Every so often a new restaurant flashes on to the scene, bringing in its wake a sense of presence and certain success. When Simon Rogan set up the business in 2002 he had a very clear vision of the way in which it should be heading, and my guess is that he is pretty well on target. Described in The Independent as being "one of the five best restaurants with rooms in Europe", it may well be that one of the biggest problems L'enclume will have is retaining its proportion which seems at the moment to be about right. The Good Food Guide 2007 awarded L'enclume 8 out of 10, putting it among the top places in Britain.
For those taking advantage of their cookery courses, mid-week packages at £99 for dinner and overnight (no breakfast – but who needs one after a set 10 course dinner the night before?) there are seven individually designed and furnished rooms at L’enclume, together with the cosy three bedroom L’enclume House.
The approach to food is refreshingly unusual. After years of learning the rules we hear that in Cartmel at least, they are there to be broken - with careful research and experimentation, of course. There is about L'enclume an air of determined restlessness, in a wholly positive way as new flavours are found, old ones are resurrected, and due obeisance is made to nature.
In other places where this has occurred it has sometimes induced a labatorial frisson into the realms of the kitchen, but this is not apparent in Cartmel, and instead we hear that "subtle herbs, roots and flowers" are to be encouraged to take control. Sounds good.
Three menus are available, arranged rather as a series of inductions within a semi-secret society. The Introduction is an ordering of food that embraces the whole table, what some might term a tasting menu, and starts with egg drop hot and sour soup, followed by glazed pork cheeks, cacao, date, cassia. Next comes cepe ravioli, parmesan, maple syrup, brown butter, skate wing, pomegranate, almond and avocado, with confit lamb hummus, tomato and molasses, with sea scallop, ricotta tonka and gingerbread
Honeycomb, sweet chilli and citrus precede expearamenthol (sic) frappé and a conclusion of walnut, artichoke, smoked cherry and butterscotch. Now to me that summons up a whole cacophony of flavours and textures that is wonderfully appealing, though traditionalists may find themselves reaching for their dictionaries. Let me assure you there's more.
From the Tour Menu, a stunning twelve courses in all, a number of them already a part of The Introduction, meet a razor roll reversal, langoustines, tamarind, peanut, asafoetida, Cornish crab, vanilla and argan oil, and a stiffy tacky pudding (a nice take on the neighbours) just four of the additional courses.
The Set Dinner, and somehow anything less than capitals seems positively insulting, is back to a traditional three course framework, but tradition ends there. Start with cured sea trout, avocado, pear, Wasabi before moving on seamlessly to roast lamb rump with that sadly under-used body part - sweetbreads, broad beans, blue and soy, to a conclusion with lemon grass panacotta, grape, red berry, and white chocolate caramel.
Other dishes could include duck breast from Goosenargh, confit gizzard, blood orange and juniper, and monkfish in picada crumb, prunes and basmati, citronelle emulsion. Desserts include their chariot of cheeses, hot cheesecake in the style of nobody, pistachio, Pedro Ximenez, or a pineapple crème brûlée, with rum and spices.
A 2 day cookery school for up to eight is held on demand, to include luxurious accommodation in their pied de terre a short distance from the restaurant, or there are one day courses held on a regular basis.
The sense of restlessness mentioned above means changes from time to time - keep a