I wanted to love L’enclume, I really did. Never before had I booked a restaurant six months in advance and spent more than a weeks pay on one meal for two. Any restaurant that employs a full-time ‘forager’ activates my almonds and my excitement on the morning of the L’enclume booking was palpable. I felt like I was getting married.
The restaurant is a charming, eight-hundred-year-old former smithy. L’enclume means ‘anvil’, a homage to the former blacksmith’s workshop housed. I’m a massive fan of Simon Rogan, and unlike many chefs, has a more modest ego. His food philosophy is “a case of growing the perfect carrot rather than cooking it perfectly.” He knows he can already cook it perfectly but the point is two-fold. One, excellent quality ingredients should require as little cooking – read interference – as possible. Secondly, although cooking is undoubtedly skilful, the real challenge is in producing the ingredients in the first place. Simon Rogan puts the suppliers in the limelight, and lets Mother Nature do the talking. To quote:“My dream menu would serve 20 raw courses, but I know [he laughs] I’d never get away with that.”
I know Simon Rogan hates comparisons between L’enclume and The Fat Duck, but they are oddly similar in the superficial sense of you’d walk right past them both without a second thought. Both look like large cosy cottages, opening directly onto the quiet road, with barely a suggestion world-class activity was busy inside. Both blend into the background, nestled between residential houses, in tucked-away villages.
I was left with mixed feelings due to the expense and the operational issues. That said, L’enclume made me feel genuinely proud; therefore the meal was memorable. Simon Rogan stayed true to his word: “I decided to keep it British, celebrate the north-west and eliminate all foreign stuff. You can’t just say, ‘Right, that’s it, we’re never going to use a lemon again’. You need to identify alternatives otherwise your food is going to be crap.”
L’enclume Restaurant Review Summary
Atmosphere 8 Cost 5 Quality 10 Service 6