A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: L’Enclume
A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: L’Enclume

A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: L’Enclume

In this series, we travel to some of the UK’s best restaurants. These establishments are destinations in their own right – and well worth a day trip or overnight stay. This month, SL’s managing lifestyle editor Heather Steele paid a visit to the Lake District to see if one of the country’s few three-Michelin-starred restaurants lived up to the hype. She wasn’t disappointed.
By Heather Steele


Last year brought a clutch of fantastic milestones for Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume. First, the already fabled restaurant celebrated 20 years since it first opened its doors in the ridiculously pretty Lake District village of Cartmel. Then it became the first restaurant in northern England to be awarded three Michelin stars, making Simon just the third English chef to receive the honour and adding L’Enclume to a short list of just eight UK restaurants to hold three-star status. As if that wasn’t enough, L’Enclume also took the number one spot in The Good Food Guide’s most exciting restaurants of 2022 list. 

Opened in 2002, the restaurant quickly rose to international prominence thanks to Simon’s laser focus on hyper-seasonal and traceable tasting menus. Simon and his team have been prime movers in the UK’s farm-to-fork movement, and in 2021 L’Enclume was among the first to be awarded the newly created Michelin Green star for sustainable practices and ethos. It uses ingredients harvested predominantly on Our Farm, Simon’s very own farm a mile or so from the restaurant in the Cartmel Valley, alongside produce from top Lake District producers. Many places offer seasonal dishes, but few can claim such a detailed understanding of all the produce they cook with, with chefs and growers that work so closely together. If you’re visiting the restaurant between the start of April and end of September, tours of Our Farm are available to book – there’s surely no better way to set the scene and whet your appetite for the incredible food that awaits later that day.


Picture-postcard Cartmel is not just home to L’Enclume. You’ll also find a more casual concept, one-Michelin-starred Rogan & Co, as well as one-starred Aulis, a behind-the-scenes six-seater test kitchen next to L’Enclume that works in the same way as its sister establishment in Soho – where Simon’s team develops dishes and tests them out on eight lucky diners each night, before the top dishes make their way onto other menus in the Rogan collection.

L’Enclume – French for anvil – is named in honour of its location in a 13th-century blacksmiths workshop. You’ll find an anvil in the middle of the restaurant, which is a wonderfully simple set of spaces with white painted stone walls, focal furnaces, low ceilings with original beams and lots of natural materials – from the carved tables to rock candleholders and minimal pine fir floral arrangements on each table. There’s a striking conservatory overlooking the River Eea that we imagine comes into its own during lunch service and the summer months, and an open kitchen, where diners can watch head chef Paul Burgalieres and his brigade of chefs at work. Dishes are served on wrought iron and stone, while otherworldly fungi-like ceramic sculptures by local artist Eryl Fryer line the walls, all coming together to emphasise the restaurant’s focus on locality and nature.


Once seated, guests are given the option to see the multi-course menu in advance – or to be surprised by each dish as it comes. Though I took the former option, the array of textures, tastes and temperatures meant every dish was still eye-opening. A beetroot, rose and smoked perch pike roe tart was a pretty tangle of pink that exploded with flavour; the Berkswell cheese pudding caramelised in birch sap and finished with stout vinegar was a cheese lover’s paradise (as was the incredible cheese trolley that arrived an hour or so later, filled with incredible British varieties supplied by the village’s own Cartmel Cheeses shop); a hero dish of seaweed custard, beef broth, bone marrow, caviar and Porlock Bay oysters was as indulgent and once-in-a-lifetime as it sounds; and multiple dishes used herbs and flowers such as perilla, lovage, sweet woodruff and chrysanthemum to great effect, both visually and as an essential component to each mouthful. Throughout, each dish was perfectly paired with eight extra-special wines which, like everything else at L’Enclume, were presented with flair, passion and expertise.

There were four dessert courses, and the penultimate dish was a gold chocolate anvil embossed with a ‘20’ to mark the big anniversary. A caramel mousse with miso, apple and spruce, it was the perfect celebratory ending to a remarkable meal. On the evening we dined, there were 14 courses, but we didn’t feel uncomfortably full or – as can sometimes happen with multiple tiny courses – a little hungry. Which was just as well, as the next day’s breakfast at sister restaurant Rogan & Co was not one to skip. On a wintry morning, we feasted on everything from a whisky and crème brulee-style porridge and oven-fresh cinnamon rolls to devilled eggs, homemade beans and pressed juices made with veg from the farm – a memorable sign-off.


It goes without saying that my expectations were sky high, but our evening at L’Enclume smashed them. I knew the food was going to be next level (and it was – I’ve been thinking about the Cornish cod, Mylor prawn, Morecambe Bay shrimp and veberna dish ever since), but what really elevated the experience was the service, which was unlike anything I've seen. Despite it being a three-star establishment, I didn’t expect it to be stuffy or formal (for a start, there’s no dress code), but I also didn’t anticipate how friendly, welcoming and relaxed the atmosphere would be. On top of that, all the staff from the kitchen to front of house were so brilliantly choreographed and in sync – at times, it was like watching a ballet around the dining room. The menu flowed and each dish was announced with joy, which was completely contagious. Eating – and staying – at L’Enclume isn’t cheap, but we can hand on heart say the four hours we spent in its dining room elicited a joy and happiness that will endure forever in the memory.


If you’re travelling up, we recommend booking one of the restaurant’s 16 bedrooms and suites, which are dotted around the village, each within a quick walk from the restaurant. When you book a bedroom, you’re automatically guaranteed a table at L'Enclume and breakfast at Rogan & Co. Each room is individually designed and takes references from its surroundings. Every bathroom is filled with luxurious bath products and diffusers – all available to buy in the team’s Our Shop on the village square, alongside granite pepper pots, cast-iron spice mills and the restaurant’s own coal oil, seaweed salt and jams. I walked away with a clutch of those same ceramics found in L’Enclume, which went on to become well-received Christmas presents.


Driving from London to Cartmel takes around five and a half hours. The nearest train stations are Grange-over-Sands and Oxenholme. Trains from London take around three and a half hours, and run several times a day from Euston.

L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria, LA11 6QA

Visit LEnclume.co.uk

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