It had been a few years since I last visited the lovely village of Cartmel in Cumbria and of course, Simon Rogan's renowned restaurant L'Enclume. I'd actually been booked in for a return visit earlier in the year in April with my wife, but the big C put paid to that trip sadly. However, with a short summer family getaway planned in The Lakes, it seemed an ideal time to stop off en route for a first visit to casual sister restaurant Rogan and Co, long time holder of three AA rosettes and indeed since 2018, a precious star from our favourite tyre munching inspectors.
I always feel there's a good amount of kudos that comes from your "casual" restaurant offering obtaining a star, and I had no doubt I was in line for a quality meal as I rocked up for lunch with my wife and two young children, on a sunny Monday in June at the start of our holiday. Parking in Cartmel is still difficult, but we managed to grab a free spot in the village (and took our chances with the now added time restrictions); the racecourse also offers pay and display parking a short walk away.
The welcome on arrival was professional and warm enough, and we were shown to our table. The dining room is very well finished as you'd expect, with a modern feel but with many classic touches such as exposed beams. Everything felt suitably COVID safe also, including the staff wearing masks and the menus being accessed via a QR code (although I personally can't wait to see the back of that recent change, give me a proper menu any day). On offer at lunch is a lunch menu as well as the full carte, although with some dishes appearing on both menus, it did require our waiter to confirm which menu we'd selected.
We went for the carte (of course), unfortunately although the restaurant claims to be child friendly, there's no children's menu and a very limited choice for young children, basically they can do a chicken and potatoes dish (which we ordered for both kids) and that's it, but at least they were happy to deliver it with the starters. Our waiter also enthusiastically did his best to offer us a side of greens to go alongside the main courses, freshly picked that very morning etc etc. Whilst I would never begrudge a bit of upselling, it did feel a little bit over the top for a restaurant of this level; we politely declined.
The wine and drinks list is thoughtfully compiled also as you'd expect; I enjoyed a couple of Pollination gin and tonics with my meal whilst my wife and children stuck with perfectly tasty apple juice. There's a good selection of cocktails (including non-alcoholic) and a nice spread of wines available by the glass.
And so, to the food. Lunch began with some decent sourdough bread, freshly baked that morning at L'Enclume we were told. It was well made and nice enough although a little unmemorable as a bread experience compared to other restaurants we've experienced of a similar level. On the plus side, they did serve portions for the kids as well which was appreciated.
For starters, I went for the duck terrine accompanied by a crumpet and a date sauce. The terrine itself was very tasty, and the date sauce made for a suitably smooth and luxurious accompaniment, but the crumpet was a little bit underwhelming; I was expecting that element to pack more flavour. My wife opted for a vegetarian starter of smoked egg yolk with fresh pea and jasmine which she reported was delicious (too nice to let me try any). For the kids, their chicken and potato dishes were delivered with the starters as promised and were perfectly edible.
For my main course, I went for the aged short rib of beef, served with broad beans and onion jam. This was a generally delicious plate and the cooking of the beef was spot on, my only real complaint being two small pieces of beef for £32 did feel rather mean for a carte main course, even at star level. And I suppose if I was being extra pernickety, I would add it didn't eat brilliantly either due to the textures of the bottom layer. My wife had the poached chicken accompanied by Jerusalem artichoke, stout vinegar and tarragon, which she thoroughly enjoyed.
Of course, there was no chance of us leaving without dessert and this proved to be a very wise choice. My wife opted for the baked vanilla cheesecake with pineapple and it was a triumph; certainly one of the finest cheesecakes we've had in our time and a dish we'd both happily eat again at any juncture. I ordered the set buttermilk custard dessert, but for some reason I was served the mascarpone sponge, accompanied by gooseberry, yoghurt and woodruff. It looked lovely so I kept my mouth shut and I was happy enough that I did, as it was another delicious dessert.
For the children, we'd asked if they could just have a scoop of vanilla ice cream (we'd seen that accompanied one of the desserts on the menu); this request seemed to cause some mild panic for some reason (although our waitress eventually said this was fine). However, what they actually did was effectively serve half the listed dessert of fresh churned vanilla ice cream with chocolate to each of them, and charged us as such. The ice cream was delicious though and my son in particular loved the accompanying jar of chocolate biscuit bits, so I was happy enough with the end result.
To finish, my wife and I both had a cappuccino which was lovely although not accompanied by any petit fours sadly. That said, with the bill they did provide some salted fudge (including a piece each for the children) which was very tasty indeed.
And so, an accomplished lunch came to an end. Overall the food was of a high standard; yes there were some minor niggles but generally the cooking was excellent. The menu pacing was fine and service throughout was generally good too, but there were some unexpected lapses like serving me the wrong dessert. Although, I noticed after we'd left that they'd not charged us for coffee, so I suppose a lack of attention to detail does have its benefits sometimes.
The main issue on this particular visit was a real lack of thought and imagination around the choices for children; it's great promoting yourself as child friendly in principle (and there were many other families in the restaurant during our visit) but I feel there's a lot more they could offer here to better cater for them. As much as I'd love my kids to just eat from a normal carte menu, like many other children, it's just not going to happy anytime soon.
But look, overall there's no doubt this is an excellent restaurant, a very worthy little sister to L'Enclume and a place I'd happily visit again in future at any point, being fully confident I'd receive another high class meal. I don't think anyone can really ask for much more than that.
|Ratings||Michelin Guide||AA Guide||Good Food Guide|
|At time of review||6|