Saturday, 11 March 2017

L'Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria

The current 2017 edition of the Good Food Guide places L’Enclume at number one in their list of the top restaurants in the UK. It is one of only two establishments to which it awards 10 points out of 10 for the standard of cooking (the other is Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall). It has two Michelin stars.

We were offered a choice between the Lunch 8 course tasting menu and the full 17 course version. We opted for Lunch. The menu itself was brought to the table in an envelope with a wax seal so we could open it and know what to expect, or ignore it. Mary opened it and read it, but I didn’t want to know. This was the menu:

The first two courses were brought to the table together:

The Truffle pudding was the cube. It was a bit like yorkshire pudding with a blob of truffle on top. The Pork and Eel came in a very crispy shell. Both were very savoury, and strongly flavoured.

A beautiful home made sour dough loaf was brought to the table after this, with two home made butters - one pasteurised, the other raw.

Next came the Turnips with Mushrooms. This was essentially Turnip Soup with mushrooms and a big sphere of really strong cheese. Every flavour in this was incredibly intense:

The fourth course was the hardest to describe:

I had been expecting some unusual things in this menu, but this was the only odd dish really. There were some very acidic pickled mushrooms, the braised leeks were very small, Tunworth was the cheese, like a white sauce. The flavours here were like nothing I had eaten together as a dish before.

The Veal dish was essentially a tartare of tiny cubes of rosé veal:

Among the flavourings I remember was anchovy mayonnaise. I was strongly reminded of a similar beef tartare at Raby Hunt a few months ago. It was superb.

Next came the “main course”, which was Venison, perfectly cooked sous vide with some venison croquettes, beetroot and a beetroot jus, with a bowl of cooked leaf vegetable and a bowl of small leaves:

When we had nearly finished this ourse two small home made rye loaves were brought to the table.

Then we moved on to desserts. The first was a small bowl of sea buckthorn, which tasted to me a bit like passion fruit, and liquorice custard. We both loved this:

The final course was very light with well delineated delicate flavours:

Service was by a large team of highly energetic and well co-ordinated waiters, who were all extremely happy and friendly. There was an element of theatricality to the whole service, strongly reminiscent of the Fat Duck, culminating in a performance to make and serve my coffee that had all the other diners, and me, captivated.

Everything happened fast, the atmosphere was bustling but most surprisingly, it was not a hushed serenity. The noise level was quite high – I put that down to the surfaces all being hard (including the chairs, but they were comfortable enough for the two and a half hours we sat in them).

I had a bottle of Loweswater Gold Cumbrian Ale, and we drank tea, coffee and tap water. The bill, including service, was £141.

It is entirely possible that L’Enclume is the very best dining experience you can currently have in the UK. The food was consistently delicious, interesting and unusual, while the service was of the highest possible standard. You always wonder whether a restaurant can live up to all the good things written about it; L’Enclume exceeded our expectations in every way. 

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