If you have a passion for food, love a somewhat debatable impersonation and enjoy watching Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon humiliate each other, I am assuming you have seen The Trip… if not, where have you been?
It was one of my favourite programme’s for a while and helped grow, my list of ‘Must-Go-To’ Restaurants, to even more expensive and extensive measures.
However, even before the show, L’Enclume was high up there.
A few friends and family members have dined here as well and because of this I’d heard so many tantalising things about Cartmel itself. It’s Sticky Toffee pudding being an essential to sample.
So finally, it was my turn to experience what this Michelin cuisine had to offer.
My boyfriend had ‘surprised’ me with a Birthday trip here at the end of last year. He is generally pretty awful at keeping surprises but on this occasion had no choice but to spill all. I had ended up suffering with a week-long stint of a horrendous tooth infection, a swollen face that resulted in me being on a full course of antibiotics and an A&E trip with a Penicillin shot. Safe to say I’m glad he spoilt the surprise on this instance.
Luckily, I recovered in time. Cue the worlds smallest violin, I know! However, I was determined not to miss out on this trip, puffer fish face or not!
Firstly, Cartmel is so picturesque and with us going in Winter, it added to the charm as Christmas decorations were hanging on every door (L’Enclume wreaths marked where the guests would stay, throughout the village).
We were staying above the main reception building, however all the rooms are scattered throughout the village. We were welcomed by a roaring fire and were shown to our room which was modern but had rustic original features; high ceilings and wooden beams.
Champagne on ice, L’Enclume nibbles of spiced popcorn and Olives and a personalised dinner reservation was a great little touch.
We headed down to the restaurant at the other end of the village and we were surprised to be the first seated at 7pm!
We were booked in for the 17 course tasting menu (18 with an additional birthday dessert) but chose against the wine pairing and opted for a bottle of white and few glasses of red instead.
First course. Ok, it does look like its been plucked from a pine forest and completely inedible. BUT, believe me.. it was the best beetroot leaf I ever did try. The thing about this type of restaurant is, you have to go along with it…. again, stick with me.
This was a trio of beetroot. Beetroot leaf with a beetroot gel, beetroot skewers and a fermented beetroot fizz, which was a real surprise. Off to a good start on hitting all the expectations.
This was one of my favourites. It’s hard to remember which really were the top courses, with 18 to pick from but this stood out for me. This cheese mousse with duck heart really was something I could eat a huge bowl full of. Smooth, silky and the contrast between flavours were everything you could want for.
Ok, for some, I get it. This may seem a somewhat ridiculous course (I know for sure my brother would say this). However, the cod mousse under the green parsley moss was delicious, with the novel ‘DIY’ chicken skin cracker, to scrape from the pebble decorated bowl.
Scallops…. every way.
In salted caramel baskets….
Getting into the thick of the courses now, we were enjoying pretty much every element of the meal and the overall experience. We had a sommelier come and explain the particular wines to match the dishes without us having to adhere to the wine pairing. One of the chefs came to present to us our main ‘The Duck’ on a hay cushion, explaining how it would be roasted and served to us.
Every dish is served in a specific bowl, vessel or slate slab in this case and in some cases with a specific type of cutlery to compliment it. We discussed with the waiter how they have a team at L’Enclume whose sole job will be to locate the perfect ‘fork’ for a certain dish. It may seem excessive but it’s something that really does add that extra dimension and differentiates a standard tasting menu to one from a Michelin Starred restaurant.
King Edward potatoes. An earthy, complex dish.
The Main. Duck with Celeriac. Small but perfect in every way.
As we were the first to be seated, this also meant we were first to head to the open kitchen for a view on the workings behind the magic of this menu. My boyfriend said he planned this in but once we sat back down another couple got up……(Good Try). In spite of this, it was a real touch to the evening. A great way to have an insight on how the kitchen works and the intricacies behind a Michelin star.
The Golden Anvil ending. Amazing. This caramel mousse highlighted the detail that L’Enclume prides itself on. The details, no matter how small the dish, are refined and complex to absolute perfection. This incredible mousse was sat on a bed of miniature cubed apples which brought the whole dish together.
We wandered back to our room nearly 4 hours later, content and full, only to have the realisation that Breakfast at the sister restaurant was only a few hours away.
I guess the question at the end of the 18 courses, would I go again?……
Simply, of course. The menu changes seasonally so would be rude not too. Surely a ‘half-Birthday’ in June counts right?