Cartmel Village Shop for the world's finest sticky toffee pudding and other delights. There is now the wonderful Cartmel Cheese Shop too with best selection of locally produced cheeses I've ever seen. But the piece de resistance has to be L'Enclume.
I think l'enclume means 'the anvil' but could just as easily mean heaven. It is ranked fourth in the country in the Good Food Guide and the head chef, Mark Birchall, has just won one of the country's top competitions, the Roux Scholarship, and is off to spend three months working and learning at the restaurant of his choice, Cellar de Can Roca in Girona. My ambition now is to eat at the top three restaurants in the guide.
We arrived on Saturday evening, four of us to celebrate a friend's birthday. I must say the interior was not as I expected it to be. The exterior is old stone cottage in the heart of one of the most picturesque villages in the South Lakes. The interior is quite clinical with light wood, whitewashed walls and minimalist art on the walls. But the staff make you extremely welcome and are highly efficient while remaining approachable. They obviously share the chefs' love and knowledge of the food.
The restaurant has its own farm so you know the ingredients will be as fresh as they can be, many picked a few hours before they arrive on your table. Indeed they are so seasonal that the menu on Saturday was quite different to the sample on the website. Only the most jaded palate could fail to recognise the quality and freshness of the ingredients.
As we had a vegetarian in our party (yes I know!) we had to go for the twelve course rather than the eight course menu as we were all requested to go for the same number of courses. An extra four courses was a major hardship!
Every course was unique and full of fresh new flavours from the first course of waverex peas with crab and calamint to the last of sweet cheese with walnut, gooseberry, Douglas fir. The only complaint from my beloved was that she didn't get enough crab in her first course, I was happy with mine.
The plaice fillet and white vienna baked in salt went down especially well, even with my wife who is not the fishiest of people. What she commented on was how the piece of plaice resembled a fat chip. Coincidence or design? You never know with these clever chefs.
One dish we were all really looking forward to, that was on each menu, was the heritage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel. I'd heard about the intensity of the onion flavour in this dish and it really didn't disappoint. We all commented on how wonderful that particular dish was. Although we asked the waiter how the onion was cooked it is all a little hazy as we were on our fourth bottle of wine by the time we enquired and were about to embark upon our ninth course of damson cake, honeycomb, mint and sweet cicely.
I don't claim to be a wine connoisseur but I do enjoy a glass of wine. The wine list was extremely good with the full range of prices and choice. We decided to swerve around the £910 bottle of champagne but had several bottles, red and white, that were extremely good quality and came in at under £25 each.
Just in case you think I lead some kind of Michael Winner existence, venturing out of my multi-million pound mansion to spend thousands in fashionable retaurants before getting my private jet to whisk me off to a Caribbean retreat nothing could be further from the truth. We, Mrs B and I, along with our friends Netty and Steve love our food and every year or so have a treat, this time it was for Netty's birthday.
This was the first restaurant I've enjoyed so much I felt the need to blog about it. It seems fashionable at the moment to do lists of what you want to do before you die. Please put L'Enclume at the top of your list, I promise you will die happy.