Food, glorious food.
A meal at what was recently voted the best restaurant in Britain, with two Michelin stars, and a supremo described as the chef to look out for this year, is definitely a good basis for a blog.
And what a meal it was.
We had been looking forward to l’enclume in anticipation for months and finally went on Thursday. Cartmel is a picturesque Lakes village and we still managed to get lost but arrived in time and were made to feel very welcome straight away.
We have been lucky enough to eat at the restaurants of St. John, l’Ortolan, Anthony Bourdain, Aiden Byrne and the Little Chef and what strikes you at all these places is the service. The waiting staff are probably as skilled as the guys in the kitchen and having done the job myself once upon a time, appreciate the efforts they go to and at l’enclume this was particularly apparent.
We were sat next to the titular anvil and the aperitifs of sparkling English wine and gin and tonic were being enjoyed when we were offered the menus. I had a rough idea of the price and a pre-parenthood me would have gone for the 21 course tasting menu but pragmaticism prevailed and the six course lunch was picked, the maitre’d duly reached into his pocket and picked out a sealed envelope with the dishes inside which was a lovely little touch. We opted for the matching wines too, something that makes me dream of being a sommelier- whenever we have taken this option, the perfect compliment of the drink to the food makes me marvel at the inteliigence and presumably symbiotic relationship between a chef and his wine man (or woman.)
The restaurant filled with a variety of characters and what struck me was the relaxed nature of the dining room despite its class and reputation. I also saw several people taking photos of their food, not surprising given the intricate beauty of the dishes, but something I vowed this time not to do, so as to savour the experience and rely on taste and memory and make some art from the occasion.
Here then, is the first course: described simply as ‘Cod yolk with pea shoots, salt and vinegar’ which was a saffroned sphere of fish mousse on a delightful bed of salt and vinegar ash-like thing. It was perfectly accompanied by a Manzanilla sherry, the ’32 Equipo Navas’.
Next up, a beautifully clear ‘Beetroot broth, Westcombe dumpling and shoots’ and he real jewel of this course were the cheese dumplings. Strangely, the wine for this and the next course was a smoky red ‘El Pais’ from Chile, which actually seemed to change taste depending on the food. This alchemy, recommended by our excellent sommelier, who we presumed was of Mediterranean heritage based on his accent but wasn’t.
At this point we were given one of the standout parts of the meal – bread and butter. The rolls were hot from the oven and the butters just fantastic, one was pork fat with Granny Smith apple bits. This attention to minor details is, I know, what sets the Michelin starred gaffes from the rest but still, how impressive…
Then came one of Simon Rogan’s signature dishes, ‘Valley venison with charcoal oil, mustard and fennel’ which was a tartare (one of my favourite things in the world) set on an onion jam:
The main course, so to speak, was Lindale Mutton, my first taste of the meat I think, with a salt baked turnip (delightful) and a parsely jus plus nasturtium leaves which I am growing, absolutely amazing this was. It was paired with a fruity Italian from Sicily, Santa Cecilia.
At this point we were offered cheeses for afterwards, and I was tempted having seen the cheese board on a portable sideboard upon which there were about twenty hunks of cheese to choose from. The desserts included an incredible ‘Yorkshire rhubarb, apple, sorrel and brown butter’ ice cream paired with a Hungarian dessert wine. I caved in at this point and took a photo of this dish, to the disgust of a fellow diner and his son who were West Brom fans and kept complaining about the choice of wines. I suppose his behaviour heightened my respect for the front of house staff who presumably have to cope with their ilk daily.
Finally we enjoyed ‘Yoghurt, pear, walnuts and sweet cicely’ which was basically yoghurt ice cream, a perfect end to the meal especially given the drink to accompany it, a sparkling English Demi Sec from Sussex.
I opted against the cheese, but plumped for a brandy and Mrs G a coffee which came with a Kendal Mint Cake petits fours which were pretty special too.
Overall, I couldn’t fault the service food atmosphere or experience of l’enclume and would encourage anyone to go for it, yes there is a cost involved but it’s worth every penny and the empire Simon Rogan is building will become a bastion of British food for years to come, in the present author’s humble opinion.
It was funny that this was such an extravagant meal the day before Good Friday, given what happened all those years ago. Easter has come to be my favourite time of year. Memories of Easters past, new clothes, playing football at the Giant Axe, going to Italy in 1994 not to mention getting married on Maundy Thursday a couple of years ago: aside from chocolate eggs, there is much to enjoy at this time of year.
Easter 2014 offered a different proposition, Betsy’s first, including her first taste of chocolate:
Also we were getting confirmed, and this was a similarly joyous occasion. Some people scoff at religion and others are intrigued, especially as we are getting back into something we spent a few years away from, but as I said in my testament in church, life got in the way but my faith never left me and in recent years I have been questioning beliefs and felt blessed so the time seems right.
As if by magic, this weekend also offered the chance to finally watch Made of Stone by Shane Meadows, a documentary about the Stone Roses and their own reunion and I’ll leave the last word to them. They sang about the resurrection and their second album was entitled the Second Coming so they kind of fit.
All this talk of Moyes is irrelevant: in terms of our meal at l’enclume, that was the one.