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Licking My Lips at L'enclume!
L’enclume Restaurant with Rooms (Cartmel, Cumbria)
Member Name: Picasso
L’enclume Restaurant with Rooms (Cartmel, Cumbria)
Date: 21/03/07, updated on 04/01/10 (979 review reads)
Advantages: Food, fun and a great room.
Disadvantages: Room a little dark. Not being able to stop giggling!
Hidden in the pretty village of Cartmel at the southern edge of the Lake District, L'enclume's Michelin star restaurant with rooms can be found. L'enclume means Anvil named after the blacksmith's place that L'enclume once was.
We arrived on a wonderful sunny afternoon (March 13th) and parked on the cobbled area at the side of the house. The restaurant front of house doubles as a reception. After checking in we were taken to our room which was back out of the building and up a flight of stairs to "Trouve", the room where we had stayed three years ago.
Trouve is one of seven individually designed and furnished rooms. Dating back to medieval times, the ceilings are low in places and the floor uneven. The room is decorated in matching Toile De Jouy wallpaper, curtains and bed linen of a dark blue and cream and depicting the story of a shepherd and his flock. I found this a little heavy on the eyes and not something I would want to look at permanently, but it was in keeping with the place and this is apparently how they decorated in times gone by. The room was mainly lit by lamps with only three small ceiling lights at the entrance, not great if like me you want to read the literature available small cupboard under the stairs acts as our wardrobe. Full of character with nooks and crannies, sourced with antiques from the local dealer, I found the room enchanting despite the lack of light. An original medieval latch door led us to the bathroom which was supplied with Molten Brown Toiletries and L'enclume bathrobes. Thankfully this was well lit, allowing me to apply my make up and my husband to shave.
Our room overlooked one of the pretty streets but others have views of Cartmel's Priory and the terraced gardens.
***And so to dinner***
We arrived for dinner a little before 8pm and were taken to a table in the conservatory. In summer this would have great views of the garden, but being late winter we couldn't see much. As we ordered a glass of champagne, we were given a copy of the taster menu "the tour" which was part of our special spring mid week deal. The idea was have a look at this 10-course extravaganza and let the headwaiter know if there was anything we didn't want. Not that easy when you see the menu: -
Egg drop hot and sour soup
BBQ pig, cola, raisins, oregano
Cold and colder foie gras, blood orange, pistachio, quinoa
Razor roll reversal
Diver sea scallops, joselito, peas and agastache
Sole "a la plancha", saffron, asparagus, mastic, carrots
Galangal, cardamom, ginger beer
Beef in suspension, watermelon, liquorice, perilla
Liquid chocolate, peanut cherries, pepper malt
No, I didn't have a note pad with me to write all this down, I just asked if I could take a copy to write about my experience and they said "yes". Anyway as you can see this came to 11 courses and not the 10 as advertised. I don't eat fois gras and so I passed on that and after checking that there was no octopus hidden somewhere in the print, we were taken to our table.
The restaurant is nice, light and airy and the tables well spaced and laid with pristine white linen. We had chosen a bottle of Muscadet from the 150 bottles on the wine list and this arrived nicely chilled as we waited in anticipation of our first course.
I can't remember everything we had, that would have been impossible but Whim 03 consisted of "virtual salmon". The BBQ pig was the size of a couple of postage stamps and the cola was in the shape of a jelly cube. Part of the restaurant's blurb said, "food should be fun". I was reminded of this when I saw the "Razor Roll Reversal" being served at the next table. This consisted of what looked like a boiled egg in its holder and I suddenly got a fit of the giggles, we had after all had eggs for breakfast before we left home. As with all of the courses, the waiting staff explain what the course consists of and sometimes how best to eat it. At the side of the eggshell was a razor shell. You know the ones; the long thin type that you find on the beach. In this shell were diced chicken and chopped egg in a mild curry sauce. In the eggshell clams and chestnuts served in chestnut foam - and that explains the roll reversal. I have to admit that it worked although the foam was frothy and I ended up with it all over my lips.
Items like liquorice and ginger beer were in the form of cream or ice cream and did compliment the rest of the dish. Galangal by the way is an Asian plant from the ginger family and apparently is well used in cooking circles. The final two courses were sweet. Expearamenthol frappe being a layer of pears with a light menthol jelly and topped with a coffee crumble. We were advised to taste a spoonful of all three layers at once. Finally the Liquid chocolate which looked and tasted like a small soufflé and oozed hot chocolate sauce. The peanut and cherries were again in the form of cream and thankfully, I couldn't taste the salt and pepper. This was another lip smacking course.
***My thoughts of the restaurant***
L'enclume's reputation for fine dining lived up to all expectations. The food was artistically presented. Some of the courses reminded me of early works by my namesake Picasso. Each course was served with unusual crockery or glassware to suit the food. Never would I have thought to use some of the food combinations found here. Pushing the boundaries and breaking all the rules and it works. I don't think that I'll try these recipes at home, I leave it to L'enclume's chef and owner Simon Rogan. The use of organic locally bought produce provided top quality food.
The staff are efficient, charming and polite and were amused by my fit of giggles, offering me a box of tissues.
***The next day***
After a good night's sleep in a very comfortable king sized bed we made a pot of tea from the provisions provided. There was also ground coffee, a cafetiere and fresh milk. I hate the UHT long life stuff usually provided in hotel rooms and so this made a welcome change. We packed the home made cherry biscuits to eat on the way home.
Breakfast is served at the very civilised time of 9 to 10 am and is served in the restaurant. In daylight we were able to look out on to the pretty gardens, the river and the ducks. A choice of a variety of cereals home made muesli, porridge and fresh fruit salad made for the starters. I thoroughly enjoyed my refreshing fruit, whilst my husband sampled the porridge made with fresh cream, raspberries and fresh mint. We both chose the full breakfast, which consisted of the usual breakfast items, but he bacon, was of the highest quality, the Cumberland sausage delicious and the eggs perfectly poached. Other options available were kippers and Eggs Benedict.
It isn't cheap to stay at L'enclume but there are offers to be had. When we stayed three years ago we paid around £150 for our room with breakfast and had the A la Carte menu in the evening. Room prices start at £49 per person. Starters on this menu average at around £13 and main courses £23. Desserts will set you back £10. The 10 or 11 course taster menu normally costs £75 per person. Our spring mid week deal costs £99 per person for any room (first come, first served basis), taster menu and breakfast. Wines start at £15 per bottle, our Muscadet costs £18 and our two glasses of champagne £19.
Also open for lunch - 2 courses £18, £23 for 3.
I thoroughly enjoyed this year's birthday present. The only negative bit being the lack of light in our room. Having said that the overall experience still merits 5 stars in my view. The staff were very friendly, polite and welcoming. I encountered tastes, textures and fragrances like no other. Every course brought with it a surprise, not forgetting a little humour. L'enclume is full of character and situated in a very beautiful part of the Lake District.
Summary: A fine restaurant with rooms in the Leake District.