L’Enclume, meaning “The Anvil” in French, is Simon Rogan’s two Michelin-starred restaurant in the small but beautiful village of Cartmel in the south of the Lake District, near Grange-over-sands.
Cartmel, “home of sticky toffee pudding”, is an epicure’s delight, with a chocolate shop, micro brewery, cheesemonger and an artisan bakery as well as a host of places to eat. There’s plenty of reasons to visit but chief among them has to be the jewel in its crown, L’Enclume.
The restaurant takes its name from its setting in an old blacksmith’s forge. The rustic yet stylish interior feels classy but not pretentious, reflecting its setting in the countryside around it. The service also is perfectly attentive yet not overbearing, with staff balancing professionalism and familiarity with an almost self-deprecating yet subtle humour, such as promising to bring us some food on a plate considering the price we were paying, after receiving 7 courses of beautifully presented dishes in an array of imaginative serving vessels. This balance continues with the menu – as you might expect from his flagship restaurant, it emanates Simon Rogan’s style of beautiful and intricate plates focusing on simple ingredients of the highest quality, delivered to perfection. If you want theatrics and magic from your dining experience then this is not the restaurant for you; others like Blumenthal’s Fat Duck deliver this in spades. Instead what Rogan delivers is ingredients presented and cooked with the ultimate skill and technique and no smoke and mirrors to hide behind.
If you think then that this restaurant has nothing to excite or surprise you, think again. The surprise came not from some molecular gastronomy trickery or elements that were not as they seemed, but rather from the ability to extract so much flavour, texture and pleasurable experience from such simple ingredients. Before eating at this restaurant I never imagined my wife or I would utter words such as “This turnip broth is amazing” or be astounded by a plate of burnt onion and potato, but that is the magic and the excitement of the L’Enclume experience. It delivers the unexpected even though it’s right in front of you, unashamedly simple and proud.
My wife and I visited for our birthdays last year and I truly hope to return one day. It is easily the best restaurant for a considerable distance, and I believe rightfully deserves the accolade of ‘Best Restaurant in the UK’ that it received in 2014 from the Good Food Guide.
Below are a few photos of just some of the 21 course tasting menu we enjoyed. Apologies for the quality (they were all taken with a phone camera), but they should give you a teaser of the experience.