This was our third visit to L’Enclume. Our last time was in 2012 (there didn’t seem a point schlepping up the M6 in the couple or so years that Simon Rogan had a restaurant in Manchester). There’s been some changes since then. Gone is the stiff, formal service that, to be blunt, was up itself. That’s now replaced with a much more relaxed style - staff will smile and engage with you and dishes may be brought by a server, one of the chefs or, indeed, by Rogan himself. Service, however, remains “proper” and is well paced by the kitchen – nothing rushed but no thumb twiddling waiting for your next bite. It comes at a price – back in 2012, dinner was £89, now the fifteen courses come in at £155, with the wine flights adding £80 or £120. But then you are eating at a two Michelin star restaurant which the Good Food Guide rates as the second best in the whole of the UK. We were looking forward to the next three hours or so, expecting to taste new flavours and new flavour combinations. Bring it on!
When I’m writing about our restaurant dinners, I like to describe the individual dishes but these were too many and too intricate to remember in detail and we were here to enjoy ourselves and I was not about to start writing notes. So, all I can is list the dishes we had (as described on the menu) and make some general comments:
Kohlrabi soup, pear and horseradish leaf oil
Pork and eel, fermented sweetcorn
Sea scallops from Gairloch
Crown Prince, yolk and spices
Potatoes in onion ashes
Sourdough bread, with raw milk butter and rendered pork fat
Celeriac baked in salt and sugar kelp with their own caviar
Cornish turbot, mussel, kale leaves
Candisa cabbage, truffle and wasabi leaf
Dexter cow, hen of the woods, pickled unripe walnuts
Ragout and Jerusalem artichokes
Tunworth cheese, rhubarb
Pear with yoghurt and apple marigold
Caramel, teacake, mint stones, peach.
In any lengthy tasting menu, I’d expect to come across a dish or two that didn’t quite work for me, but not here. Everything worked in itself and, also, one dish with the one that followed. Nothing jarred but you might say that meant that there was no absolute belter of a dish that stood out amongst the rest. But that really is because everything was so well balanced. It’s mentioned that all of the fruit and veg comes from Rogan’s own local farm, so there is a guarantee of seasonality. For example, the potato dish comes on and off the menu depending on the quality of the crop at the time.
The early dishes above were described as “snacks” – pretty much single bite affairs that, elsewhere, might be served as canapes. They included one of our favourite dishes on the evening – the scallops. They came in three preparations, including raw scallop and cooked roe. Just delicious. As was the perfectly cooked turbot. The Dexter cow dish features a small piece of sirloin and that’s followed by the ragout – long cooked Dexter, probably packing the biggest flavour punch of the evening.
As mentioned, the service throughout was excellent. My companion in life took the “signature” wine flight (I don’t drink alcohol) and has high praise for the sommelier who has put together an excellent array of wines to taste, explaining each with great enthusiasm. All in all a really enjoyable evening.