L'Enclume - A Night in Heaven
✨ LUCY EATON
Let me start by saying this. I'm a foodie (who isn't a foodie?) but my food of preference is more in the area of comfort food; I love stews and sweet potato fries, amazing vegetarian dishes that come in big bowls and roast chickens and tiffin... Basically, the bigger the portion the better. Healthy but hearty is my mantra, so on a night out I go to Mildreds in Soho or Megan's in Parson's Green; when grabbing lunch on the go I get take-out salad boxes from Absolutely Starving in London Bridge or Kastner & Ovens in Covent Garden.
So... when you say "Michelin star taster menu" to me, I would ordinarily say no thanks. You go for it, sounds cool, but my penny-pincher self thinks it costs too much: the boots ain't worth the blisters. Now, I won't tell you how much my boyfriend and I did spend on our evening at L'Enclume last month (my mother would be ashamed) but I will tell you this: every single penny was worth it.
The penny that bought that spoon-lick of garlic oil.
The penny that bought that first sip of desert wine.
The penny that bought that runaway bit of caviar hiding under my knife.
The penny that bought that last crumb of home-made oatcake that I picked off the table.
It was an extraordinary evening and I've now had it on good authority (from others, far more experienced than I) that they too believe L'Enclume to have been the setting for the best meal of their life.
Let's start at the very beginning...
We decided that if we were going to do a once-in-a-lifetime meal like this, we ought to do it properly. So we cancelled all plans for an Easter weekend holiday and booked ourselves into the hotel at L'Enclume for the night following our meal. We arrived at the hotel and it was homely but impeccable (the same can be said of the entire village of Cartmel). Our room, bedecked with wooden beamed low ceilings and floor-to-ceiling glass entrance doors, had a bottle of English sparkling wine to kick us off with a small plate of home-made brownies "from the chef", we were told. (The wine by the way was Exton Park and it was bloody brilliant). I almost collapsed in ecstasy at that first mouthful of brownie. Thank God I didn't. Almost didn't even make it to the restaurant. We partially dolled up for the meal (he in tweed waistcoat, me in floaty jumpsuit from Little Mistress) but really there was no need. The restaurant has a remarkably unpretentious and relaxed vibe that I was incredibly surprised by. Let's go into that a little more...
The Casual Familiarity
We were treated like friends from the very beginning, with staff cracking jokes (lightly mocking me for being a Southerner) and always engaging us in easy conversation. Anytime either my boyfriend or I went to the bathroom (we were there for 6 hours... this happened a few times), somebody would zip over to tuck in the chair, fold the napkin and have a chat. They could literally answer anything, and we tested them! Intrigued by every aspect, we learnt trivia from the more obvious - where this golden beetroot was grown -to the more unexpected - every piece of crockery is made by the restaurant farmer's wife.
If anything could beat the enjoyment of eating a rice-puffed ball containing eel and fermented sweetcorn that you thought you'd hate but you now realise is your favourite food ever and if you were a 9 year old girl again filling in the "my favourite food" at the front of a new diary you'd be writing "rice-puffed balls containing eel and fermented sweetcorn", *breathe*, then it's the enjoyment of watching the L'Enclume waiting staff doing their job. So extraordinarily beautiful is the service that my boyfriend and I found ourselves literally reenacting moments over a Chinese takeaway with his family the next night (life is all about variety). Words like "balletic" spring to mind and I'm not sure our reenactment really did it justice, but bravo L'Enclume. Bravo.
In the spirit of "let's make the most of this" we decided to go for the wine pairing option during our meal. Or rather, we decided to go for 2 wine pairing options, since L'Enclume have an incredible 3 different wine pairing lists. We thought it would be fun to have different options enabling us to enrich our already overly enriched experience by doing our own mini wine tastings with each course. We were constantly having to remind ourselves to eat and drink at the same time; the pairings were exceptionally well done and on occasion we would miss the full force by drinking pre and post course rather than with. It was amazing to experience just how much a wine, when perfectly chosen, could make your taste buds sky-rocket even further into heaven. The best scallop I've ever eaten was always going to be a pleasant experience, but wash it down with a 2015 Albert Mann Pinot Gris and you honestly won't know what's hit you. And for all your sakes, I hope you go to L'Enclume one day and you meet Pierre. He was our sommelier for the night and he went above and beyond. So much knowledge, so much charm and... so much wine. On returning to our room at 1am we sang our way through the entire Viva La Vida album by Coldplay before going to bed: that's how well the wine went down.
... The Food
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and miniature height of the oyster leaf meringue that melted in my mouth at the beginning; I love thee to the level of care you took in preparing what was essentially cheesy potatoes but made with special potatoes that you only make this dish using if they're perfectly in season, cut into perfect spheres and sprinkled with perfect onion ash (whatever that is); I love thee freely as I freely slathered that pork fat and salted butter on that incredible sourdough bread; I love thee purely as I loved that rhubarb and beetroot meringue chard, nestled over chamomile cake, when I couldn't open my eyes while I ate.
Smiles, tears, so full of delight. And if God choose
I shall but love thee better when I come again.
Let us know your experiences with wonderful meals. Has anybody been to L'Enclume? What was your menu like? We're keen to hear other people's stories as well!