Up until several years ago, L’enclume was rated as the best restaurant in Britain, before being knocked down to #2 by Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant in Cornwall in the south of Britain. We wanted to also try Nathan Outlaw’s place, but the drive would have made our trip too difficult. It almost requires staying in this area, where there almost aren’t enough other places, in addition, to make the drive worthwhile.
Either way, we were very happy with our meal at L’enclume. We stayed in a room affiliated with the restaurant, which though bigger, was a block away from the main building. Try to stay in the same building as the restaurant if you are booking a meal and a room here. It was on par price-wise with most Michelin 2 stars, and it was not astronomical by any stretch of the imagination. Totally worth it to stay in and walk around this charming fairytale town of Cartmel. I think the total for dinner for 2 and a room was a little over 1200 pounds. This is a great stop in any trip across the countryside, even if it’s for one night.
L’enclume in French means “Anvil”, which is in featured image of this blog. This was the 1st of two French-focused restaurants we ate at in England, which showcased local English produce, and it was truly spectacular. I highly recommend this place, and also it is very easy to drive here from Scotland if you leave in the morning. The scenic drive itself is well worth it. It’s the perfect first stop out of Scotland heading towards England. From there it’s a quick drive to Manchester where you can fly to London.
The lovely smoke from their outdoor grill was wafting through the air. If you have ever been to the French Laundry, in Napa, you will notice it looks like a replica of a European stone cottage. Well, this is an actual European stone cottage, hence, the statement in the video.
Here is the menu, address, info.
It had a nice mix of Danish mid-century with rustic farmhouse vibe.
Nice view of the bar from where I was sitting. Comforting to still see a stellar whisky collection despite having already crossed the Scottish border. I just need to see Kilchoman and Highland Park 30 to I know I am in good hands.
First, an amuse bouche in the shape of a crunchy leaf made with beetroot coagulated into a solid form somehow with what looked like morning dew on top of a leaf, with a fermented milky oolong tea with a beet juice palate cleanser.
If you look at the little bowl right above the leaves, you will see what looked like a caramelized beet, that was apparently smoked for hours with pine branches for fodder. This process turns the beet into this gummy fruit texture that they stick to the end of a fresh pine branch like a lolly pop and serve with the other preparations you see. Beet me up daddy!
Then there was this amazing oyster flavored macaroon. We have had many macaroon flavors, but this was a first for us. “Lovely” as they say in the UK.
What a display, even the texture made it look like beach rocks. They were called oyster pebbles on the menu.
With all the wood, leather, animal furs and warm tones, you felt like you were eating by the hearth. Very cozy restaurant in a small village setting.
I think this was fried pork and eel skins, like chicharron, with pieces of sweet corn from their garden interspersed with some sort of seaweed or matcha dust sprinkled on top. It was sweet, salty and fishy all at the same time. Like the savory version of funnel cake.
Then some salt-baked celeriac, which almost tasted like a raw scallop with caviar. They wrap the celeriac in a salt mold and warm up the salt to a very high heat, so it almost steams inside the salt shell. Then they crack it out of the shell and serve with the caviar. Very interesting texture, custardy, almost like the meat inside of a ripe coconut, that just flakes off with your spoon.
Amazing Japanese style glass plate with some concentrated wheatgrass-like substance that was probably a cold-pressed vegetable juice from their garden, balancing out the salinity with an herbal, grassy and refreshing counterpoint.
Moving on to another sylvan scene. A stone with what appears to be faux moss on top was actually cod puree/paste, like the ones they sell in IKEA in a toothpaste tube, but whipped with a parsley so that it looks green.
What looked like crackers that were sitting inside this Blair Witch stick voodoo doll, were actually chicken skins. Like a satanic Wiccan mass. Why do I keep coming back to these Buffalo Bill scenes in my blog? Put the lotion in the basket!
I thought this was butter at first. The texture from the parsley and cod paste really replicates that gooey, slippery/slimy texture you would imagine moss to taste like.
This town was a very typical English country town, I couldn’t help but feel like we were in this movie.
I thought this was some sort of potato puree with oyster and some more concentrated green juice. It was actually lamb’s tongue with tunworth. What is tunworth you may ask? It’s like an English Brie cheese, but it’s unpasteurized and heavenly. Ultimate fondue with offal. No surprises here, tongue is part of our daily diet in Los Angeles with lengua tacos, cold tongue in vinegar at Armenian weddings or sliced beef tongue at our local Korean BBQ place.
Just the appearance of the plate below was captivating.
Seared Cornish scallop with what appeared to be a radish/daikon nest with pea tendril leaves sprinkled within. It was actually a bizarre looking wild cabbage with what appears to be a Persian last name, Kohlrabi.
They tossed some rye vinegar on top of the scallop, almost giving it a fish and chips vibe, with the vinegar theme.
Asparagus with what looked like baby cauliflower sprouts (aka pickled alexanders) and crab. What an amazing color of that cold pressed asparagus oil. These little buds looked like a baby cauliflower, but they are an ancient vegetable eaten since the Roman times.
This was one of Jerry’s favorite dishes. A very nice presentation here. You don’t see the crab hiding under the pile of asparagus, so the flavor surprises you. Everything tasted very fresh, and the cold-pressed asparagus juice with sliced up asparagus killed any potential fishiness from the crab.
Foraged herbs and flowers from their garden with quinoa-like grains, charred and smoked over embers. There was some truffle grated over it, with some buttermilk-looking foam to lubricate out throats in preparation for more protein to come.
The foam was actually made from a cheese called Berkswell, which is an amazing unpasteurized sheep’s milk.
Besides the charred salad, they added these amazingly bitter and flavorful foraged flowers and leaves, which from the video were disclosed to be primrose, violet and carrot shoots. I was told that they were literally picked from the soil in their garden right before being plated, which gave it such a fresh-earth flavor.
Then some lightly seared turbot in a butter sauce suspension with pike-perch roe, for more added fish essence. Locally foraged Hen of the Woods mushrooms that were grilled and covered with nasturtium leaves.
Reminded me of the salmon sorrel plate at Trois Gros, but with more of a Noma element with foraged greens, cold pressed vegetable oils, etc. An amazingly tender piece of fish.
A quick jump from sea to land.
I believe this was the local spring lamb with turnips in a salted plum and turnip cream sauce. The turnip with the salted plum gave it a nice kimchee-like flavor that really went well with the lamb, the fermented vinegar notes added to the barnyard funky game flavor of the lamb,
Went very well with the Bordeaux as it complemented the salted plum notes and the tannins balanced the acid from the sour turnip reduction. This wine was the perfect bridge between these two heavier meat and sauce dishes.
Lots of plum and cherry on the nose, no acid, lots of tannins on the palate, but it was mouthwatering, not dry. It also had a strong chalky graphite flavor, like you were sucking on stones or pencil lead. Incense-like scents that I always get from a Bordeaux. It was still kind of young, I would wait 2-3 years for this vintage as it was a bit closed and opened up by the final glass. The pairing was serendipitously superb with the lamb dish above, even more so than the dish below. We were happy we went with one nice older bottle instead of a flight of younger wines, had we ordered the wine pairing.
The very witty and attentive host that brought us his little forest box. Looks like a 3rd-grade art project of a Thanksgiving scene.
Lamb kebob you may ask? It makes perfect sense given the Southeast Asian and middle-eastern influence in the UK and the ubiquitous halal kebab shops on every corner. It was in such a place that the chef here first got his start cooking, so this was his homage to his roots. Made from local lamb a mile away from the restaurant that are the sheep that make Roquefort cheese. What I thought was yogurt was actually lamb cheese curd? Talk about eating the whole animal.
I know, we are so horrible that we are eating what only a few posts ago I was showing pictures of and talking about how cute they were. Such is the evolutionary food chain Wilbur. Unapologetic meat eaters here.
Again, the wine paired very well with the lamb kebabs that were actually cooked with black garlic. How you make black garlic black is by steaming garlic at a low temperature for weeks in a fermenting box, which turns into a black gummy bear-like umami ball. I have to give a shout out to my friend Sergey who brought several batches of this camping recently. One day I will post a blog about his garden. He has some plants that are so exotic that the secret service or FBI showed up to his house one day asking what he was doing with all these exotic plants.
Here was a concoction of ramp leaves, ramp flowers and powdered ramp salt over the yogurt. Ramps are basically wild garlic that they foraged.
Moving on to a delicious pre-dessert on a log. These were nougatine sandwiches.
Oh wow, heavenly.
Back to a refreshing lighter, and less sweet dessert to cleanse the palate from the sugar-rich pre-dessert.
Look at the moist texture on that fruit. I thought it was plums, but it was actually preserved pear.
Again, green reduced vegetable oil accent that I was trying to figure out this entire blog turns out to be rapeseed oil. I don’t know what the hell that could be other than Bill Cosby’s nickname for his roofies. The little green micro-herbs were apple marigold. More molecular trickery that makes you think you are eating an apple as the taste is uncanny. Back to some heavy savory sweets.
Looks like a heated-up piece of iron before being molded.
Smashed that shit like an anvil. Jelly apples with real apple slices provided a nice contrast of textures but with uniform apple flavor profile. Caramel just oozed out.
Wow, never had dessert wine flight to match the cheese. Look at this 1955 French dessert wine we had. So perfect for the cheese. It was like pairing liquid figs with the cheese. Here are some nice reviews I found about this wine online that was totally down my alley.
“In contrast to the ’74, this one tastes properly olllld. Like grandpa’s desk or other old furniture forgotten in a dank basement. Complex, just on the good side of moldy wood flavours amidst the raisins.”
“An immediately aromatic, smoky, rich nose of Assam tea, dates, liquorice and dried plums here. Very enticing. The palate is rich and full, with intense ripe plum, fig tatin, and dried red fruits. Complexity rises in spicy nutmeg and cinnamon tones on the very long finish. Absolutely delicious, with real balance from a streak of acidity refreshing the sweetness.”
Like the hedonistic animals that we are, with the dessert wine and cheese chart, we closed the place down.
Here is the man we affectionately called “The Cheesemonger”. I know he was a cheesemonger, but we were just calling out to him, like, “Hey, Cheesemonger..”, as if he didn’t have a name. We were just drunk and silly at this point.
Though there may be a debate with France holding the heavyweight cheese title, I love that the hardcore cheeses of Italy and the UK can stand their own ground. They just have a unique character, and should not be overlooked.
These cheeses are all from local farmers that have maybe a few wheels of each, pressure goods, one of a kind, locally sourced and seasonal. Talk about small carbon footprint.
More food porn foreplay, please. Let’s order tea so we can watch the tea ceremony.
Here was our lovely French-Vietnamese server that educated us on the different special teas they had on the menu.
Wow, never knew there was such an intricate process of washing the leaves first, then steeping the water in it, etc. When I said closed the house down, I meant it, they started shutting off the lights in the restaurant and preparing for the next day in the background, like “get the fuck out of here already!” It was really a breath of fresh air after a week and a half in Scotland. Not that the food in Scotland was bad, but to the contrary, I very much liked the fresh seafood, the Scottish breakfasts, etc. I just miss the pomp and circumstance with the service I’ve become accustomed to in Michelin restaurant, with 4-hour meals that are reminiscent of tantric sex, compared to the wham bam thank you mam feeling we got from most meals in Scotland.
Very arts and craft hipster check delivery method with the map of the grounds on there. Cheesemonger just wanted to get our drunk asses out of here by now. We stumbled out one by one like a bunch of hobos as Joe Pesci would say.
Overall, this was the best service we experienced compared to any restaurant we went to in the UK. It was choreographed and orchestrated with precision and painstaking attention to detail. Talk about a well-trained and experienced staff. No amateurism or irreverence here. It really felt more like a 3-star restaurant with respect to the service. It was also the best focus on the locality of the cuisine. Even the still water, which was locally sourced, was one of the best I’ve ever had.
I can see why this place is #2 in all the UK. The main feeling I walked away with was their intense focus and attentiveness. It was almost as though the staff was reading your mind and every movement in anticipation of your next desire. It was like being circled and watched by wolves in the forest, but not in an “I’m for dinner” kind of way.
You really see the showcasing and pride in their local UK products here. They are not trying to be someone else, but rather uncovering the beauty of the local product and bringing it to you. Everyone was truly passionate about their own workstation. The som, the main waiter, the ‘cheesemonger’ as we affectionately called him; they came in and out of our consciousness like actors in a play, perfectly timed in their transitions, weaving in and out, eavesdropping on our conversations and randomly answering questions that we were floating around to each other around the table internally.
It was like an expertly choreographed waltz, but relaxed rather than formal. The bucolic countryside setting looked like the French Laundry on the outside and NOMA on the inside. I highly recommend a stop here. We ate so much and stayed up so late that we ended up missing the breakfast at the partner restaurant Rogan and Son the next day.
So, across from our room was this little plaza where there were a cask beer store and the Cartmel cheese shop. We had a late brunch here before hitting the road the next day.
OMG, look at the size of that wheel on the bottom.
I love that moldy rind.
I tried planning a visit to this cheddar farm, but I could not fit it into my schedule. Luckily, I found their cheddar here. It is from a famous Cheddar producer that won the best cheddar of the year award recently; Westmore Cheddar. Here is the backstory on this cheese, whose recipe is over 100 years old and still made the same way.
But here was the champion and unexpected surprise of the entire trip when it came to cheese. Shropshire Blue cheese, where have you been all my life?! This was the weirdest, funkiest blue cheese that was just something new to my taste buds. I had to wrap my brain around it. Here is a description of this cheese below. Upon further research, I found out that it was first invented in Scotland actually in Inverness. This was by far my favorite cheese the entire UK trip.
Nothing like some room temp cask ale with my little cheese board with handmade bread for a late brunch.
Here is the view on the way out of this wonderful fairytale land. Off to Manchester before flying to London.