by Sandra Hutchinson
We had the distinct pleasure of enjoying a tasting menu lunch in May, at L’Enclume, Simon Rogan’s signature restaurant in Cartmel, in southwestern Cumbria, in what is called the South Lakeland region. L’Enclume was awarded its third Michelin star earlier this spring, making it the first UK restaurant outside London and southeast England to earn three stars.
Cartmel is a charming town, known for its 12th century Cartmel Priory, its horse racecourse, and its Village Shop that makes a sticky toffee pudding that is sold in containers and can be heated and consumed at home. Cartmel sticky toffee pudding is sold in many UK markets.
The Cartmel Priory somehow survived the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 and is still in use as an active Anglican congregation.
The Cartmel Village Store, inside and out, where several varieties of sticky toffee pudding are sold.
The River Eea meanders through the village, dotted with pedestrian footbridges.
Other village scenes, including a memorable pet waste sign (sorry, I couldn’t resist including this) at the Cartmel racecourse.
I first made my reservation at L’Enclume in December, for a Sunday in mid-May. In February, I received an email telling me that Sunday lunches were not being offered during the foreseeable future “due to the current chronic staff shortages in the hospitality industry.” We were offered a lunch reservation for the immediately preceding Friday. We debated whether we should take it since we were scheduled to fly into the UK (Manchester) early that morning. We knew we would have jet lag, and we would be driving about 100 miles north from Manchester to get to Cartmel. Nevertheless, this was the only date that would work for us so we said “yes.”
L’Enclume (means “anvil” in French), is located in an old stone blacksmith shop, and was opened by Chef Rogan in 2002. He operates another restaurant next door, called Aulis, which is described as a “chef’s table and development kitchen,” seating only six people. All the menus focus on locally grown and sourced ingredients.
The interior of L’Enclume has a couple of rooms for dining, with the rear room, where we were seated, having large windows with a view of the garden and a glimpse of the River Eea.
But the real treat, sitting in the rear room, was the view into the kitchen itself, where we could see a team of people preparing the courses, including Chef Rogan himself.
We had been given the option of either an eight- or twelve-course tasting menu, and we chose the eight. The cost, before drinks and gratuity, was 100 pounds per person. But we subsequently read an article in The Times newspaper that the price of the tasting menu at L’Enclume had gone up considerably, beginning in June, just after we visited.
When each course came out, the server explained, sometimes too quickly for us to fully understand, what the ingredients were. Simon Rogan’s nearby large garden is often touted as being the source of many of his ingredients.
Here are images of the courses, and following the photos, a description that was provided in writing when we were finished with the meal.
From left, above: beetroot tart, with pickled rosehip and Bellis Perennis (the standard beetroot tart has lobster in it but I cannot consume shellfish so it was adapted); fritter of Duroc pig and smoked eel, lovage and fermented sweetcorn (my favorite course of them all); Berkswell pudding caramelized in birch sap, stout vinegar, aged Berkswell.
Bambino potatoes in onion ashes, Westcombe cheddar and pickled walnut; west coast cod, asparagus, pine and watercress oil (they omitted the razor clams from my cod course); dry aged Herdwick lamb loin from West Head Farm, fermented cabbage, sauce with fennel and ramson capers.
New season re-shoots of kale in sheep’s butter, lamb belly, lamb broth infused with summer savory; chamomile cake and cob cream, candied pumpkin, pumpkin juice with sea buckthorn; “Anvil” caramel mousse with miso, winter apple and spruce. (I expected the “Anvil” to be a hard shell but it is literally a soft, gold mousse. The “20” reflects the restaurant’s 20th anniversary.)
And for a finale, mint stones, below, which resembled rocks but were mint-filled confections, with a creamy center, along with a couple of truffles.
Now, I will admit, some of the ingredients were and are foreign to me, and would require some searching on the internet to fully explain. But I will let the images speak for themselves. Everything was so beautifully presented that just admiring the dishes was half the pleasure. And long before we arrived, the restaurant went out of its way to accommodate my dietary restrictions (in particular, my need to avoid shellfish). We were not rushed in any way and probably spent about two hours at our table.
Of course we paired the various courses with glasses of different wines from the extensive wine list.
After lunch, we poked around outside the restaurant, in an adjacent courtyard area near the entrance to the chef’s table restaurant, Aulis, in part to check out the river flowing along the edge of the property. We were surprised to encounter Chef Rogan outside, who graciously posed for a photo with us. (At this point we had basically been awake for over 30 hours and were running on adrenaline.)
This was my first time dining at a three-star Michelin restaurant, and it was a memorable experience. If you are planning a visit to England’s Lake District, I highly recommend trying to get a reservation, whether for lunch or dinner. Even if you have jet lag. There is a firm cancellation policy which is described when you book a table. Again, here’s the website: https://www.lenclume.co.uk
Oh goodie! I am looking forward to reading this after work today! On your question about next years tours with Helen Bertram/Whitecroft Tours-all cancelled and the company has folded. 😟 Cathy
I’m so sorry to hear that Helen shut down her company. What fantastic bespoke tours she put together. Oh my goodness. A sign of the times? Maybe this is your next career??
Fantastic, Sandra!!!! Extraordinary photographs!
Thanks Mark! When are we going back?
Oh, MY! Did that ever look scrumptious and fun, even with jet lag!!!
Your being in the lake district brought back such fond memories of our Beatrix Potter Tour and Trip four years ago led by Mandy. Did you revisit any of those sights?
Ah…to be in England again, especially during bluebell time, as you were!!!
Happy Summer, Patty Tharp
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Hi Patty; I did visit Mandy at her stand-alone Herdwick shop in Grasmere, where she is going strong with her products made from Herdwick tweed. It is fantastic and she has created a wonderful and much needed market for the Herdwick wool. You may know she no longer lives at Castle Cottage. We also went back to Yew Tree Farm and spent time there with Jo and the Herdwicks, hiking around the gorgeous property. We saw Skippy, too, (the goat!) but he has been badly behaved and isn’t allowed to hike with the visitors up into the fields any longer. Returned to the Armitt and Wordsworth Museum, both of which have been extensively remodeled. Hopped a short ride on the steam yacht gondola as well on Coniston Water! Of course we returned to Near Sawrey and had a very rainy day at Hilltop. Hoping to post more about it all! We also saw the Beatrix Potter exhibit at the V & A in London. Was very well done and I recommend it. Sadly, the Ryebeck has closed and no one seems to know why. We did a lot in a short time. Hope all is well. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Amazing meal… The Poop Fairy! Hilarious!
Would you believe that I’ve never been to Cartmel despite visiting other places close by. I’ll definitely have to rectify that after reading your excellent piece and what a treat to dine in a Michelin three star restaurant Sandra.
I think your readers would love to see you post about Cartmel! Hope you can make it there. Worth a trip for sure! Thanks for reading and commenting, Marion. Hope all is well. You are on the move!!
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