We visited L’Enclume last weekend, thanks to some lovely colleagues of my spouse who thoughtfully chose it as our wedding gift. It was quite the experience, on many levels!
To start with, the sense of going to the middle of nowhere, really amplified by the fact that we took no less than three trains from London, as the restaurant is in a village called Cartmel, in Cumbria.
It is incredibly pretty and cute and small: we walked around the village in about 10 minutes. It was gloriously sunny, which made everything even prettier:
Despite all the multiple train delays (more on that later) we arrived with plenty of time to relax with some welcome snacks and champagne. There was also kombucha, which I will admit I hadn’t tried previously—but we liked it!
We also had time to visit Unsworth Brewery. They have a quaint seating area in the shadow of Cartmel Methodist Church, so we sat there while sampling their various pale ales, lagers and IPAs, and getting whiffs of cheese each time the cheese shop door was open 😂
My favourite beer, as usual, was the IPA.
Then we changed into fancy clothing (out of our own volition) and walked to the restaurant; a short walk with these charming views:
At the restaurant we were impressed by how bright it was. The room we sat in was like a conservatory, with big windows to the garden. It was as if we were outside, but we were not (which was good because despite the warm weather I’m still Spanish and I can’t function under 15 degrees 😏).
But we were so excited about the food, we didn’t take a picture of the room!
So let’s talk about the edibles:
Beetroot pine smoked
Beetroot fermented juice
Pork, eel, sweetcorn
Salt baked celeriac with caviar
Cod, parsley and chicken skin
Interlude: the bread and the raw butter and the lard with ham and apple
We were brought these three parcels from heaven, entirely unannounced.
The bread was fantastic, warm and chewy and full of developed flavour. But then, the butter was also spectacular, mobilising taste buds I didn’t know I had.
The only judgment my spouse could emit after trying the lard was an indignant “this is ridiculous”, all full of disbelief. Can something, anything be this tasty? Apparently, and it was in our table, and it was for us. LIFE IS GOOD.
Lamb’s tongue with tunworth
Salted gooseberry and herb tart
Cornish scallops, kohlrabi, rye vinegar
After I finished eating this, I kept my hand on the side of the dish, enjoying the texture and secretly wishing they would suddenly decide to give the dish to me.
Turbot, hen of the woods and pike perch roe
Crab, asparagus, pickled alexanders
Spring lamb, turnip and salted plum cream
Sheep’s milk, black garlic skewer
Spiced rhubarb with apple marigold
Pear, preserved blackcurrant, eucalyptus
Caramel, rosehip, stones
And because it was a ‘special occasion’, they also gave us a ‘bonus’ chocolate dessert
We left feeling extremely happy and pleased.
Breakfast at Rogan & co
But the delightful food didn’t end here. Since we were staying at the L’Enclume rooms, breakfast was served at Rogan & Co… which is the more casual ‘sister restaurant’.
Luxurious breakfast items incoming:
This was the first bircher I have had that didn’t send my teeth dancing away from the acid in the radioactive apple juice. It was fantastic: lightly soaked, the oats were tender but still kept their shape, lots of nice nuts and seeds, and the freshly grated apple was sweet and tangy.
We also got a massive pot of coffee (not the best coffee but for a “hotel”, pretty good, says the coffee snob), juices, and butter, which we kept wondering whether it would be the same raw butter from dinner (and “if only we could have the lard again…”).
After breakfast and checking out, we went for another “leisurely walk” around the village while we waited for our taxi. We visited the various shops that were open, looked at sheep and horses, and cottages surrounded by lavender in full bloom; we saw a water vole, and listened to the birds. It was, again, a nice and sunny day, and everything looked charming, but I wonder how does it feel when it’s all grey and cold and windy…?
But I prefer to keep this lovely memory of Cartmel and L’Enclume in my mind:
Appendix: let’s talk about trains
Cartmel is 452 km away from London, so I did not expect to be there “soon”. Driving would have taken about 5 hours, but we chose the train—which actually involved taking three trains:
- London Euston – Manchester
- Manchester – Lancaster
- Lancaster – Grange-over-sands
… and then a taxi from Grange-over-sands to Cartmel proper.
This plan sounded feasible on paper, but it became impossible once the first train we were on started getting delayed a bit at each stop, eating into the time we had allocated for changing trains. Then we started panicking because there aren’t that many trains per hour once you reach Manchester. So missing a connection means waiting another hour for the next train. And maybe another hour if you miss the second connection.
We arrived at Manchester with only two minutes to change trains. Of course, the next train was in the platform that was furthest away. We sprinted through the station while yelling lots of EXCUSE MEs, navigating the various pieces of luggage that people carry, and the people themselves, only to arrive at a platform full of people… because the next train was delayed 🤔
“So this was good”, we thought, because that meant we didn’t need to wait for another hour. But it was also eating into the second connection. Except the train for the second connection was also delayed 💁🏻
The way back looked easier: we only had two trains to catch: from Grange-over-sands to Preston, and from there it would just be our fast train to London already. And we had a good margin for the connection—it should have been OK, right?
Wishful thinking! 😆
The train from Grange-over-sands ended at Lancaster as they “couldn’t find a driver”. I wonder who was operating the train until then? The Holy Spirit? 🤔
We had to change platforms and take another train to Preston, where we waited as the “””fast””” London train was horribly, utterly delayed, and Virgin Trains kept being “sorry about the delay”.
Finally the train arrived and can you guess what happened? It not only was incredibly full (good thing we had seat reservations) but it was also slow as a snail, and I felt like a sardine who was slowly roasting in a small tin as the two people in front of us kept spreading their legs and invading our small space, and we just melted on the inadequately ventilated and stuffy train. And in the meantime, the silly announcements kept coming, as train staff tried to convince people to consume stuff from the on-board cafe, except there wasn’t much left, they announced with sadness, but try coming to the cafe and find something you might like anyway, maybe, please? Aaaarghhh!
Not the best way to finish the trip, but it forced us to make a promise to ourselves: we’ll never travel on trains on a bank holiday again! 🙅🏻