A grand day out



Summer is here and a weekend in the foodie village of Cartmel is on the cards. Rosie McGlade finds that one of the best meals ever doesn’t have to cost a fortune…

The problem with somewhere like L’Enclume, Cartmel’s famous Michelin-starred restaurant owned by Simon Rogan – he of Claridge’s, London – is, let’s be honest, the price.

I’m not suggesting it’s not worth it – the long waiting list suggests it certainly is. It’s just that sometimes you have to make choices with your money – like will we eat there and not go on holiday this year, or eat somewhere cheaper and book a little package? I’m exaggerating of course, but all the same, it’s £120-a-head kind of money.

But then we pause. Nothing is cheap here, but for £5 or so more than the average, we can go to Rogan & Company. This is L’Enclume’s little sister, owned by the same Simon who seems to have taken over half the village, and a considerable step up from Pig & Whistle (also Rogan’s) where we have previously eaten potted chicken and belly pork in a rather bland dining room.

But Rogan & Company is gorgeous and we have absolutely one of the best meals we’ve had in a long time. The staff also treat you like minor royalty, which is nice, and we take the opportunity to find out where all the diners over at L’Enclume actually come from. “London,” our waitress whispers conspiratorially. “Though last summer, it seemed like every other person was Australian. I asked one of them what was going on and they said the TV programme The Trip had just been on there, when Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon visited Cartmel.”

Inside, Rogan & Co is a lovely former pub with beams, a big coal fire and beautiful photographs of the fells on the walls. Next to a tiny bridge over the village stream, surrounded by cobbles and with a sky full of stars, it looks like something out of a storybook. Mind, L’Enclume is similarly magical, though it is interesting to note that you’re prevented from staring at the privileged diners inside by frosted windows.

Back to Rogan & Co, and we are treated to a surprise amuse bouche of melting pork balls and a little loaf of sourdough with whipped Cumbrian butter, one half of it infused with seaweed. Oh, we do feel grand. It’s amazing how good food can lift the spirits. The hot and sour soup with chicken, brown shrimp and spring onion salad allows for some theatre, the salad arriving alone, an unusual medley in the middle of a bowl which seems not to know what to make of itself until the waiter produces a steaming kettle from which he pours a deliciously scented broth.

But the big thrill of the night is the rabbit terrine – meltingly delicious, with tarragon, meat chunks and liver parfait delicately rolled and served with a crisp vegetable wafer.

I’d read you don’t get much here, but that’s not true. The portions look pretty and are plentiful. I’d also read it’d taken a bit of experimentation for the restaurant to find its identity, but it’s found its place now, it seems. “Some of the dishes take a full day to prep, almost like L’Enclume,” a waiter tells us with an air of awe.

There are a sensible seven main courses to choose from, with local fish, meat and a veggie option. The haunch of red deer comes with smoked potatoes, hay-cooked celeriac and creamed kale – the vegetables almost outshining the excellent venison. The lamb rump, meanwhile, which arrives in a fanfare of orange foam and vegetable crisps, is earthy and delicious.

Having come all the way from London or Australia, L’Enclume regulars often make a weekend of it in a package which includes breakfast and one of their meals at Rogan & Co, so there are some super people-watching opportunities to make up for the frosted glass over at L’Enclume. It also means that standards here, too, have to be super-high. Our two starters, two main courses, and one driver’s glass of big, spicy South African Lammershoek red comes to £65. I could save up and take the family to L’Enclume, or come back and eat here and still have the funds to treat ourselves to wonderful adventures in the Lake District. For me, simple as I am, it’s a no-brainer.
Rogan & Co, Cartmel
tel 01539 535 917

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