The Pit Smokehouse – Culcheth, Cheshire

“Our very own dirty food emporium, right on our doorstep!”

The great burger revolution that has swept through, well err…. Manchester over the last few years has shown little sign of abating. Solita, Byron, Almost Famous, Reds, Five Guys and various Smokehouse empires have grilled into the fray with apparent success. Followers will know I am a fan of a well turned out burger. So it was with a welcome heart that I slumped into a relatively local joint called The Pit Smokehouse. Its housed in a sort of house/shop type set up in Culcheth. Culcheth is a fairly well heeled enclave outside Warrington in leafy Cheshire and only a few miles from my home town of Newton le Willows.

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The site formerly housed a haphazard attempt at fine dining called ‘Duck Egg Blue’. The decor has been completely swept aside in favour of the customary ranch style set up that is de rigeur for a ‘smokehouse’. Big rustic tables, cow horns, logos branded into wood, you get the picture, its all to make you feel like you’ve hit the deep south, roped yourself a bucking longhorn, had its backside wiped and slapped on the barbie. Even had Lynyrd Skynyrd on the house PA!

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I surveyed the menu. It’s a fine body of work, if you like grilled and smoked meat. I ordered a cowboy sized peanut butter shake (shouldn’t that have been a bourbon on the rocks? – Ed) and set about my order.

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For starts I signed up for some smoked chicken wings in a Jack Daniels honeyed coat (3 pieces for £3.95). They turned up smarttish and crikey they were good. These chickens must have had a good life, I reckon they could’ve flown for miles. They must have been the biggest, meatiest wings Ive ever had. Cracking start.

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From the impressive burger list I plumbed for a ‘Volcano’ burger, which promised to be hot with jalepeno and their signature chilli. It came in at £11.95 with skin on fries. It came, teetering on a board, stabbed in place with a menacing, but necessary sharp knife. Such was the ‘immenseness’ of the offer I had to deconstruct it to do it justice. For me it was probably too big. Most of the constituents were as expected. The chilli was hot and flavoursome, cheese oozed from various ports. The only slight disappointment was the actual beef patty (or should I say patties). They were a little dry for me. We know we can have juicy pink when the meat is of this quality. A shame really as this could have been a solid 9 out of 10. The dry beef making it a 7 at best. The chips were good, but I hardly touched them after all this!

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I couldn’t fit a dessert in. All in all an encouraging find. I’d definitely give it another go next time I need a dirty food fix. Worth a try, just ask for the one burger, and make sure its pink!

The Pit Smokehouse
453 Warrington Road
Culcheth
Warrington
Cheshire
WA3 5SJ

www.thepitsmokehouse.co.uk

PS One in Widnes too

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L’Enclume – Cartmel, Cumbria

“Well thats one on the bucket list ticked off! Think Ill go again and again though…..”

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Finally done it. Finally absorbed the foraged and farmed nutrients of Simon Rogans’s Cumbrian bounty. His two Michelin starred restaurant L’Enclume. Took 55 years exactly to do it mind, but I did it. And it met all expectations. An astounding experience.

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After a gentle meander in the ‘Rogan L’Enclume’ shop, (where I just managed to avoid buying a stainless steel quail egg topper!), we trudged the two hundred yards or so through the torrential rain from the quaint little square of Cartmel to the stone, understated former smithy that now houses this edifice of gastronomic wonderment. Indeed the anvil (English for L’Enclume geddit?) is the only exterior nod to the great place inside. We entered for a lunch time treat starting at 1.30pm. The place was packed! We were greeted with extraordinary enthusiasm by the ecstatic front of house team. There seemed to be hundreds of them.

Once ensconced at our generous, organically shaped table we allowed the experience to wash over us. A large, cumbrian G&T to settle the nerves. And then we were off. The eight course extravaganza was underway. I now merely quote from the wax anvil (natch) sealed envelope which housed our menu and wine flight in full.

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First up a gentle start of stringy leeks, garlic and ashes, with deep fried ball of pork and eel with ham fat. We gingerly tucked in. Needn’t have worried. Glorious start. To think my food hell is beetroot. Up next a stunning puree of beetroot with pine and a quail egg underneath. Arguably the best course for me. It could have been a dessert such was the wonderful sweetness and luscious texture of the mousse. Historic.

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Next up aged veal with a touch of coal oil, radish and oxalis. A rather dainty dish this, dwarfed by the heady circumference of its earthenware dish. Next another highlight, Candisa cabbage, english wasabi and fermented mushroom. The cabbage was charred, the mushroom augmented with truffle. Sensational. I must mention the breads and butters at this stage. They appeared in various guises throughout. All warmed with pasteurised or unpasteurised butter. All utterly faultless.

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Next a saddle of lamb and turnips with sweetbreads and glazed kale. Wonderfully cooked. The kale supplied with other foraged specimens. Then the sweet bits started. First up a symphony of strawberries, malwina ones with verbana.

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Another sweet bit next, rhubarb with yoghurt a sweet cicely. We elected to sample the cheeseboard as an extra. Super local ones with an array of fancy crackers.

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As it was my birthday I got my own individual almond cake. With coffee we then plundered the kendal mint cake ice cream balls and the edible moss gel! Amazing stuff.

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The whole lot came in at £300 with tip. The lunch itself is £55 with the wine flight a further £49. We were there for nigh on four hours. A stunning experience. We left with beaming smiles on our faces. I have to say it was faultless. Everything was just so. Front of house, the ambiance, the decor, the cookery, the wine all exemplary. I just wish I could eat like this every week. Just do it people…..

L’Enclume
Cavendish Street, Cartmel
Nr Grange over Sands
Cumbria, LA11 6PZ
+44 (0) 15395 36362
http://www.lenclume.co.uk