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L’Enclume, Cartmel, United Kingdom

December 25, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s pure coincidence that I returned to L’Enclume exactly one year after the last visit in 2010. It just seemed to be a perfect half-way point to stop over for the night before heading up to Scotland from London.

The menu has changed so much in one year – is it good news or bad news? Well, it’s bad news for me in the sense that I had to decide whether to go for the 8-course or 12-course menu, or even opt for the new vegetarian menu. However, it’s good news that even by choosing the 12-course menu again, the dishes would all be different. So it’s like a brand new dining experience again.

Once we’ve got the champagne ordered, the snack was brought to us: Duck crackling & duck skin crackling. OK, it was not the healthiest thing on earth, but then it was delicious, and I would happily trade part of my health in for the enjoyment of my taste buds.

Duck crackling & duck skin crackling

There were two different amuse-bouches as a prelude to the 12-course meal:

(a) Smoked mackeral with cream cheese and garlic leaves – although all the ingredients came in a small mouthful of pastry cup, I could taste all the individual ingredients, and then the flavours all blended together nicely in the mouth, with a spicy kick of the raw garlic at the end.

Amuse-Bouche - Mackeral

(b) Mayonnaise with fried cod tongue – It was a nice quality piece of fish, though at one point it reminded me of McDonald’s filet-o-fish (still no idea why that would be the case – the quality couldn’t have been further apart) – perhaps I would not have dreamt up this unfortunate association if the batter was slightly finer.

Amuse-Bouche - Cod Tongue

(1) Beetroot and mozzarella, celery and dill – there were layers of surprises as you dug deeper into it – all the contrast of textures and flavours, finishing with a sweet beetroot flavour with a vibrant colour at the bottom.

Beetroot and mozzarella, celery and dill

(2) Caramelised parsnip with mousse of meadowsweet, duck sweetbread and black mustard – the sweetbread was fried beautifully and worked well with the parsnip, give a sweet flavour with the mousse. The black cabbage leaves, while giving the whole dish an extra dimension of the flavour at the time, were rather too strong and there was a lingering bitter taste in the mouth well after I finished eating.

Caramelised parsnip and meadowsweet, duck sweetbread and black mustard

(3) Grilled salad smoked over embers, Isle of Mull cheese, custard, cobnuts – there were a variety of thinly sliced roasted vegetables including cauliflower, black cabbage and broccoli etc. The smell was very pleasant, esp on a cold winter evening, though the strong mustard-like taste of the black cabbage was a little too overpowering in the whole dish. It was interesting to have the sweetness added to the dish with “custard”

Grilled salad smoked over embers, Isle of Mull cheese, custard, cobnuts

(4) Marinated scallop, toasted seeds, red cabbage and wild sorrel – I usually love dishes with contrast of taste and texture: while this dish offered a mix of soft scallops and “a bed of” crumbling mix of toasted seeds, with a red cabbage sauce, this dish was not something I liked too much as I find the texture of the seeds actually too hard for the scallops – a bit like biting on sand.

Marinated scallop, toasted seeds, red cabbage and wild sorrel

(5) Jerusalem artichokes, Ragstone cream, tarragon, malt – This dish had a good balance of the strong malt taste, and a clean moorish texture of the Jerusalem artichoke.

Jerusalem artichokes, Ragstone cream, tarragon, malt

(6) Roasted snow crown with young squid and elderberry vinegar – the snow crown was cauliflower “on a bed of squid ink”. For some reasons L’Enclume really loved using the phrase “on a bed of….” to describe their dishes, and it became a bit of a running joke with my friends. Still, this was a very impressive dish, with the rather soft and bland cauliflower contrasting with the squid, mixing in with the more salty flavour of the squid ink – this combination really worked well.

Roasted snow crown with young squid and elderberry vinegar

(7) Kohlrabi baked in salt, parsley, chicken offal, bristly ox tongue – I found the chicken offal very greasy and salty, to the point that the dish became a bit too heavy for a 12-course meal. The kohlrabi did help to neutralise that greasiness and gave the dish the much needed breadth of freshness.

Kohlrabi baked in salt, parsley, chicken offal, bristly ox tongue

(8) Roasted monkfish in our spices, chervil root and wild watercress – the monkfish was slightly overcooked and on the dry side, but nevertheless had a nice taste. The raspberry coulis gave the dish a pleasantly sweet flavour in addition to the parsnip puree.

Roasted monkfish in our spices, chervil root and wild watercress

(9) Shorthorn short ribs cooked for 72 hours, smoked marrow and butternut – Instead of the hogget, I requested to have the short ribs from the 8-course menu. The piece of beef was very tender, and that was not surprising considering that it was cooked in a waterbath for 72 hours. I could cut into the meat with minimal effort, and it just melted in the mouth. The sauce was rich in flavour, and the presentation of the dish was sensational with the various colours – I was glad to have opted for this, even though I was struggling with finishing this dish because my stomach felt rather heavy and full, probably due to the lingering effect of the rather greasy chicken offals earlier.

Shorthorn short ribs cooked for 72 hours, smoked marrow and butternut.

The hogget dish was: Yew tree farm Herdwick Hogget in mulled cider, baked celeriac and pennywort – I had a little taste of that…. it was good but I still preferred the short ribs

Yew tree farm Herdwick Hogget in mulled cider, baked celeriac and pennywort

(10) Chestnut, honeyoats, anise hyssop, apple – this was a rather refreshing and light ice-cream. A very welcoming dish to come down from the heaviness of the last few savoury courses.

Chestnut, honeyoats, anise hyssop, apple

(11) Fig and malted cream, Williams pear ice – the first mouthful of the pear granita was very cold, but as my mouth got over the initial shock the various ingredients worked really well together. The whole dessert was not too sweet either, and I could easily have another one.

Fig and malted cream, Williams pear ice

(12) Mellilot yoghurt with nuts, Cartmel grapes, brown sugar – another very deliciously light dessert. It just seemed unbelieveable that there would be locally-grown grapes even if they were grown in green houses, as the November evening just seemed so cold to even think about the area getting warm in the summer.

Mellilot yoghurt with nuts, Cartmel grapes, brown sugar

I was glad when the 12th course ended, and I couldn’t even consider having any tea or coffee afterwards. Still, the staff brought over the tiny ice-cream sandwich for us to finish the meal with.

Ice-Cream

I left the restaurant with my stomach feeling rather bloated and heavy like a lead balloon, a contrast to the year before when I felt that I had eaten a lot without this less-than-pleasant feeling. Still, the meal was nice and I was glad to have returned to sample a whole new array of dishes. With a sister restaurant Roganic opened in London earlier this year, there’s always bound to be comparisons – for me, I actually prefer Roganic (with the added bonus that it’s in London rather than 300 miles away in Cumbria).

Address: Cavendish Street, Cartmel, Nr Grange over Sands, Cumbria, LA11 6PZ, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)15395 36362
Website: http://www.lenclume.co.uk
Opening Hours: Lunch: Wednesday to Sunday: 12:00 – 13:30 ; Dinner: Monday to Sunday: 18:30-21:00

Food: 8/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 16/20 [Based on visit in November 2011]

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L’Enclume, Cartmel, United Kingdom

June 4, 2011 1 comment

Sometimes it’s a matter of luck when it comes to travel – Darcy, Bob, Russell and I were on our tour round the north of England in the latter half of  November 2010, and we could have easily got caught in the snowstorm that swept across the whole of UK, thus putting a damper on our travel plan that had been in place since the summer. Fortunately we managed to be one day ahead of the snow, which meant that we managed to traverse across the Yorkshire Dales from Harrogate to the Lake District without any problem, despite the snow started to come down rather heavily in the morning in Harrogate while we were having our full breakfast at Bettys.

Although it was not difficult to find Cartmel, relying on the GPS to find L’Enclume, esp in the dark, was a bit more challenging. Finally I had to give up searching for it in the cold winter evening, and asked a local resident for directions. We got to L’Enclume, settled in the rather interesting and quirky rooms (the floor was sloping, so it’s as if we were already a bit drunk before we had any alcohol), and then we sipped some champagne (we were not celebrating anything – the bottle was just there in the room to welcome us) before heading to the restaurant for the dinner that we were so looking forward to.

There were two menus on offer, a shorter 8-course menu and a longer 12-course menu. It didn’t really take us long to debate which one we should go for – of course the longer menu!

Pumpkin seed lolly with parsnip crisp were brought out to accompany the bottle of Montagny premier cru that we had chosen.

The amuse bouche was apple macaron with oyster mousse and samphire. It had a nice blend of taste, accented by the sweet apple flavour.

The first course was Cumberland sauce jelly and butternut squash, blood sausage, rocket and sour rye toast. It was a sophisticated dish, with a spectrum of flavours ranging from the intense sweetness of the cumberland jelly, then the smoothness of the butternut squash and savoury blood sausage.

The 2nd course was salt and vinegar crispy rice and cod ‘yolk’, bacon, watercress, cream of egg and garlic. At first taste, I found the dish rather plain, but every subsequent mouthful it just grew on me, and by the time I finished the dish, I just wanted another one. Bob described the dish as “breakfast in a bowl” while Darcy who didn’t like mayonnaise commented that there’s finally a mayonnaise that she could eat!

There were three choices of bread: white flour bread, pumpernickel and molasses in the middle, and the spelt bread on the right.

The next course was turnip root and stems, Reg’s duck wing, vegetable juices with juniper. The sauce had an excellent flavour, though the duck was a bit on the salty side.

The 4th course was lightly smoked Arctic charr, pickled white radish, parsley and fresh salmon roe – the orange colour of the roe versus the green leaves and sauce looked absolutely stunning. The ingredients were fresh and well-balanced, with the charr delicately smoked, and the vinegar from the picked radish complementing the saltiness of the salmon roe.

While I am not a big fan of goat cheese, the next course of artichoke flesh and skin, crosnes, fresh goats cheese, farm shoots and tarragon oil had a very creamy goat cheese that I could quite happily eat. It worked well with the other ingredients, especially the light and refreshing artichoke flesh, and the combination of the various textures was impressive. Darcy made the remark that it was a dish that she would need the bread to mop the sauce.

The next beautifully-presented dish was Dublin Bay prawns from Gairlock, wild cabbage, fragrant oil, chervil and toasted millet. The general consensus at the table was that sprinkling of salt on top was slightly heavy-handed.  Personally the prawns were slightly overcooked and the toasted mullets a little too crunchy and flakey for my liking, but nevertheless the dish had an interesting contrast of textures.

We were halfway through the menu and Russell commented that so far the meal was still missing the wow factor – the dishes were good but nothing that jumped out that he thought were exceptional.  The 7th course was vintage potatoes cooked in chicken fat, flaky crab, onion weed and horseradish. Again we all found the dish too salty – it was a shame because the caramelised potatoes in the chicken fat were delicious and blended in well with the crabmeat, and it was spoilt by the saltiness of the sauce. There’s a limit between savoury and salty, and it seemed that the line was crossed in this case.

Russell was not a cockles lover but he kept his open mind, secretly hoping that a restaurant like L’Enclume might change his opinion. The next course, skate ‘belly’ with bay cockles, purple azur baked in salt, coastal herbs and cider vinegar, unfortunately didn’t change his opinion on cockles. It was a shame that the dish seemed to have fallen flat on its face – the saltiness theme seemed to have just continued.

The last savoury course was beef rib from Lindal, celeriac, shallot, oxtail and alexanders. It was rich in flavour but the meat was not as tender as it could have been. In terms of presentation, it might have been more elegant if the celeriac actually wrapped round the beef rather than just putting them on top as if it’s like throwing a blanket over.

The pre-dessert / palate cleanser was iced celery and chestnuts, white chocolate and English truffle. Based on our sample of 4 people, it seemed that there’s a gender divide on the opinion of this dish. Darcy liked it a lot and she liked the taste that lingered in the mouth afterwards. Bob and Russell did not like it and thought that it was more like a starter than a pre-dessert dish. I thought the celery might have worked better as a granita – the aftertaste in the mouth was just too strong. The chestnut shavings went well with the white chocolate.

The penultimate course was sea buckthorn, malt, Cumbrian dark beer, liquorice and blackberry powder. While it looked like an exciting dish, the actual taste was a little bit flat for us – maybe we were expecting an explosion of flavours that did not materialise. There was nothing unpleasant about this dish: I tried eating the different bits separately, and also tried eating the combined ingredients in one mouthful, neither method seemed to have made the mark in my mouth. The others all shared my view and felt rather disappointed with this dessert.

The fianl dish was apple sorbet, thyme custard, beetroot and cobnut crisp. While it was nice to have the beetroot adding the texture to the tangy apple sorbet, it did nothing to satisfy Russell who, by this time, said that he’s still waiting for his desserts – in his mind, he’s not had any desserts yet. Darcy commented that she’d prefer this for breakfast.

To finish the meal off, we were given the Douglas fir milkshake and Parkin cake. We weren’t too sure about the milkshare – the taste and texture just reminded me of some medicine (Russell, at this point, said “Milk of Magnesia”).

Although some of the dishes, especially the desserts, were a little disappointing, on the whole we were impressed by the quality and freshness of the various ingredients. Also the meal was surprisingly light on the stomach – after 12 courses we actually felt good and happy, rather than having to carry our tummies out of the restaurant! We would certainly go back again – if it’s just for the sake of having a “healthy” meal.

Address: Cavendish Street, Cartmel, Nr Grange over Sands, Cumbria, LA11 6PZ, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)15395 36362
Website: http://www.lenclume.co.uk
Opening Hours: Lunch: Wednesday to Sunday: 12:00 – 13:30 ; Dinner: Monday to Sunday: 18:30-21:00

Food: 8/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 16/20 [Based on visit in November 2010]