Simon Rogan has been building an impressive CV. After learning his trade under Jean Christophe Novelli and Marco Pierre White, he recently won the Catey best restaurant and best chef "double" - the first in more than 30 years. L’Enclume, his 2 starred flagship, is one of just 11 restaurants in the UK with 5 AA rosettes and knocked the Fat Duck from top spot as Britain's best according to the 2014 Good Food Guide. One of his chefs won this years prestigious Roux scholarship and he’s recently taken over from Gordon Ramsey at Claridges, where he has publicly stated he is looking for 3 michelin stars at the £3m Fera. This man is not short of accolades…nor ambition.
Situated in the idyllic village of Cartmel (of sticky toffee pudding fame), L’Enclume is housed in an 800 year old blacksmiths just minutes from Lake Windermere. This rugged setting is perfect for the naturalistic style of Rogan’s cooking, which fuses leading edge technique with locally foraged flora and fauna, much supplied by his own farm.
On the night we visited we were treated to an incredible 21 course tasting menu kicked off with Oyster Pebbles "if you can't spot the real ones, this could be a long night"; cod yolk made from various "fish bits" coloured with saffron and served with salt and vinegar puffed rice; the L'Enclume hot pot with spherified potato, lamb and red cabbage; poached quails egg with a black garlic yolk; and a suckling lop served with a brutal looking sabre but which could be cut with a wooden spoon it was so soft. This wasn't the sort of food you cook at home.
To be honest I was looking forward to a good gripe about over-pretentious, over-worked cooking but this was just too good. The food here demonstrates the level of technique that made Heston Blumenthal a star, with flavours and presentation that turn foraging into a fine-dining spectacular. As well as the cooking, the service was as good as you'll find – we enjoyed a Harvard-esque debate on the topic of world-class service with the brilliant maître d’ before being given a guided tour of both the service and development kitchens. Given the 266 mile each way drive from London, I would recommend making a week of it to take in the natural beauty of the Lakes and the hospitality of the local hostelries, but if you decide just to come for the food I promise you won't be disappointed.
I’m sure getting a table at Fera will be nigh on impossible for the next few years, and even worse if Rogan delivers on his 3 star promise, so take a trip to the Lake District and immerse yourself in the original jewel of the Rogan empire…and if you get really hungry, there's always the sticky toffee pudding.