Tag Archives: tasting menu

L’Enclume!

Rather ignorantly I had never heard of L’Enclume when a friend requested we go there for her 40th birthday celebrations. However, once she had sent me over the link I then saw the place everywhere, from Masterchef to the Great British Menu, where chef Simon Rogan won the dessert course and had all of his other courses in the top three. Fellow supperclubbers had also been and reported back positive experiences so I was quite excited about my trip there.

L’Enclume in the Cumbrian village of Cartmel

L’Enclume is situated in the beautifully quaint Cumbrian village of Cartmel (made famous by its sticky toffee pudding!) and is home to many of Rogan’s other hospitality ventures – he’s the Rick Stein of the Lakes! We, a group of 10 excited foodies, arrived with much childlike delight and energy. L’Enclume does not advertise a menu so we had absolutely no idea what to expect other than innovative dishes made with locally foraged and unusual ingredients. We made a classy and modest entrance when the person at the front of our group fell dramatically off her heels and on to the polished concrete floor of the restaurant lobby. She was rather embarrassed!

We started with fun oyster pebbles!

I’ve heard complaints in the past that the restaurant can feel cold and clinical. This is certainly not how we felt when we were there. It’s housed in some very old cottages that have been sympathetically modernised from within. We were sat in an old part so our surroundings were light and airy, but still with evidence of their past – such as lovely old exposed wooden beams, juxtaposed with modern sculptures that mirror the natural world Rogan is so passionate about.

More appetisers of cream cheese wafers

Our waiting staff explained that the chef had chosen the menu for us as well as some wine pairings for the evening so we had little more to do than sit back, relax and enjoy! We later learned that the menu was brand new for that night and Simon Rogan himself was cooking it for us! We had opted for the 12 course menu, but this was started off with some appetisers that were added extras. The first of these was an edible pebble flavoured with oyster and apple. Visually, this was exciting but the fishy sweetness was not my favourite thing to eat and was a bit of a shock to the system to start with! However, this was more than made up for by a croquette of smoked eel and cheese, which tasted like something you’d find at a chic seventies cocktail party – it was warming and comforting.

Asparagus bay shrimp in ceramic bags

The thought and attention that is put into all of the courses is astounding, from the way that they are presented, to the unique delicate flavours that are used, to the one off crockery that they are served in – which apparently are made for the restaurant by the University of Lancaster. It’s also apparent that the waiting staff get great pleasure from serving such unusual food and seeing the looks of amazement and excitement on guests’ faces.

Cod ‘yolk’, sage cream, salt and vinegar

It would probably be an extremely boring (and even longer) blog if I go into too much detail about all of the courses we ate – it took about 4 hours just to eat them and then a whole weekend of dissecting them with everyone else! I’ll let Richard’s photos do the talking and pick out some of our favourite and least favourite ones to discuss.

Kohlrabi dumplings in Westcombe, hyssop and purple sprouting

A favourite for the table was the ceramic bags of asparagus with a mousse and crispy bay shrimp at the bottom. This was full of delectable different textures and one diner described the shrimp as tasting like the best Chinese she’d ever had. The ceramic bags made it a fun, interactive way of eating and they came propped up in some fun volcanic style stone ridges.

Valley venison, charcoal oil, mustard and fennel

I think everyone’s favourite (apart from our vegetarian diner!) was the valley venison with charcoal oil and fennel. The venison came as tartare and was so soft it melted in the mouth. The bizarre charcoal oil made it taste like it had been barbecued. It was such a good experience we are all now obsessed with creating our own charcoal oil! The fennel came as little caramelised spheres. I burst mine all over the venison and it added to the illusion that the meat was cooked. This was the course we were still talking about by Monday!

Sea scallop with spiced strawberry, grilled cauliflower and coastal leaves

Our least favourite was the frozen lobster, which came as a granita. It wasn’t obvious that the flavour was lobster and for me it was a little gritty. It came with lots of different types of cucumber, which I tried despite my cumber aversion. An element we did approve of was the rat tails, which are edible pod radishes. They were extremely refreshing with a subtle spiciness. Overall the dish was a bit wet and bizarre for us – however we could still see it as innovative and it got us talking. Not everyone is going to be pleased with every course when there is more than 12 of them on offer! At least I can now say that I’ve tried lobster granita.

Cucumbers, pineapple weed, frozen lobster and rat tails

Reg’s guinea hen and offal, turnip and elderflower

For dessert we had not one, not two but three treats on offer. The palate cleanser was an exciting chamomile sorbet with celery. It was light and cooling after so many strong flavours. Next up was cherries with meadowsweet and a fennel and apple granita. This worked well as it was a well-balanced concotion of sweet, sour, crumbly, soft and some iciness. The meadowsweet came mixed with yoghurt and had marshmallow qualities – it was yummy! Our final dessert offering was small pieces of spicy gingerbread with iced watermint. Again, an unusual combination but one which worked very well. It came in little pots that had wobbly bottoms! I could have easily eaten 10, had I not just eaten 12 other courses!

Iced chamomile, spruce, celery and black pepper

Cherries with meadowsweet, hazlenut and apple

Gingerbread and iced watermint

Thinking back on the meal it is amazing that each course came out with such huge attention to detail and with its own identity. As a diner it is easy to take all the food for granted, especially when so many courses are coming out. The menu is extremely good value for money as the obvious skill and passion that goes into the food is priceless. It is also very well pitched in terms of different flavours and ingredients. Plus I didn’t leave having stuffed myself too far, nor did I feel hungry. Perhaps this is the future of dining – being able to appreciate individual flavours and ingredients in small but many portions?

The menu

If I had one criticism it was for our wine. We had pre-arranged a wine package to match our food. This was about 5 or 6 different wines served over the course of the evening. Our sommelier was obviously very busy and barely had time to pour our wine let alone explain what it was or why it had been selected. That aside, the wine was plentiful and all very enjoyable so it’s just a small gripe. Another small issue was that we, as naive townies, had not ordered a taxi back to our holiday home early enough and so were faced with a 2 hour wait in Cartmel (til 1am!) before being driven back the 5 miles. I don’t think there is even anything to do in Cartmel til 1am! Luckily a local friend came and got us and diverted the crisis. If you’re planning a trip to L’Enclume then do book your taxi asap or stay in one of their on site bedrooms.

So is it all worth the hype? In a word, yes! I’m already planning my next trip back, or even a trip to Rogans where you can sample the full Great British Menu meal! L’Enclume is truly exciting, innovative, British and great value for money, hooray!

A splurge meal at Launceston Place

I found myself in London the other week with a very rare thing indeed – a whole weekend in the capital with no obligation to be absolutely anywhere, what a luxury! What’s more it was the hottest weekend of the year so far – so cue shorts, sandals and shades…

After a very relaxing day messing about on the river, complete with some prosecco and obligatory Wahaca snackage, we decided to head for a slap up meal at Launceston Place in Kensington. I’d heard of this through Tristan Welch’s appearances on the Great British Menu, Masterchef and suchlike. Tristan is no longer head chef at this British establishment, he’s moved on to spend more time with his family but is still in post as a consultant. It was obvious from the menu though that new head chef Tim Allen wants to put his mark on the place.

Launceston Place – tucked away on a quiet residential street in Kensington

Now I love a good tasting menu, especially when it comes with wine! It’s a great excuse to pig out, have a splurge and try loads of things you wouldn’t normally. So this is what we went for. We had a chance to cool down over a gin and tonic and canapes of choux buns filled with a warm and cheesy bechamel sauce. They don’t sound very glam but they filled my mouth with an amazing, comforting burst of oozy cheesiness. I was in a foul mood at this point as our journey to the restaurant had taken about 70 minutes, more than double of what TFL had helpfully predicted. However, with a cheesy ball in my gob I was returned to zen like peace immediately.

Our amouse bouche was a rather brown and drab mushroom voulette. However appearances, as we know, can be deceptive as the foamy soup had a vibrant and silky earthiness that made me gobble it up in seconds. It came studded with shards of fresh chestnuts, which gave it great texture.

As we moved on to our starter we were introduced to our sommelier – a rather jolly Frenchman who was most amused in pinching the bottoms of the waiting staff! His first offering was a grassy pinot blanc from Alsace which he paired to the rich oiliness of the slow cooked pheasant egg present in our starter. The egg was served atop young asparagus and ham. It was a delicate dish but a bit sloppy for me. Undercooked egg is a huge fear of mine and the slow cooked nature of the egg meant that it had an ultra soft texture. I think I forgot to drink the wine at the same time as the food but I’m sure the pairing was perfect!

Slow cooked pheasant egg with asparagus

Our next wine was an intriguing white Rioja. It was a very bold wine with smoky vanilla flavours that you would expect in a red. It’s not a wine you could glug down in vast quantities but as a different taste sensation it was great. This was paired with our fish course of seared scallop, glazed pork belly, apple match sticks and celeriac puree. The scallop was perfectly cooked – it was nicely caramelised and not jellified at all, as they often can be. The glazed pork belly was a welcome surprise element to the dish and was suitably meaty and moist. I could have lived without the apple which came in julienne and jelly forms. The julienne had little flavour and the jelly is a big no no for me. I love jelly, just not in savoury food where it leaves me feeling a little bilious.

Scallop and pork belly with apple and celeriac puree

Our poor sommelier had a bit of a struggle finding a wine to go with our main course of lots of different cuts of lamb. In the end he opted for a luxurious 2004 chateauneuf de pape, simply because it’s such a good wine, it could stand up to our complex meat course. This wine was thick and smoky and very warming indeed – it was probably my favourite of the night. Our ‘celebration’ of lamb came as seared rump, pressed neck, sweetbread and tongue. The rump was particularly enjoyable and the offal surprisingly good. The cuts came with a puree of curried cauliflower and peas and broad beans. The puree was stunning and complemented the rich lamb very well indeed. I don’t think it was a great pairing for the wine though, which is often the case with spicy foods.

A celebration of lamb

The tasting menus are good because you get lots of small courses to eat and you always have room for everything. I love to have cheese with a meal but never manage it so I was pleased that cheese featured on this menu. Our cheeses included a comte and a tongue tingling blue. Even blue cheese hating Richard ate and enjoyed the blue! The wine pairing for this was a Post Scriptum Douro. The sommelier described it as a cross between a port and a red wine as he’s a bit snobby about serving port. It was deep and fruity but without the sickly sweetness of port.

Before dessert we were treated to what was possible my favourite course – a pre dessert of lemon pannacotta and rosemary granita. The granita was so clever – the aromatic freshness is one that I will try and emulate at home. The panacotta was so clean and cool it really refreshed the palate and calmed my mouth down after all of the wine and cheese!

Pre-dessert of lemon pannacotta with rosemary granita

Dessert was a show stopping raspberry souffle, that I had already seen being handed out in the dining room and was excited about! It came baked with a white chocolate cream inside. This was potentially an exciting addition, however mine seemed to have split slightly inside the souffle and wasn’t that pleasant, which was a great shame. However, what was a stroke of genius was that the inside of the ramekin had been coated with luxurious dark and bitter chocolate. As the souffle baked this melted and then acted as an amazing bitter partner to the fruity pud. I was impressed with the decent and even rise the chef had achieved. It came served with fresh raspberries, crunchy freezedried raspberries and a vibrant raspberry sorbet. The final wine pair was a Castrano Dulce – a syrupy red dessert wine. Richard described it as tasting like Ribena – we’ll make a food blogger out of him yet! But yes indeed it did taste of alcoholic ribena.

Raspberry and chocolate souffle with raspberry sorbet and freezedried sorbet

Overall a good (but expensive) meal indeed! I didn’t feel leaving so full that I might explode but I felt very content with the food and wine I had been treated to. The place itself had a relaxed atmosphere, despite being fairly formal. I think what impressed me the most was how everything worked like clockwork. The minute we ordered something another staff member whooshed in with new cutlery or wine glasses and we were never left waiting for anything – that will always win me round! If you find yourself in a posh residential street in Kensington then why not try it out? But do take your credit card!