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Image 1: After 3.5 hrs train/taxi journey from London, we arrived at Cartmel, a small village in the Lake District, not for a "nature weekend" but for a "Simon Rogan weekend". The highlight of this long journey was our 2-star lunch at L'Enclume, that Alan Spedding often describes as the "Fäviken of England"!
Image 2: It was still early in the day so we left our luggage at the reception and strolled around the village. It took us less than 5 minutes so you could imagine the scale of the village map was like 1-to-1
Image 3: Not only is Rogan slowly taking over Cartmel with a fine dining restaurant, a culinary research kitchen, a bistro, a pub, a farm, and guest rooms in two different buildings, he now also has two restaurants in Manchester, just finished a 2-year pop up in London, and his new fine dining at the posh Claridge is due to open this Spring!
Image 4: The weekend plan - lunch at L'Enclume, dinner at his bistro Rogan&Co, an overnight stay at one of his guest rooms, breakfast at Rogan&Co, tour of his farm, and lunch at his pub Pig&Whistle. Yes, we did all these in just a bit over 24 hours, and that was pretty much all we did in that 24 hours!
Image 5: The success of Rogan's cuisine really began with his farm, which supplies most of the ingredients to the kitchen of this 13th century blacksmith house.
Image 6: Though the restaurant covers more than 50 guests each service, open daily for dinner and most of the week for lunch, their Saturday dinner was already booked up until the summer!
Image 7: Attached to the main room was a conservatory area, an ideal place for lunch offering a view of the garden with plenty of natural light. After a long chat with the manager, he left us to embark upon a long and exciting tasting experience with many treats...
Image 8: Oyster pebbles - meringues filled with sweet oyster cream accompanied by oyster leaves
Image 9: Chicken dumpling - steamed brioche covered by crispy chicken skin
Image 10: Served on a tiny wooden log was Jerusalem artichoke skin filled with artichoke purée and shaving of truffles.
Image 11: Smoked eel deep fried in chicken oil with ham fat emulsion underneath.
Image 12: A ball of Ragstone goat cheese with tarragon, coated with malt.
Image 13: Creative serviceware used for every single item! This quail egg was served on a bed of crispy kale resting on a piece of bark. The yolk was actually removed from the egg and replaced with black garlic purée! Intricate twist!
Image 14: No wonder the manager had to warn us -- the amuse bouche kept on coming without any break! Another beautiful presentation was scallop tartare served on its shell with English caviar and blobs of rocket cream.
Image 15: And this was the most unique serviceware that I came across -- a ceramic sack!
Image 16: Inside was packed with shrimps smothered in brown butter emulsion. All fabulous food so far and reminded me of the opening scene of Noma with a dozen of tasting surprises.
Image 17: Hot pot of three tiny balls - potato, lamb, and cabbage swimming in a thick and intense veal stock. The kitchen churned out all these amuse bouches in less than 20min. Not only were they appeasing to the eye, I enjoyed the flavour of every single item so far. A very impressive introduction to Rogan's cuisine!
Image 18: The bread finally arrived signifying the end of an elaborate and delicious amuse bouche section of the menu. Three types of bread - malt, wholemeal, and onion came with pork dripping and salted butter.
Image 19: After a short break, the actual menu began. Cod 'yolk' resting on salt and vinegar powder and half covered in garlic emulsion.
Image 20: I got completely fooled by this egg yolk because it wasn't an egg yolk; instead it was filled with cod mousse inside! In simple terms, they froze balls of cod mousse before dipping them in saffron gel to create this thin outer glossy shell. Once warmed up, the cod inside turns into mousse. Skillfully executed!
Image 21: And the best part was the taste with the balancing flavours between cod mousse and garlic sauce along with the slight vinaigrette acidity underneath that really made me wanting more. Can't imagine anyone who wouldn't like this course! At that point I was convinced that my journey here was well justified!
Image 22: More good food, venison tartare lightly drizzled in charcoal oil and garnished with mustard and candied spheres. I loved the quality of these tender cubes of venison. With the rawness from the fresh scallion, the light spiciness from the mild mustard, and a burst of sweet fennel gin encased in those little spheres, this could be tartare at its best. Stunning!
Image 23: Time for the lobster! Lobster cracker topped with hazelnut and grated frozen egg yolk. We then discovered the second serving after removing the top part of the bowl.
Image 24: Blanketed under a parsnip cream were small chunks of lobster and black pudding. The lobster was slightly overcooked as it was a bit tough to my liking and its flavour was overpowered by the black pudding. Nevertheless, the marriage of parsnip and black pudding was surprisingly good that I soaked up every bit from the bottom with the onion bread!
Image 25: A potato course with onion purée, onion ashes, lovage, and wood sorrel. The potato had a smooth texture with an appetizing onion flavour carried through; however, contrary to their descriptions that this course would highlight Simon's garden, I didn't sense much freshness from the lovage nor the wood sorrel at all.
Image 26: My least favourite course of the lunch was this Dover sole. The fish had little flavour while the mussel was absolutely bland. I could sense the leek but it was the small medallion of nasturtium butter on top providing all the flavour to this course.
Image 27: For the main, aged Dexter beef with pieces of bone marrow. The carrots were grilled with a nice sweetness and the beef was amazing! Maybe the bone marrow wasn't needed or the dittander emulsion could be reduced since the meat itself was tender with a nice amount of fat. Don't get me wrong, I won't mind having this course again any time of the day!
Image 28: I knew they wouldn't have a soft ending to this meal. And to mirror the elaborate set of amuse bouche, the lunch was concluded with a series of small tasting of desserts - truffle ice cream on top of milk skin with chestnut grated over.
Image 29: Cheese and pear ball topped with beetroot
Image 30: Continued with elderflower, yoghurt, cobnut
Image 31: Then, served in a cup was a mixture of buttermilk custard, caramelised quince, rosehip, muscavado, and honey oats.
Image 32: And the final and winning dessert was all about apple! Granny Smith cubes, marmalade, jello, together with meadowsweet, sorrel, and walnut. Probably one of the best desserts that I had for a while! I loved the fact that though the menu was long, the food was not rich at all allowing me to have a normal dinner three hours later.
Image 33: As expected, the menu did end with a bang. The petits fours were cute ice cream cornets held up by a stone and each had distinct flavours - sweet cheese, celeriac, and malt! I could feel the energy from the kitchen team that one menu isn't enough for them to demonstrate their full potential!
Image 34: No doubt the team here delivered a world class cuisine with an ambitious menu. As Marco Pierre White once said, "to get a 3-star, you need to play an aggressive game; to maintain a 3-star, you need to play a defensive game". It was clear that Rogan is pushing the limit to bring his cuisine to the next level.
Image 35: Wow, at this time of the year, the sun really does set early in this part of England! Despite the let down by the lobster and mussel (out of the 20+ items we had) and the ingredients from his garden didn't shine through (it was deep winter in north England so what do you expect?), the delicious flavour combinations justify a revisit in the summer!
Image 36: At this moment if there's another restaurant in this country which deserves a 3-star, it ought to be L'Enclume! And after a long and satisfying meal, nothing could be better than a few steps away from a bed. Our room for the night happened to be right above the dining room!