of my wisdom next weekend ;)

          2. re: helen b

            I don't know if you'll be as far north as Hawkshead, but the Queen's Inn there served good food for a pub lunch, and it's a sweet town to amble around. I haven't been there for a few years, so hopefully, the food hasn't changed.

      2. I'm glad you explained the cod 'yolk.' I was a bit baffled when I read the menu. :-) Although, maybe you could elaborate a bit about pink fir and roasted snow crown.

        27 Replies
        1. re: zuriga1

          The snow crown cauliflower (no, me neither) was just as the menu description posted.

          I can't actually recall the detail of the Pink Fir (it was a year ago). It's perhaps my favourite spud (although I really like the "Anya" variation that you can only get in Sainsbury)

          1. re: Harters

            I remember eating the same dish - it's a simple but wonderfully tasty potato, beautifully seasoned which tasted of chicken but which sits atop a small amount of crab meat.

            I may have a photo at home so will have a look.

            1. re: Harters

              Oh dear... didn't even notice this was an old thread. Thanks for the edifications. I now remember having seen the Pink Fir potatoes and have often bought the Anya variety. Last week, we discovered a new type of floury potato in Sainsbury's... supposedly produced for them just for mashing.

              1. re: zuriga1

                Bloominora that was epic!!! Will do write up anon, but news for now:

                Midland is reopening on the 7th March, and will be 'very much in the style of L'Enclume'. He's just doing the main restaurant for now (may take the brasserie over too later). Lunch will be pared down: 3 or 6 courses. Dinner will be 10+.

                I imagine he's got an eye on it as a 'feeder restaurant' for L'Enclume, to raise awareness and cross-sell, as this Valentine's Weekend neither it nor Rogan and Co were completely full.

                He'll divide his time between all 4 restaurants, at least a day a week in each.

                You heard it here first :)

                1. re: helen b

                  Thanks, Helen. I'd sort of assumed he'd run with his usual style. I remain to be convinced this is progress but we'll obviously go and try as soon as poss.

                  Look forward to full details of your scoff.

                  1. re: Harters

                    I'm lucky enough to be going the weekend after next (a Christmas present!). A two-night deal with one evening at L'Enclume and a second at Rogan & Co. So it'll be interesting to do a compare and contrast. Hopefully the eye hasn't been taken off the ball at the mothership with all the recent business expansion.

                    Are there any updates on other places to try (pubs especially) in that general area? My partner is making threatening noises that so many calories will take plenty of walking off and it would be useful if i could plan a walking route that just happened to intersect with somewhere decent, warm and pubby. Somewhere I could spend a few hours putting off any more walking until we're both drunk enough or its late enough for her to agree we should get a taxi back to Cartmel...

                    1. re: Gareth_UK

                      You could climb Gummer's How (30 minute scramble up a stony path, turn right up the hill just after the sign on the left for Fellfoot on the road from Cartmel to Windermere, car park near the top) for stunning views of the length of Windermere, walk around a bit on the top, then the other side is the Mason's Arms in Cartmel Fell, which is picture postcard, and does hearty pub lunch fare like fish finger butties and steak sarnies.

                      Or further down the Lyth (or Lyn?) valley is Crosthwaite and the Punchbowl - good circular walk. It's a bit more frou frou.

                      Will write up my meals when I have a sec but, in short, STUNNING, and, after endless debate, we decided it was only just edged by Noma to be our favourite meal EVER (food, ambience, Sam the brilliant manager). Rogan & Co is also v good in its own right (can recommend the scallops, mackerel, venison and beef), though service is halting, slow and the manager there is super stressed and sweaty! Breakfast is lovely too. Including a Pepperami shaped black pudding. More anon...

                      You also need to buy some of the sticky toffee pudding from the village shop, legendary. And Brother David from the cheese shop (it comes on the cheese plate at Rogan & Co).

                      1. re: helen b


                        Famous for damsons. The Hawkshead Relish folk do a number of things with them - I can thoroughly recommend the pickled damsons.

                        For pubs in the general area (ie South Lakes), you'd have the Drunken Duck at Ambleside (reviewed by Jay Rayner in this week's Observer) and the Brown Horse at Winster which manages to combine good grub with being a "proper" pub. And, if you're homeward bound to the M6, you might want to consider popping to the Highwayman at Kirby Lonsdale - one of Nigel Haworth's (Northcote) small mini-chain of four localish pubs.

                        I'll be heading to the Lakes in a couple of weeks or so. Mrs H has scored a very decent dinner, bed & brekkie deal at LInthwaite House at Bowness. Food is good, if not outstanding, and they do look after you well (although I recall brekkie being a bit on the miserly side last time). Restaurant is open to non-residents of course.

                        1. re: Harters

                          An absolutely glorious Valentine’s weekend at L’Enclume and sister restaurant Rogan & Co. To the latter first.
                          £38 gets you a three course meal with various frills, and feels like something of a bargain. It’s in the main village square, with a more bustling, contemporary brasserie feel than its cool, vestal sister, albeit with a roaring log fire and an open pass oddly situated by the (one) toilet.

                          I’ll get the only negative out of the way first – front of house. An increasingly pink and perspiring restaurant manager seated us but we waited 45 minutes before we were allowed to order, let alone got a whiff of bread. As soon as we had the aforementioned bread, everything then came very thick and fast (possibly too much so). We’d tried to flag down waiters to order but had been told only Boss Man was allowed to take orders. I went and spoke to him where he was bustling by the till, and he said as it was a small kitchen he had to phase the orders so they weren’t overwhelmed.
                          Er, isn’t it the chef’s job to do that? And why take a timed booking then? Surely you could take the order and then keep guests occupied with bread and amuses? We were blooming starving! The rest of the waiting staff were all young, inexperienced, sweet but terrified of the order-hoarder who was just about melting with stress by the end of the evening. All a bit strange, and didn’t make for a relaxing evening, especially given the contrast to the sleek operation at the mothership.

                          But the food was a brilliant. Looking at the menu – salmon/chicken/steak/venison – it could all seem rather workaday. But this is the ordinary made extraordinary, and a steal at the price.

                          Amuses included a standout scotch quail’s egg surrounded by creamy smoked haddock on a mustardy cream. My starter were two on point scallops with bacon infused polenta and my new favourite sweet – bacon caramel. Himself had also just right pigeon breast with beetroot, followed by beef rib from Lindale, leeks, oxtail pudding and grain mustard. My main was melting Valley venison with more beetroot, cabbage anise and an elderberry sauce (there’s a gentle nod to the localvorism and hedgerow rummaging of Big Sis everywhere).

                          Pre-dessert was a sandwich of peanut cream. I was very tempted by some of the puddings, which all have enough interesting savoury notes in them to avoid sounding cloying, but we skipped and had cheese – a huge portion (should have shared) which was a roll call of the British canon including Wigmore, Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire, Stitchelton, Ragstone and a new find from round the corner, Brother David, a creamy moon of which is now gently perfuming our larder.

                          A good start.

                          We had breakfast in L’Enclume itself the next day. A full English is available but I had some plumptious kippers with a black pudding side, as you do.

                          We skipped lunch, in preparation for the evening’s religious ceremony. Which is indeed what it felt like. The room – a converted forge – with its whitewashed, rough hewn walls, slate floor, and the air of hush does feel like you’re attending a service in a Cumbrian Chapel. A Thanksgiving, for our island’s harvest, and what those with the gift are able to do with it.

                          An aside on the wine list – I wasn’t drinking (they stock all the Fevertree products) but himself said it was a great list and was cock-a-hoop to find Rose of Virginia, a rather obscure Australian rose.

                          And an even bigger aside on the wonder that is Sam, the restaurant manager here, who, at about half the age of his colleague down in the village, is about three times as good at his job. If you ever eat here, you’ll know how big a compliment this is, but he almost – almost – adds as much to the enjoyment of the evening as the food. He and Mr Rogan really are a team. I loved the fact that every waiter could smile shyly and tell you what their favourite dish was, because they’d tried them all. I loved the fact he’d remembered my pepper aversion from our cancelled booking last year and I had my own course. I loved how much he genuinely liked talking about their plans for the Midland, how Rogan organised his week, the fact Sam was working 18 hour days at the moment, but that’s what had to be done (he was there at both our breakfasts and then right to the end of evening service). I loved how he literally ran down to Rogan & Co to get Simon to sign my menu as he’d gone down there in the evening. There was just an almost childish and infectious glee about him – like he was about to show you the most AMAZING thing he and Simon had found in the wood. But combined with velvety professionalism. Give him shares Mr Rogan, if he doesn’t have them already.

                          To food. The second (and only just) best meal we’ve ever had, after Noma.

                          The first flurry brought us, at pretty much the same time:
                          Oyster pebbles; cockle, seaweed and horseradish; smoked eel with ham fat; lichen, frozen ox (tongue, I think) and sour cream; Kohlrabi, eggs and truffle. All delicious but the standout was the smoked eel. Little cubes of smoked eel which I think had maybe been deepfried in a sort of deconstructed pork scratching, standing on dollops of a porky mayonnaise. Like God’s own bar snack.

                          Cod ‘yolk’, sage cream, pea shoots, salt and vinegar.

                          Westcombe (cheese) dumpling with beetroot and winter shoots in (in my case) an artichoke broth which tasted like an artichoke had been handed to a master parfumier in Grasse and he’d slaved for days to create the very essence of the plant.

                          Valley venison, charcoal oil, mustard and venison. Another standout. A sort of venison tartare with nuclear fennel bombs. Stunning.

                          Valley mushrooms, yellow pea and lettuce, smoked marrow and stonecrop. Himself loved this; for me it was the only question mark as, never one to say no to the addition of pig, this was overpoweringly bacon-y. I don’t know whether the mushrooms had been fried in bacon fat or whether one of the foraged ingredients is actually bacon-like, but I just found the flavour a bit overwhelming.

                          (obese) Mussels in their own juice, cabbage and leek

                          Artichokes with goats cheese, tarragon and malt.

                          Turbot (ever so slightly undercooked), grilled carrots, Manx queenies and celandine (plus blobs of carrot puree that had obviously been handed to the Grasse parfumier too).

                          Reg’s Guinea Hen, turnip shoots, potato, offal (bit strong) and scurvy grass

                          Sea buckthorn, buttermilk, liquorice and butternut (another standout – unlike Noma where the buckthorn – a seaside berry – is made into a leather, here it was in an ice cream which was like Eve’s apple had been substituted with The Best Mango Ever and she went, well sod it, that was worth it).

                          Rhubarb with brown butter, wild sorrel, apple

                          Honeycomb, quince, chestnut and perilla

                          Pear, sweet cheese and parsnip.

                          We then had two different sets of petits fours including miniature ice cream cones but I cannot remember them for the life of me; I was in a bit of a trance by this stage.

                          And it IS trance-like. It’s a double-edged compliment, because it’s caused in part by the fact that the procession of dishes are a bit of a variation on a theme. They all come on slates or the same bespoke Lakeland pottery plates, are all roughly the same size, and look similar, with the obligatory ancient Celtic herb. It’s a bit like the Kingdom of the Shades in La Bayadere, for those who know their ballet, and suitably opiate. The occasional flourish of difference wouldn’t go amiss.

                          But that aside, and maybe even including that – I bloody loved it.

                          1. re: helen b


                            Going to have to get ourselves to Rogan & Co. Hadnt realised just how good it is (service aside)

                            And the L'Enclume menu sounds even better than the one we had. Just fab.

                            1. re: Harters

                              OK. I've now collapsed into a drooling heap of salivatory anticipation for next week's trip. Leaving aside the delights of "Roganville", the walk to the Mason's Arms sounds perfect because a) it's short enough for me to tolerate; and b) fish finger sarnies are one of Jo's favourite things! As we continue to tick off her list of favourite things any pre-amuse involving poshed-up peanut butter is also going to score highly. Now the only problem is that Jay's review of the Drunken Duck has me wondering whether we could extend our trip by another day to take that in too...!

                              Thanks for the suggestions.

                              1. re: Gareth_UK

                                V jealous! I wanna go back! Now! FYI drive to the Gummer's How carpark and walk to and from the car for the summit, then it's a 3 mile drive over the top of the hill to the Mason's Arms, don't need to walk that bitt!

                                1. re: Gareth_UK

                                  In spite of my mention of the Duck upthread, I've never been there (although will probably give it a shot when we're up there in a week or so). It always seem to attract mixed local reviews in the past, which have put me off. Brown Horse at Winster and the Punchbowl at Crosthwaite are very good bets for a pub lunch the South Lakes.

                                  My second lunch will probably be at Holbeck Ghyll which offers a really good deal at round about £25 - definite value for money as it's Michelin starred.

                                  1. re: Gareth_UK

                                    If you do stay on for the Duck and need a place to stay nearby, we came across a lovely B&B just down the road. It was a last minute trip when the smog from Iceland cancelled our trip to Malta several years ago. Just write if you need a name.

                                2. re: helen b

                                  Great to see Charlie Melton's "Rose of Virginia" making it to the Lakes, a very fine wine. Maybe obscure in the UK because we drink it all in Australia rather than exporting. ...!

                                  Sounds like a very fine set of meals. I wish i was still in the UK.

                                  Ref questions about the "Drunken Duck", it is OK but not really worth a detour. We ate at the Punchbowl the day after a meal at the DD and preferred it (and in those days it had the same owner) as it was more pubby less restaurant like.

                                  Sounds like the Masons Arms has upped its game since my day, we spent many a happy NYE there as it claimed it had the biggest range of beer in the UK (lots of Belgium's). In those days the food was great hearty pub food - nothing gourmet or sophisticated - but perfect after a days walking.

                                  1. re: helen b

                                    Great report HB.
                                    I loved Roganic and this is certainly on my must do list.
                                    What really caught my eye was kippers with black pudding for breakfast -genius ordering.

                                    1. re: Paprikaboy

                                      Thanks PB, I think kippers, black pudding and poached egg is pretty much what I'd have were I on Death Row and it was a morning exeuction :) The black pudding was in uncased Pepperami form, extraordinary, if only they could market it...

                                      1. re: helen b

                                        Ah, now you must get yourself to Bury market for the black pudding test. There are two stalls which sell the puds. I try to go with a good appetite - so I can try one pud when I arrive and the other before I leave. Just in the interests of research about which is currently best, you understand. Nothing about greed.

                                        They sell them cold to takeaway or hot to eat at the stall (alll the usual sauce condiments are available).

                                        They also sell them "fat" or "lean". Presumably needless to say, you want "fat".

                                        Some good fish stalls in the indoor bit (although, IMO, not as good as the fish at Bolton market).

                                    2. re: helen b

                                      wonderful review Helen - a two night stay along the same lines as you had is being mooted as a birthday present this summer and i think i'm going to have to accept ;)

                                      how did you get on Gareth?

                                      1. re: abby d

                                        L'Enclume: the return. We'd been lucky enough to receive a voucher for a free meal (had complained, with justification, about the room last time!) Unlike Rogan & Co, this didn't disappoint. As wonderful as remembered. The return of some favourite dishes, and some interesting new ones. I'll repeat the menu below, but highlights were the eel/ham fat, the ham fat that came in lieu of butter with the bread, the langoustine/black pudding, the brill (which was), the venison with fennel bombs, the meadowsweet, and the pigeon with offal.

                                        Sam the Maitre d' was on holiday but Colette provided very competent cover. There seem to be more staff now. There was a whole ballet of trays throughout the evening, with some poor souls' job being simply to stand like a statue as their superiors served. Again, I was impressed though with how they're treated. Apparently most of them stay in accommodation provided in the village, they'd had pie (L'Enclume pie! me want!) for their pre-service dinner, and they've all tried the tasting menu experience, not just nibbles off a plate...

                                        Finally, a word of advice: we booked for 8pm, and staggered out, 22 courses (22!!!) later, just after midnight. It was a bit of an endurance feat by the end. I think we were probably delayed a good hour by a rowdy party of 10 in the back room, plus we (mistakenly) had a fag break without warning the staff, so got a bit out of synch. I'd definitely recommend starting at 7pm latest.


                                        Oyster Pebbles
                                        Artichoke crisp with (an obscene amount of) truffle
                                        Cream cheese wafer (with petals, herbs, on corn)
                                        Smoked eel with ham fat (little cubes fried in scratching crumb)
                                        Raw scallop tartare, sea fennel, English caviar, rocket
                                        Pigeon with offal ragout
                                        Butternut, brown shrimp, mace and pumpkin seeds

                                        Cod 'yolk' with watercress and salt and vinegar puffed rice (bit astringent)

                                        Beetroot broth, Westcombe cheese dumplings, onion shoots, nasturtium

                                        Valley venison, charcoal oil, mustard and candied fennel spheres

                                        Langoustine, parsnip, black pudding, hazelnut and cured yolk

                                        Potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel

                                        Butter poached (absolutely!) brill with razor clams, radishes and elderberry 'capers' ( just under ripe berries, tasty)

                                        Aged Dexter, cabbage, mushrooms, salsify, dittander (herb) and marrow

                                        Iced coltfoot cream with butternut and mint lactose (yum)

                                        Burnt pear, fromage blanc, beetroot, anise hyssop

                                        Buttermilk custard with caramelised quince, rosehip, muscavado wafer and honey oats

                                        Blackberry and malt, perilla and pearl barley

                                        Meadowsweet, granny smith, sorrel and walnuts

                                        Celeriac, sweet cheese, woodruff (little ice cream cones)

                                        Spiced plum (a wonderful digestif drink)

                                        'Kendal Mint Cake' ice cream truffles with coffee

                                        And then we slept. Well ;)

                                            1. re: zuriga1

                                              Do you mean the volume/complexity of the dishes? They are all 2/3 mouthfuls...but I know what you mean. I was feeling slightly overwhelmed by the end! But I think we could have done it in 3 hours if we'd arrived earlier, and that would have helped.

                                              Or do you mean the review?!

                                              1. re: helen b

                                                Your reviews are always great, Helen. I just meant that I can't imagine eating so much in one meal. That said, I could have easily done it when younger. Eat a lot now, you young'uns. Things sometimes change when you get old like me. :-)

                                                1. re: helen b

                                                  The 22 courser is a new development, I think. Last year, there was only an 8 or 13 courser. I see from the website that there is no longer a pre-planned menu and the kitchen cooks what they feel like at the time - so one table's dishes may differ from another. I know a restaurant in Spain that does that with tapas and I always find myself wanting the dish the other table had.

                                                  FWIW, the Belgian restaurant In de Wulf does a 22 courser and it's truly fab. Actually a more fun experience that L'Enclume, as the chef who cooks the dish serves it to you and explains it. Can't be long before Kobe Desramault gets his second star.

                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                    It's 22 dishes - some are brought together (eg 5/6 arrive at the beginning in a flurry) and some are literally mouthfuls. So I wasn't stuffed, but I was exhausted by the end. I had to order an espresso at 11pm before the puddings, and then actually groaned when they brought extra petits fours with it...stop bringing me FOOOODDDD!

                                                    I think all tables had the same the night we were there. I'd be the same as you with dish envy!

                                              2. re: helen b

                                                Fantastic review hb.

                                                I need to get there soon but its a rotten long way from the World.

                                                I like the bit about messing the service by means of an unapproved fag break. Did the same myself a few years ago in the London incarnation of Hibiscus. Ace staff member stepped outside to chuck me back into the place. Bizarre sensation but much better than the usual thing of getting chucked out of joints.