I love bank holiday weekends. I love the build up, I love not working for three days and I love the feeling of endless possibility.
But most of all, I love escaping London. And while everyone else makes a desperate dash for warmer European climes, The Swede and I have made a conscious effort to explore what lies on our doorstep.
This most recent long weekend took us up to the Lake District. This was perhaps a little ambitious, given it is a good five hour drive before the headache of bank holiday traffic is even taken into account. Nevertheless, I had waited several months to secure a reservation at L’Enclume for a time that would suit, so we were damn well making the trip, regardless of how long it took.
The Swede, ever the pessimist when it comes to traffic and waiting longer than necessary, was surprisingly easy to get on board. Dangle the keys of a rented Jaguar F-type and we could have been doing the overland route to Mongolia for all he cared. Carrot and stick approach: works every time.
I am so glad we made the effort.
The stunning landscape grabbed us first. The rolling hills, steely lakes and moody skies seemingly fell straight from the pages of my childhood Beatrix Potter tales (quite fitting, really, considering this is Peter Rabbit territory). And then came the tiny medieval village of Cartmel – the perfectly picturesque setting for what was to come, with its cobbled streets, bubbling brook, main square and bevy of traditional pubs (where we were inevitably to spend the afternoon).
We chose to both dine and sleep at L’Enclume – although the restaurant is situated in the town centre, so if accommodation is fully booked, it would be just as easy to lodge at one of the nearby bed and breakfast establishments. That being said, I really do recommend staying at L’Enclume, as the rooms were simple but bursting with homely country comfort – and, more to the point, the included breakfast is fantastic.
Onto dinner. We were lucky enough to be seated in the conservatory, which afforded beautiful views of the garden and stood to remind us that we were a world away from busy London (if you get the chance, do request to be seated here! It appeared far more atmospheric than the dark restaurant interior).
As for the food, we were treated to seventeen amazing courses – from ‘snacks’ to starters and mains to dessert (not to mention a fabulous cheese course, courtesy of Neals Yard Dairy). At this point, I will let my pictures do the talking when it comes to showcasing some of the dishes from the night. It is worth mentioning that choosing a standalone favourite is near impossible, granted the meal was comprised of a well-rounded string of hits with so few (if any) misses.
Snacks: mackerel, malted wheat, dill | Langoustine, caviar and oxalis | Pea and cod sack.
Course 9: grilled scallop and cauliflower, strawberry, barley and ice plant
The often difficult-to-please Swede coined our time at L’Enclume his best dining experience within the UK – if not ever. And I would have to agree. From start to finish, everything was truly on point. Service struck the perfect balance of professional, yet fun and casual. The setting was gorgeous. And the food was inspired, thoughtful and always delicious.
Having now reached the end of this post, it has dawned on me that I should not have been so quick to jump on the L’Enclume bandwagon. The very thought of never again being able to obtain the already difficult to score reservation makes me want to curl up in the foetal position. However, I have come this far and I am too lazy to start again from a different angle.
On that note: L’Enclume is awful.
NB: it is worth noting that Simon Rogan hardly needs screaming fans waxing lyrical about his magic to pull a crowd. L’Enclume currently carries two Michelin stars and recently topped the list of UK’s best restaurants.
Cavendish Street, Cartmel, Grange-Over-Sands, LA11 6PZ