Ah, the Lake District, once the home of Beatrix Potter and her family of rabbits, ducks and other beloved immortals. Anyone who’s seen her biopic with Rene Zellweger and Ewan McGregor would no doubt have been smitten by the landscape of Cumbria. After 5 days of camping at WOMAD music festival, it was time for a bit of luxury and pampering and where better than to have a pit stop at what used to be one of England’s best kept secrets, L’Enclume in the small heritage village of Grange-over-Sands. Amongst culinary circles, Simon Rogan’s innovative and earthy cuisine is well known, especially with his London venture, Roganic, and more recently, his success on Great British Menu.
The best thing about our trip to L’Enclume was that it presented the kitchen with a bit of a challenge. We were staying for two days as part of a package, and as the neighbouring casual restaurant, Rogan & Co was closed, we would be dining at L’Enclume both nights, on the tasting menu. What fun to have two different tasting menus.
Menu Day 1
Celery & Apple, Pickled Beetroot: fresh, yet the celery crisp stuck to our teeth
Crispy bread, capers, fennel: Kuzu bread crisps! Fabulous.
Peas with beef tongue: absolutely loved the presentation.
Cod ‘yolk’, sage cream, salt and vinegar: Incredible ‘yolk’ looking sphere of cod cream.
Grilled summer purple and bay shrimps, cucumber, blackberry: Miss N. loved it, yet felt the bitterness of the grilled broccoli left an unpleasant lingering taste in the mouth, eliminating any ‘last bite’ goodness.
Cucumbers, pineapple weed, rat tails: My consolation as I couldn’t eat shrimp. Uninteresting, unexciting, un-flavoursome. Un-everything.
First harvest potatoes, chicken skin, fresh curd, nasturtium capers: Earthy and similar to a dish I had at 11 Madison Park. Equally good!
Sea scallop, spiced strawberry, grilled cauliflower, coastal leaves : Miss N felt that whilst outstanding, the cauliflower was overpowering and lingered too long when the scallop would have been perfect as the last taste in your mouth
Turbot, spiced strawberry, grilled cauliflower, coastal leaves: My consolation dish worked well with the acidic sweetness of the strawberry juice and being a fan of cauliflower, happily lapped it all up.
Grilled salad, smoked over embers, cheese, truffle, walnut crisp: Once again, the bitterness of the grilled leaves overpowered the dish.
Lightly smoked bay bass, clam juices, beetroot, chenopodiums: Pleasant enough.
Suckling pig, salt baked kohlrabi, yellow beans, mugwort: Porcine luxury, though we had to agree that the same from the Red Lion Freehouse still remained our favourite.
Cumbrian slate, gooseberry, apple, lemon verbena: Icy ,creamy, sharp and sweet. One hell of a palate cleanser!
Cherries with meadowsweet, hazelnut and Cowmire cider: Now this is what I love about Rogan. Everything about this dish is a perfect dessert – light, refreshing, not cloyingly sweet and it just feel beautiful on your tongue!
English strawberries and grape: This one didn’t leave any impression on us as the dish preceding it was so beautiful!
Menu Day 2
Or Save the Best for Last!
Oyster Pebbles: The signature dish comprising of squid ink meringue filled with apple and oyster cream. A hint too sweet for me, but lovely with the rush of marine flavour right at the end.
Eel smoked with potato and ham fat: By far the most memorable nibble of both meals! Stupendous.
Cream cheese wafers: pleasant enough!
Salt baked kohlrabi, smoked yolk, sea herbs, apple vinegar: pleasant enough
Westcombe dumplings, onion broth, marjoram, broad beans: another favourite of the night. Comfort food to a whole new luxurious level!
Valley venison, shallots, mustard, fennel: Rich and pungent, a hard hitting dish we both loved. We did have a moment of silence to honour the infant shallots that lent themselves to this dish.
Heritage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel: another signature dish that I’d had at Roganic. A favourite at both locations.
Roasted cauliflower in brown butter, fennel, spiced strawberry: Without any fish, this worked fabulously well!
Butter braised turbot, courgettes, orache: quietly passed on by without any fuss or bother.
Valley wood pigeon in elderflower wine, turnips, hogweed shoots: yet another big and bold game dish that sparked many mouthgasms.
Iced chamomile, pine, celery, black pepper: smooth, clean and light. Perfect cleanser, yet again.
Sheeps milk, raspberry, sorrel: A lovely roganesque version of the classic combination of berries/herbs/dairy
Oatmeal stout, blackberry, malt, plum: The plum juice was easily the winner and it probably wouldn’t have been so special had the creaminess of the stout and the nuttiness of the malt not been around to need a sharp fruity juice.
Very rarely does the dining room of a restaurant reflect the ethos of the chef and the personality of the food. L’Enclume, however, has a harmonious vibe between all three energies and imparts the comfortable wholesomeness of a dining experience very few dining rooms offer. Coupled with top-notch service, it definitely is a place that embraces you and leaves you smiling.