Rated second in the UK in the Good Food Guide 2012 (behind only The Fat Duck), Simon Rogan also wowed the London crowd last year by opening Roganic in Marylebone, a restaurant that was voted by our readers as the best new restaurant opening in London in 2011.
We had little hesitation then in putting our mileage where our mouth is and driving the 280 miles from London to Cartmel simply to eat Simon Rogan’s food – it really is that good, and most certainly worth the journey. What really amazed us however was not simply how good the food was, for given what we have already said, we expected something special, but rather, that it seemed even better than last time.
L’enclume offers a world where everything is different, where pork scratchings give way to duck scratchings, where dumplings of golden turnip have the texture of slow cooked egg yolk (served with crispy tempura fried alexander leaves) and lobster is complimented by sweet apple and cuckooflower. Reading the menu only hints at what awaits and even the four amuse dishes show a skill level leagues above what most restaurants could ever aspire to. Crispy bread and pickles is a work of art, a world away from, well, crispy bread and pickles as you might think of it, and ‘oyster pebbles’ sees apple meringue with oyster cream served with oyster leaves, all presented on a bed of real pebbles to amuse not only the senses of taste.
Brilliantly, the food at L’enclume extends your food horizon while remaining approachable. They explore, develop and expand the familiar by pairing it or transforming it to the unfamiliar, but in a way that nurtures your palate rather than scaring the living daylights out of it. The result is sublime: a tartare of venison with wild fennel and candied fennel drops, eel smoked in wood sorrel, and duck breast with chicory and duck sweetbread. And what’s more, every plate sings with flavour: charred purple sprouting broccoli (itself a small miracle on a plate) is paired with the most amazing toasted seeds, sole fillet with razor clams sees the kitchen coax out every available flavour from the fish and in the desserts (there are four in fact in total), celery ice cream with candied celery leaves is a showstopper, allowing you to abandon chocolate without caring (for L’enclume doesn’t use it).
We were so impressed with our meal at L’enclume in 2011 that we lasted only nine months before jumping in the car and driving for five hours to once again enjoy the food there. But L’enclume continues to evolve in time also as Simon increases the depth of talent within his team, which now includes 2008 Roux Scholar Dan Cox (@chefdancox) and 2011 Roux Scholar Mark Birchall (@markdbirchall recently returned from his spell at Can Roca in Spain). The result is one of the most exciting forces in contemporary food in the UK right now and reinforces L’enclume in our minds as the UK’s most interesting and most brilliant restaurant.
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L'enclume (review 1)
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Disclosure: we ate at L'enclume as part of a paid for multi day L'enclume package http://www.lenclume.co.uk/offers.php