Tag Archives: Simon Rogan

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.

enclume menu

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

 

The French – Midland Hotel, Manchester

“Its food Jim, but not as we know it”

The Flame and I had the very good fortune to experience the phenomenon that is The French. I’m sure many know it is one of the restaurants overseen by chef extraordinaire Simon Rogan. It is set in a grand room within the equally grand surroundings of The Midland Hotel in Manchester City centre. We graced the hallowed theatre a few minutes before our allotted start time of 7pm.

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It was a Saturday night which means your choice is taken away. It is preordained that thy shall have the ten courses listed. Drinks however, are a different matter. You need to plough through at least two handsome volumes to determine what you want to drink. We each settled to a ‘livener’ of our choice. A “down the rabbit hole” and a “Perennial Julep”, both absolutely delish. Whilst The Flame selected a water, I plumbed into the £60 option of a five glass ‘wine flight’. Each selected by the sommelier who explained which tree each glass had come and when. I’m not a wine buff but they were all excellent.

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Soon things got underway. Swarms of ruddy cheeked, young waiters set to the task. Nothing seemed too much trouble, brows were mopped, napkins were folded, glasses re-filled and prongs of cutlery were placed at a prescribed jaunty angle at a pre-set time. They did however struggle to stop the intermittent waft of chilled air that swept over us when the air conditioning kicked in!

But then to the food. I’m not about to wax lyrical about acidity, sweet, sour, crunch and texture. I don’t think my palate knows enough about that, but I know a man who does! Hence the reason we were there. I left all the taste and texture matching to Simon and his team. Suffice to say it was incredible.

The first course was effectively three! A trotter coated in breadcrumbs with ham fat cream and sage, a shrimp, celery and tomato salad on a chick pea crisp and a baked potato filled with soft cheese in a sack of soil made from beetroot dust. What a start.

Trotter, Chick pea crisp, Potato in a sack, The Bread
Trotter, Chick pea crisp, Potato in a sack, The Bread

We then had the only dish that The Flame wasn’t too keen on. It was turnip dumplings, marrow and horseradish with a beef and onion broth. The turnips were so soft they simply melted. The broth so beefy.

Turnip in beef broth
Turnip in beef broth

Next one of the highlights, the raw Ox in coal oil with pumpkin seed, kohlrabi and mustard leaf. The coal oil brought an amazing smoky tinge to the whole dish.

Ox in coal oil
Ox in coal oil

One of the weaker dishes next, a breaded oyster with butternut squash with bacon buttermilk and mint. It was still great though.

Breaded oyster
Breaded oyster

Next up was another surprising highlight. Pickled red cabbage with beenleigh blue cream cheese, some violet mustard, linseed sand and walnut. Texturally this was incredible; it had everything, crunch, soft, sour and sweet. Superb.

A cheese course
A cheese course

Then it’s the fish course. Plaice, barbecued purple sprouting broccoli, chicken fat potatoes and pennywort. I’ve never had potatoes like this, soft and so much flavour. By this time I’m on the third glass of matched wine!

Plaice and potatoes
Plaice and potatoes

The main course. Reg’s duck, roast parsnips, cavolo Nero with old tom vinegar. The duck beautifully soft and pink. A meaty jus spooned over gently by one of the waiters adding the final touch. A robust, red Syrah accompanied.

Duck
Duck

We then got on to the first of three sweets! Beetroot meringue crisps with sheep’s milk parfait, frozen blackberries and chestnut. Absolutely gorgeous.

Beetroot meringue
Beetroot meringue

Sweet number two. Another wine. Quince, pear, ginger and butterscotch set on a slate. Superb. Apologies for the basic adjectives.

Quince and pear
Quince and pear

Last up ‘Sass n soda’. Basically this was a sandwich of sarsaparilla meringue, a sarsaparilla lollipop and sarsaparilla juice to finish. Astounding.

sass n soda
sass n soda

I then snuck another bourbon on at the end just to sooth things down. The Flame had a coffee with chocolates. Needless to say another winner.

The chocolate end
The chocolate end

The food part of the scheme was presented as a gift and cost £170. The drinking part was funded ourselves and added a further £105 to the bill. All in all we are talking the thick end of £300 for two at The French. Whilst not necessarily a once in a lifetime event it is nonetheless a ‘special occasion’ one for us. If you’ve not eaten like this it is an unforgettable experience and one that I urge all to try at least once.

Any ideas when L’Enclume next has some tables free?

 

The French
Midland Hotel
Peter Street,
Manchester M60 2DS

+44 (0)161 236 3333

http://www.the-French.co.uk

Mr Coopers House and Garden – Manchester

It finally happened. I bagged a table at Simon Rogan’s Mr Coopers House and Garden in Manchester. Ever since it was announced that Simon was coming to Manchester the buzz about town was palpable and I sensed that finally I can grace a Simon Rogan restaurant.
L’Enclume, Simon’s more famous Michelin starred restaurant in Cartmel has been top of my list for a couple of years now. The closest I’ve been was when I pressed my face against the window like a stray waif when I went camping in the Lakes last year. I’ve still got ‘The Trip’, with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, on the hard drive to give me a fix. You may recall this was a comedic, ‘gastronomique’, tour of Northern eateries. L’Enclume was featured in one episode along with ‘The Inn At Whitewell’ and others.

 

Mr Coopers (for short!) is camped in The Midland Hotel, arguably Manchester’s swankiest and classiest gaff. It is the second and most accessible restaurant in the complex. He opened ‘The French‘, a true, gastro, tour de force last year to high and universal acclaim. It remains Manchester’s best chance in decades of attaining a Michelin star.

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The Flame and I crept in on a calm Monday evening. Traditionally a graveyard shift in the world of hairdressing and feeding people. We entered to a gentle and perfectly pleasant buzz. We were in early doors as we were heading round the corner to see Scottish Rock Goddess KT Tunstall.

 

As the title suggests the room is divided between the house and the garden! We sat in the garden. This is easily identified by the tree and living, green wall. The overall effect of the room though is colonial opulence. It couldn’t be much else really set in the Midland with its high ornate ceilings and crystal chandeliers. Browns and reds swathe the furniture, although a natty sage green marks out the garden furniture. It is beautifully done.

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We chose our meal from the ‘house menu’ three courses for £23 (5.00 to 6.30pm). There are three starters, three mains and three deserts to chose. Our rather splendid maître de informed us that this menu changes every month.
The flame started with the smoked salmon belly with barbeque beets, violet mustard and golden raisins. She loved it. I’m not a great lover of smoked salmon but the sliver I was allowed was very tasty and had a lovely soft texture.
I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘uncious’ and finally I can use it to describe my molasses glazed pork belly, borlotti beans cassoulet with crushed avocado. My thick finger of pork belly simply melted in the mouth. It washed down beautifully with the slightly spicy beans and cool avocado mousse.
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The mains were equally sensational. My spiced salt cod, parsnip purée, spinach and raspberry vinaigrette was superb. The cod was cooked to perfection. It took me back to the original Rick Stein seafood programmes. He said fish should flake and be translucent. My cod hit that mark, it flaked and ‘transluced’ (see pic top right below), the salt and the spice sublime.
The flame had the butter poached chicken, chorizo stuffed peppers, pok choi and sweet potato, drizzled in a chorizo jus. I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted better chicken. The small finger nail piece I was allowed to try was incredible. It could be that the flame won dish of the day with this!
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We both finished with Pumpkin pie, chocolate and nut granola with treacle ice cream. Yes, it was as good as it reads. The ice cream in particular was a treat. It was great with the crunchy flakes of granola.
After the meal we left feeling very satisfied. The bill with a couple of large glasses of rather splendid Spanish red and some coffees came to £70. A touch over the top for a Monday tea perhaps but a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours. If you’re a T-bone steak, chips and onion rings man, this isn’t for you. This is exquisite, elegant dining, the accent firmly on flavour and great service. We will be back, probably on a busier night when I’m sure the atmosphere with more covers in will really pep up the heat.
Give it a try.
Mr Coopers House and Garden
The Midland Hotel,
Peter Street
Manchester
M60 2DS
0161 932 4128