Friday, October 13, 2023

L'Enclume (Cartmel, United Kingdom)

L'Enclume Restaurant
Cavendish St, Cartmel, Grange-over-Sands LA11 6QA, United Kingdom
+44 15395 36362
Fri 10/13/2023, 08:00p-12:00a

L'Enclume Entrance

Following yesterday's dinner at Moor Hall, I took the train from Liverpool to Grange-over-Sands, then caught a taxi over to the village of Cartmel for my next dining experience. That experience took place at L'Enclume ("the anvil"), which happens to be situated inside an 800-year-old structure that was previously used as a smithy (a.k.a. a blacksmith's forge), hence the name. Opened in 2002 by Chef Simon Rogan, the restaurant has been one of the most influential in Britain over the past two decades, and is considered by many to be among the very top spots in the country. The cuisine served is modern British, but with a hyper-local focus, as the restaurant claims that all ingredients are sourced from North West England, with much of it coming from L'Enclume's own farm just up the road, or foraged nearby.

About the Chef: Simon Neil Rogan was born in October 1967 in Southampton. His parents both worked (dad was a produce wholesaler in fact), and he thus started helping preparing family meals early on. Around the age of 14, he began spending weekends at a local Greek eatery, and this turned into a full-time position when he was 16. After giving up his dreams of becoming a footballer (he ended up breaking a leg), Rogan subsequently enrolled in the culinary program at Southampton Technical College, where he took classes during the day and cooked at night. Feeling outclassed by his peers at school, he started working (mostly in pâtisserie) at Rhinefield House Hotel at age 17, gaining a classical grounding under Head Chef Paul Norman, an alum of the Savoy Hotel.

Following graduation, Rogan stayed another year there and, in 1988, went to work for Jean-Christophe Novelli at Geddes in Southampton. He started in pastry, but was promoted to sous within two months, and ended up working for Novelli intermittently for over eight years at various restaurants, including Keith Floyd's Maltsters Arms in Tuckenhay, Gordleton Mill in Lymington, and Nansidwell Country House Hotel in Falmouth. During this formative period, he also staged under Marco Pierre White and John Burton-Race through Novelli's connections. In the early 1990s, Rogan spent two years in France at Lucas Carton in Paris, under Alain Senderens, then returned to Britain to find his first Head Chef gig. He landed at Bailiffscourt in Climping, West Sussex, where he stayed for three years before transitioning to Hollington House Hotel in Newbury. His next move was to Addington Palace in Croydon, where he disagreed with ownership on how to run the business, and thus decamped in 2000.

After working a series of odd jobs, he stumbled upon the building that would house L'Enclume, took a gamble on the place (much to the dismay of his partner Penny Tapsell, with whom he'd just had a baby), and after six months, opened up for business in 2002. Rogan dabbled with molecular gastronomy during these early years, but eventually decided to get back to basics and focus his efforts on locally-sourced (often foraged) Cumbrian cuisine. Word of the place began to spread, and at the start of 2005 (after eliminating foreign ingredients), L'Enclume was awarded its first Michelin star. The team started working on the creation of their own farm around this time as well, with "Our Farm" finally launching in 2009.

In September 2010, the restaurant achieved its fifth AA Rosette, while a 10 out of 10 rating from The Good Food Guide arrived in 2012, as did a second Michelin star. 2014 saw L'Enclume top The Good Food Guide's ranking of the best restaurants in the UK, beating out The Fat Duck. It stayed at the top of the list until 2018, when it was pushed to the #2 spot by the now-shuttered Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall; this was repeated in 2019, but L'Enclume reclaimed the #1 position in 2020, then again in 2022. Meanwhile, L'Enclume's third, long-awaited Michelin star finally arrived in February 2022, nearly 20 years after the place opened.

Not surprisingly, the success of L'Enclume has given Rogan plenty of opportunity to grow his restaurant empire. The Chef's first expansion came in 2008 with Rogan & Company, a more casual spot in Cartmel just a stone's throw away from L'Enclume. Next was Roganic in 2011, a temporary eatery in Marylebone, London that lasted about two years, followed in 2012 by Aulis, a development kitchen-slash-chef's counter effectively attached to L'Enclume itself. In September 2012, Rogan purchased Pig & Whistle, his go-to local pub, though he only held on to it until 2015. March 2013 witnessed the debut of The French by Simon Rogan, located inside The Midland hotel in Manchester, while the more casual Mr Cooper's opened at the property in September that year. However, Rogan's partnership with the hotel was over by late 2016.

In May 2014 came Fera at Claridge's, situated inside a luxury hotel in Mayfair, which was joined by its own version of Aulis in December 2015. Fera managed a Michelin star in 2017, but Rogan left in May that year, and the restaurant wound up shuttering in December 2018. Meanwhile, Umbel Restaurant Group was created in 2015 to handle Rogan's growing portfolio of restaurants. A standalone Aulis arrived in London's Soho district in 2017, which was soon followed by a redux of Roganic (again in Marylebone), which dropped in January 2018, but closed during the COVID crisis in 2020.

Rogan's first overseas expansion came in December 2018 with the launch of Aulis at the Sino Plaza Shopping Arcade in Hong Kong. This was followed two months later by the arrival of another Roganic outpost just next door, which achieved its own Michelin star less than a year later. HenRock at the Linthwaite House hotel in Bowness-on-Windermere opened in October 2019, while a meal delivery service called Home by Simon Rogan was founded in 2020 during the pandemic. Returning to Hong Kong, a bakery-slash-wine bar by the name of The Baker & The Bottleman opened in January 2022 in the Wan Chai district, and was turned into a proper restaurant just recently in June. In May 2023, Rogan opened ION Harbour at the Iniala Harbour House hotel in Valletta, Malta. This is to be followed in December by yet another Aulis, this one at the Iniala Beach House in Phang Nga, Thailand.

L'Enclume Dining Room
Shown above is the view of L'Enclume's main dining room from my comfy niche in the corner.

L'Enclume Menu
You'll notice an envelope in the previous photo of the dining room. That envelope contained a copy of the night's menu, which I then requested to be signed at the end of the meal. I ended up getting way more signatures than anticipated, including those of Head Chef Alexander Rothnie (who started here in 2018 as a line cook), CdP Megan Montibert, Assistant Restaurant Manager Tom Noller, two sous chefs, as well as a couple apprentices. As for pricing, the tasting menu was £250 ($308.37) a head, plus 10% service, with optional wine pairings at £100 ($123.35), £150 ($185.02), and £290 ($357.71). Click for a larger version.

Beet Juice
Boltardy beetroot, horseradish vinegar and salted mackerel tart
1: Boltardy beetroot, horseradish vinegar and salted mackerel tart | Juices infused with perilla
My dinner commenced with one of the most exquisite bites of beet I've had. What we had here was a caramelized beetroot tartlet with shiso gel, horseradish-flavored yogurt, and charcoal oil-dressed cured mackerel. The effect was a smoky, creeping salinity juxtaposed against the earthy sweetness of beet, the horseradish offering up a great wasabi-like heat. The tart was accompanied by a "chaser" of chilled beetroot soup, seasoned with celery salt and finished with shiso oil; think bright, tart, and vegetal--it really perked up the palate.

Fritter of Duroc pig and smoked eel
2: Fritter of Duroc pig and smoked eel | Lovage and fermented sweetcorn
A fritter of pork and eel showed off a fantastic amalgam of both briny and porcine. If that wasn't enough, I also loved the countering crunch provided by the fried onion, while a lovage emulsion served as a zippy accent piece. One of my favorite bites of the night.

Jérôme Prévost Champagne Extra Brut La Closerie & (LC18)
To drink, I opted for the Jérôme Prévost Champagne Extra Brut La Closerie & (LC18) [£165 ($203.52)], which was actually superbly-priced given that a bottle typically retails for around $350 in the US. The Pinot Meunier-based sparkler had a nose teeming with ultra-concentrated orchard fruits, while the palate was elegant, yet robust, and all about funky, farmhouse-y apple cider, supported by a mineral backbone. Later on in the night, aromas became a bit more barnyard-y, but with juicy apples still present. Taste-wise, the wine went drier and earthier, with citrus and pome fruits transitioning to more long-lingering apples. A wonderful bubbly that paired like clockwork with the food tonight.

Berkswell pudding caramelised in Birch sap
3: Berkswell pudding caramelised in Birch sap | Stout vinegar, aged Berkswell
Here we had a posh take on a cheese toastie, one with a comfortingly eggy, cheesy character, subtle sweetness, and a supple consistency that recalled bread pudding. Meanwhile, toppings included fluffy shavings of Berkswell cheese and a stout vinegar jelly.

Half a raw scallop from Orkney in whey sauce
4: Half a raw scallop from Orkney in whey sauce | Pickled fennel flowers and nasturtium
Hand-dived scallop was accompanied by garum, nasturtium purée, pickled fennel flowers, and fresh nasturtium leaves, while applied tableside was a sauce made from scallop skirts, tomato water, and reduced whey, then seasoned with a bit of herb oil. A smart dish that really showcased the sweetness of the scallop while conveying many more facets, with the nasturtium in particular standing out for me.

The other half, roasted with roe powder and Crown Prince squash
5: The other half, roasted with roe powder and Crown Prince squash | Apple marigold, nasturtium flower
The other half of the scallop might've been even better. Roasted with its own roe, it had an intensity to it that was duly offset by a sauce of blended nasturtium flower and apple marigold oil-dressed squash.

Pink Fir Apple potatoes cooked in chicken fat and crisp skin
6: Pink Fir Apple potatoes cooked in chicken fat and crisp skin | Pickled walnut and Park House cheddar
This riff on cheesy chips was another favorite of mine. The potatoes were beautifully textured and hearty, and were joined by the pungency of a cheddar emulsion, the bite of a pickled walnut purée, and some fantastic toasty, crunchy bits of chicken skin. I found this deeply gratifying.

Pumpernickel & Cultured Onion Butter
Bread service arrived with the potatoes above, and comprised a surprisingly sweet, unexpectedly dry pumpernickel topped with cracked rye seeds, paired with an aggressive cultured onion butter boosted by toasted yeast.

Seaweed custard, beef broth and bone marrow
7: Seaweed custard, beef broth and bone marrow | Our blend of caviar, Maldon oysters
A signature dish of L'Enclume's, this next course combined a melt-in-your-mouth seaweed custard with both beef broth and bone marrow, with further additions of cultured oysters and a custom caviar preserved using Maldon sea salt. Not surprisingly, I found this deeply briny and savory, with a great textural contribution from the oysters, while the caviar came through on the mid-palate and intensified towards the close.

Aynsome offering, vegetables, herbs and flowers
8: Aynsome offering, vegetables, herbs and flowers | Soft yolk and perilla salt
Our next course was meant to encapsulate what L'Enclume is all about, with ingredients that change daily depending on what's good at the farm. It was centered around a cooked-then-smoked hen egg purée, with cooked courgettes, salt-baked beetroot, pickled purple carrot, and amaranth, among other ingredients. Indeed, I loved how the richness of that egg played against the dish's mish-mash of textures and tastes, with a sweet, tangy sensation giving way to a lingering, vegetal sort of bitterness.

Savory brined Greyhound cabbage, grilled Hen of the Woods
9: Savory brined Greyhound cabbage, grilled Hen of the Woods | Fermented vegetable juices, elderflower, Welsh truffle
Brined cabbage demonstrated a wonderful smoke and bitterness that paired swimmingly with the woodsiness of grilled mushrooms, while truffle purée and surprisingly fruity truffle shavings amplified that musk factor even more. Meanwhile, an elderflower butter sauce helped tie it all together.

Cornish monkfish grilled over Binchotan, bay shrimp butter
10: Cornish monkfish grilled over Binchotan, bay shrimp butter | Tomato molasses, crisp kale leaves, fermented shrimp and verbena tea
Four-day dry-aged monkfish was spot-on texturally, its mild flavors augmented by wild prawns and a clever lemon verbena-infused bay shrimp butter that was simultaneously floral, briny, and herbaceous. Nice bit of bitterness from the kale, too.

Dry aged Middle White pork from Huntsham Farm
11: Dry aged Middle White pork from Huntsham Farm | Rainbow chard, grilled alliums, pork and mead sauce
Several cuts from a 55-day dry-aged pig were turned into a sausage or galantine of sorts. I loved its multifaceted textures and porky depth of flavor, offset just enough by those bitter, piquant greens. The dish was served with a fluffy homemade crumpet brushed in pork fat, which I eagerly used to mop up.

Frozen Tunworth cheese
12: Frozen Tunworth cheese | Malt crumb, preserved blackberries and lemon thyme
Serving a as savory-to-sweet transition was this wonderful, yet rather untraditional fromage course. I loved the luscious, earthy qualities of the Camembert-like cheese, which was turned into ice cream form here. It came together beautifully with the tangy berries and especially all those nutty, crunchy bits of buckwheat.

Concord pears in sweet cicely
13: Concord pears in sweet cicely | Sweet herbs, flowers
Concorde pears were compressed in their own juices, then combined with sweet custard, a dense woodruff(?) cake, and oxalis flowers, among other ingredients. The end result was a fun course (be sure to get all the way down!) that really represented a smart interplay between fruit and herb.

2017 Kikelet Tokaji
I requested some dessert wine at this point, and was provided the 2017 Kikelet Tokaji [£33 ($40.70)]. This one actually reminded me of Sauternes due to its boatloads of juicy tropical fruits--pineapple in particular--and peach, all moderated by enough acidity to keep things in check.

14: "Anvil" | Caramel mousse with our miso, apple and spruce
Caramelized Pink Lady apples and custard were joined by a caramel mousse flavored with a housemade miso created from peas and beans from last year's harvest. I was floored by the funky, umami-laden depth from the fermented legumes, which lent a fantastic counterpoint to the tart-sweetness of the apples. This wowed me, and I can certainly see why it's L'Enclume's signature dessert.

L'Enclume Cheese Trolley
Fruit Crackers, Red Onion Honey
Fromage Selection
I knew that I wanted to enjoy a cheese cart during this trip, and thus decided that tonight was the night. Pricing was £32 ($39.47) for four selections sourced from Cartmel Cheese just down the road, plus £12 ($14.80) for the special stuffed cheese in the middle there. I went with my server's recommendations, and enjoyed one from each section (soft, hard, goat, blue). Going right to left, we have:
  • St Jude – Up first was my server's favorite fromage, a Saint-Marcellin-style cheese from Suffolk. Rich and creamy, yet also dry and chalky, this one was a joy to eat, and conveyed some lovely barnyard and mushroom flavors.
  • Old Winchester – Described as a mix of Parmesan, Gouda, and Cheddar, this one showed off an agreeably crystalline texture, with a blend of nutty, sweet, and salty tastes.
  • Stuffed Baron Bigod – This was a Brie de Meaux-type cheese, but stuffed by the folks at L'Enclume with a mixture of morels, honey, and sherry vinegar, then aged further. The cheese's intrinsically earthy flavors were thus joined by surprisingly elegant sugary and mushroom-y notes.
  • Elrick Log – A goat's milk cheese rolled in ash, this had a creamy, "sticky" consistency and a delectably grassy, citrusy, lactic tang that paired especially well with the fruit bread.
  • Cashel Blue – Hailing from Ireland, this blue went in a creamy, buttery direction, and offered up a long-lingering funk that melded easily with the cheese's nutty notes.
Accoutrements included fruit bread, crackers, and what I believe was a red onion honey.

pine cone
mint stones
15: Peach, pine cone, tart, mint stones
The cheese was followed by a foursome of petits fours:
  • I began with the miniature cone, which was composed of wonderfully fruity peach ice cream and elderflower-white chocolate ganache, all set in some delightfully shattery pastry.
  • A Kendal Mint Cake stone tasted like the Andes chocolates of my childhood, but in frozen form.
  • The caramelized quince tartlet was kicked up a notch by the application of pineapple sage oil, while its pastry base toned things down.
  • Last up was a chocolate bonbon filled with an unexpectedly earthy pine cone praline.
Finally, I had a Macchiato [£5 ($6.17)] to close out the evening. Think nutty and bitter and acidic, but with a bit of a sweet, creamy temper from the addition of milk.

Young Coriander Plant
A baby shiso plant to take home.

It took multiple hours on the train to arrive at L'Enclume, but fortunately, the effort was worth it, as the place really did live up to its reputation as a destination restaurant. There was both clarity and complexity to the cooking, which did a great job highlighting the area's local ingredients while being unabashedly, charmingly British. Unsurprisingly, service (mainly handled by Tom Noller and sommelier Jordan Sutton this evening) was top-notch as well, with a real sense of affability. It was an experience that effectively conveyed that sense of place I was looking for, and I can certainly see why L'Enclume was recently awarded three Michelin stars.

L'Enclume House Rosehip Room
L'Enclume House Bathroom
During my visit to Cartmel, I stayed at L'Enclume House, a bed and breakfast operated by the restaurant. My Superior Room (called "Rosehip") was priced at £330 ($407.03) a night, and included breakfast at Rogan & Co next door (which I did not partake in on account of being too full from the previous night). I have to say that I was quite happy with my accommodation, which was the best of the trip.

L'Enclume House Exterior
Here we see the exterior of the hotel. My room was the one behind the upper-right window.

Cartmel Square
The village square was just a very short walk away.

River Eea River Eea in Cartmel
The picturesque River Eea runs through Cartmel.

Cartmel Priory Gatehouse
One has to pass through the Cartmel Priory Gatehouse on the way to L'Enclume. The structure is also home to Our Shop by Simon Rogan, a small gift shop.

L'Enclume Exterior
Here's the exterior of the restaurant, much more visible during the day than the night prior.

Fairfield Lodge Grounds
We'll end with a view of a rather verdant field across the street from L'Enclume (part of a property called Fairfield Lodge), which used to be part of Cartmel Priory's outer court.


Blogger Mark Rubin said...

Not the big issue after seeing what look like three glorious - and outrageously expensive - meals, but I had to look at each of the three dining rooms pics again and again, as they all look the same. Is this standard GB high end decor? Looks very bland and corporate-like.

Monday, November 27, 2023 8:54:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

So far I've posted four dining reports from the UK; now which three are you referring to? I don't find the dining rooms particularly similar-looking, but perhaps that's because I've spent quite a bit of time in them. But in any case, I do have five more meals to post, so we'll see if they also fit the trend!

Sunday, December 03, 2023 2:30:00 AM  

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