As soon as we decided to head to the Lake District to celebrate Stewart’s birthday I booked the Drunken Duck and L’Enclume. Stewart prefers his holidays to be around hiking and outdoors and I clearly prefer them to be around food (maybe some shopping…). And since the weekend was about HIM and what HE loves, I felt guilty booking a lunch on a Sunday at L’Enclume and gave him the option to veto it. He was game and we did a little pre-lunch hike and had ambitions of walking or hiking post lunch and even brought a change of clothes and all in the car for that.
After some windy narrow country driving and getting moderately lost we got there and were warmly welcomed by the staff. We sat at a cute table in the main dining room which has rough stone walls and wood beams on the ceiling and enviously eyed the conservatory area which is bright and gorgeous (slightly more modern and overlooking a small garden). Despite the two Michelin stars, the setting is casual and most customers were wearing jeans – very relaxed and cozy. As soon as one of the conservatory tables freed up, we rapidly begged to move…..
We relaxed with some UK bubbly from Sussex (never tried before) and pondered if we should go for the six or 20 course menus. My original plan was six as this was about Stewart but surprisingly he chose to go for the long menu – “when are we going to be here again and experience it? Let’s do it!”
The staff is young, passionate and lovely. James, the sommelier who ends up helping with a lot of other tasks has been working there for two years and was absolutely brilliant in his very creative picks for our wine pairing. We chose to split one tasting which includes eight wines between the two of us (£60) as Stewart was driving.
What we ate:
The meal stars with several amazingly creative but also delicious snacks:
Oyster pebbles: this is one of Simon Rogan’s signature dishes. They make grey little snacks that look lick rocks and are served in a bed of the real stones but these ones are edible and delicious. A mix of a meringue and a macaroon in texture but very savory with a slight oceany taste and with a light but rich cream in the middle. They are served with oyster leaves that bring out the oyster flavors even more.
Oxtail dumplings: when I saw this dish I said it looked like it would be my favorite one but I was wrong. It was still a tasty dumpling with meaty oxtail but thankfully what was to come would be better. How much would it suck if second snack was the best and it went downhill instead a crescendo….???
Squid ink cracker with chicken liver mousse, chicken cracklings and redcurrant jam: this was served at the same time as the dumplings and I thought I would like it less – wrong again. Thin and beautiful “crackers” full of flavor with lovely and light chicken mousse and adorned with sweet jam and to make it complete….salty and crunchy chicken skin (which makes all dishes complete in my book).
Smoked eel croquettes with pork belly inside and coated in onion soup: the broth was solidified with tapioca flour and then fried and enveloped the pig belly (as they call it in the UK). Seems odd but explodes in your mouth and is insanely good. The eel taste is very mellow and the pork comes through with richness and fattiness– creative, complex and perfectly fried. Absolutely amazing.
Raw scallops with caviar and cauliflower puree: maybe because it followed the croquettes it seemed too light and not as tasty. Still delicate but didn’t blow our minds like the previous ones.
Pea and crab sack: stack of a very light pea mousse layered on top of little bright green peas with pea oil and hiding under little slivers of delicate crab meat. Very light and summery but deeper and more complex as you reached the green peas in oil at the bottom.
Creamed celeriac with lamb’s tongue and Tunworth cheese (http://www.hampshirecheeses.co.uk/tunworth-cheese.asp): this was the opposite of the crab dish and immediately transported us into fall. It was one of the richest but most amazing dishes as the celeriac cubes were mixed with the lamb’s tongue (meaty, tender and delicious) and with the cheese in between melding all the flavors together. On top of it was black truffle powder which coated every bite. Happiness in a little pot. So good!!!
Yummy warm bread with whipped pork fat and delicious butter.
White turnip with maran egg and edible flowers: on the bowl we first got the turnips and the yolk which had a brilliant texture (heavier than custard but lighter than a traditional hard boiled yolk). They then poured a light creamy soup that blended it all together. Amazing how it could be creamy and rich but delicate and complex at once. At this point we couldn’t have been happier to pick the 20 course menu as we would have missed so much otherwise!
Venison tartare with charcoal oil, mustard mayo, spring onions and candied gin fennel: This dish has been on the menu for four years and never changes as they think it’s prefect– and we couldn’t agree more. The charcoal oil gives the illusion the meat is not raw (as your nose smells barbecue) but the cubes are perfectly red and gorgeous. The mayo is fantastic with the mustard and adds richness to the otherwise lean meat ( and we usually are not mayo people) . Even the spring onions from the garden were a perfect addition. The candied fennel was sweet and burst in our mouths. Delicious and the wine pairing was perfect.
Lobster + langoustines: on top we had a thin cracker with raw glazed langoustines, scurvy grass and hazelnuts – a bit sweet for our palate. We were told to eat the raw first before opening the pot to discover true happiness. The waiter complimented us for being very well behaved as we didn’t peak until they came to unveil what what is the pot underneath. Wow. We were both blown away by this dish. The little chunks of lobster were enveloped by a light and rich lobster zabaione (aka sabayon) and carrot puree with dusted black pudding crumbs on top that tasted meaty and rich. One of the best dishes!
Artichokes with goat cheese: small batons of very tender Jerusalem artichoke served with goat cheese mousse, tarragon and reduced artichoke jus – all dusted with malt powder. I liked it better than Stewart did but I am an artichoke fanatic. The fried little artichokes sticking out were perfectly crispy and packed a burst of artichoke flavor.
Grilled plaice with cucumber, juniper , dill and cockles: the fish was one of the most beautiful little pieces of fish ever, white and delicate and so tender. The grilling of the cucumber made them more interesting and complex and the leaves around the plate brought it all together (borage and some others we didn’t recognize). The sauce was very delicate and rich with some cockles around the plate.
Duck + duck: fall flavors again with duck breast (I found them slightly chewy but I am not a duck expert) and rich and deliciously fried duck sweetbreads served with mushrooms and beets. I liked all but the breast and loved the sweetcorn puree.
And then desserts note plural…) started rolling….
Rye, stout and gingerbread: Delicious way to start the transition to sweets with little rye crisps topped with a creamy and unusual combination of stout and gingerbread dollops – unusual but great.
This was served with a little pot with gooseberry granite on top of yoghurt and anise hyssop. I am not an anise person but the flavors all worked perfectly together and it was light, fresh and a great palate cleanser.
Sea buckthorne and blackberry mousse(s): the sea buckthorne one was expanded with liquid nitrogen according to our waiter and placed on top of blackberry mousse. We didn’t love this and even left a bit. But what would you expect from a mousse made of shrubs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippophae), not even L’Enclume magic worked.
Blueberry ice cream with sheep’s milk pearls and milk crisp: the ice-cream was thick, creamy and delicious and served alongside the sheep’s milk pearls which were created with liquid nitrogen. Everything was then hidden by a dehydrated milk crisp that added a fun crunchy texture to the dish. Our waiter said this was one of the most technical dishes because of the milk pebbles and milk crisp and the techniques involved in making both.
Meadowsweet, plum, walnut and sorrel: doesn’t sound like a good dessert does it? The meadowsweet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filipendula_ulmaria) mousse was a bit more solid and served with plum pieces and plum puree and also a sorrel sauce that was absolutely fantastic. It was surprisingly delicious.
I usually want desserts with chocolate, PB and/or caramel but these were perfect after the 16 courses we had before as they weren’t too heavy.
Miniature ice cream cones of different flavors: apple, blueberry and sweet cheese and pineapple with pear cream and all served with a a L’Enclume iced tea.
And we thought we were finished and they brought a special birthday treat for the birthday boy. Cake who? This is so much better.
And as petit four a malt tuile with malt mousse and frozen raspberries: last little nibble, and one of Stewart’s favourites. Light mousse on crispy tuile and with frozen raspberries on top.
And then we went for a little tour of the L’Enclume kitchen but since we were the last ones there, it was a bit quiet….
In Sum: L’Enclumeis PERFECT!
- They serve food you actually want to eat again and again and tell everyone to go!
- The staff is so nice you want to be friends with them: they are low-key and knowledgeable but not pretentious at all (unlike other Michelin star restaurants).
- If you don’t like an ingredient, they adapt and are flexible (we didn’t but asked…).
- The only reason they probably don’t have three stars is because the ambiance is relaxed and devoid of the usual white table cloths and honestly, who cares for all that.
Fat Duck who? L’Elnclume is so much better!
Cavendish Street, Cartmel Cumbria, LA11 6PZ