GFG archives

L'Enclume from 2004 to 2014
Published 23 February 2022

This year Simon Rogan celebrates twenty years at L’Enclume. His brilliant Cumbrian restaurant first appeared in the Guide in 2004, then made its way through our ratings and awards at an electric pace. Within ten years L’Enclume had not only scored a perfect 10 but also bagged the number one spot in The Good Food Guide’s 'The Top 50’, a position it holds to this day. These entries spanning the years from 2004 to 2014 show the restaurant’s extraordinary evolution.

The Good Food Guide 2004

The former smithy - in a narrow street near the priory - has been turned into a smart restaurant-with-rooms. It looks quite the most modern thing to have hit Cartmel for years, and is an embodiment of the chef/patron's ambition to put the village on the gastronomic map.

The cooking is creative and confident, with a sense of direction and purpose, and has made quite a splash in the lakes.

The repertoire is an evolving one, with the promise of more in the way of local materials to come - including herbs, roots and tinctures - that may have fallen out of favour.

The Good Food Guide 2005

Simon Rogan’s innovative concepts are supported by sound techniques, impeccable sourcing of local supplies, and unusual spices and flavourings that bring vigour and surprise. One diner's pre-starter set the tone: a trio of shot glasses containing, respectively, purée of butternut squash topped by cumin froth, couscous with tomato under a square of black olive jelly, and pea velouté with a cigarette shaped popadom tuile.

Dishes are complex yet cohesive, and presentation exemplary […] humour is demonstrated by the serving of a 'Chinese style' white truffle custard in a take-away container marked 'No. 38' with a magic marker.

The Good Food Guide 2009

With last year's proposed move to Henley shelved, there have been a few changes at L'Enclume. The most obvious is in the restaurant itself: the tables are now bare - dark wood with black corduroy place mats - and there are new chairs to match the tables. With rustic walls and slate floor it is a stark look, but the former smithy does have a more spacious air. In addition, midweek lunches have stopped, the à la carte is no more and […] menus have been repositioned to facilitate Simon Rogan’s drive to push to the edges of gastronomic possibilities. He has moved from his original pledged allegiance to Marc Veyrat, and the locally-foraged herbs that were such a feature of early menus, delivering instead, in rapid succession, dishes that have left reporters mightily impressed not only by the tastes, textures and often bizarre combinations, but also by the extraordinary level of innovation and technical skill.

'Middle East on the plate' […] was 'the triumph' of one reporter's meal - slow-cooked confit lamb lightly crumbed to give the hint of a crunch, topped with date foam and served with the lightest' hummus and tomato confit. Desserts hit the experimental button again with surrealists nitro slammer', a stunning tequila poached in nitrogen, or 'stiffy tacky pudding', a witty take on Cartmel's very own best seller.

Staff are superb, knowledgeable and understanding.

The Good Food Guide 2012

Rogan isn't a native Lakelander, but he has mainlined the region's larder since arriving here, amassing some 200 suppliers, setting up his own farm and dispatching his chefs on regular forays for ‘free food'. The accumulated bounty finds its way on to three menus, and the results speak for themselves: 'utterly engrossing', 'mesmerising', 'performance art at its best’… the superlatives go on and on.

Over the years he has pruned back his style, abandoning high-wire culinary acrobatics in favour of crystal clear innovation. If the menu says ‘Herdwick hogget, turnips, cider and chenopodiums’, that’s exactly what you get.

L'Enclume is all about nudging boundaries and opening up culinary perceptions; it's also about the sheer pleasure of fine food in all its diversity - a light-hearted, conversational place where no one feels out of their depth, thanks to superb management and confident staff who know how to demystify the details without losing their sense of humour.

The Good Food Guide 2013

To begin, a quick-fire salvo includes the 'oyster pebble' - a riotous trompe l'oeil joke involving a pile of stones with one strange greyish nugget on top. In reality, it's a smooth meringue dyed with squid ink and filled with the most intense oyster cream imaginable; for maximum briny impact, you are instructed to eat it with the huge oyster leaf provided. ‘Feel it in your mouth' is the message; open up those dormant taste buds, smell, savour and admire the fragrances, the pungency, the earthy realism of it all.

The kitchen's deep-rooted agenda and synergistic relationship with the land also means that stuff can be grown to order - he cooks what the land can provide, nothing more, nothing less - and if you ever wondered why chefs are obsessed with foetal vegetables, just try the tiny, flavour-burst turnips served with Reg Johnson's Goosnargh chicken and some supercharged chicken offal bolognese.

Not surprisingly, the thoughtful wine list has a strong organic and biodynamic contingent, a fondness for artisan growers and a dedication to quality - it's a perfect fit for the food. There's also a quiet little revolution going on here: Rogan's upland farm is coming on strong and he is also developing Aulis, a cutting-edge, gastronomic research space and kitchen table' next door.

The Good Food Guide 2014

Most chefs would claim to draw from nature's larder: few go to the lengths that Simon Rogan does. L'Enclume, where he 'makes local ingredients dance' to an inspired, thrillingly offbeat tune, is at the forefront of an enterprise which now includes north country farms and a new Manchester restaurant, The French, as well as Rogan & Company, also in Cartmel. In a period marked by change, including a kitchen extension and ancillary spruce-up, Rogan and his team have not missed a beat.

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