Review: Stay and dine in Cartmel, the picturesque Lake District village glittered in Michelin stars
Enduring a three-hour-plus drive up to the Lake District from our home in the Midlands for a one-night stay with dinner may seem a little extreme.
But when the opportunity to add Michelin star dining to a visit to one of the most beautiful parts of Britain arises, sometimes these things have to be done.
The small picturesque village of Cartmel may be unfamiliar to many, but ask any 'foodie' about its lure and they will tell you it's home to two incredible restaurants boasting an astonishing four Michelin stars between them.
It's an impressive stamp for such a tiny place tucked away on the edge of the Cumbrian border and it's all thanks to decorated chef and culinary heavyweight Simon Rogan, owner of L'Enclume and its sister restaurant Rogan & Co.
And what a year it's been for Simon, for as well as celebrating the 20th anniversary of his company, 2022 has also seen L'Enclume win its third Michelin star, making it the first restaurant outside London and the South East to ever receive the prestigious status.
For this visit my wife and I would be dining in the more laid-back surroundings of Rogan & Co, located in the centre of Cartmel in a pretty cottage alongside a stream.
Conveniently, our accommodation for the night - one of L'Enclume's super plush guest rooms - was right next door which ensured that everything was set up for a hassle-free whistle-stop stay.
With dinner later in the evening, there was an afternoon of time to kill to see what else Cartmel had to offer and the answer is quite a lot.
Folk flock from far and wide to visit the hidden gems of fine dining, but it's good to know there are plenty of other attractions to keep people amused, including a variety of independent stores, traditional Lakeland inns and tea rooms as well as Cartmel Village Shop, the 'home of sticky toffee pudding'.
For us, conscious of the gourmet feast that lay ahead, a 'pit stop' at Unsworth's Yard provided the perfect refreshment opportunity, where the offering of a cheese shop, wine store and craft brewery prompted purchases to help create the perfect 'grazing' lunch which we enjoyed in the shared courtyard.
L'Enclume has 16 bedrooms and suites dotted around the village, each designed with a unique style and references to the historic surroundings. Whichever restaurant you're dining at, all room bookings include breakfast at Rogan & Co.
We were staying in 'Rosehip', a spacious first floor bedroom with large bay window overlooking the pretty Cartmel shops, which also included an en-suite bathroom with rainforest shower, wall-mounted television, king-size bed and Nespresso coffee machine. There were a few complementary perks too including the addition of home-made cookies, bottles of ginger beer, loose-leaf tea and a bottle of fresh milk.
Popping open a bottle of fizz while getting ready for our gastronomical experience seemed only fitting of the occasion and with just 24 hours in which to enjoy our countryside excursion, we started as we meant to go on.
Receiving the warmest of greetings at Rogan & Co, I was struck by the easy-going vibe and cosy, modern open-plan interior which featured attractive dark wooden beams, welcoming open fires and walls showcasing all things Lakeland.
Smiling members of the chatty and professional serving team presented each dish with expert knowledge, helping us kick off proceedings with recommended pre-dinner cocktails of Basil Martini and Elderflower and Pisco Spritz.
Dinner was a choice of three courses with some 'chef's surprises' in between, all costing just £79 per head, which is a reasonable price for Michelin star-standard cuisine.
Treating our pallets to the enhanced tasting experience, we added wine pairings for £40 each which was definitely worth the extra outlay.
First course was a beautifully presented row of canape-style snacks which included a Cod's roe tartlet, Parmesan sable with artichoke cream and Truffled mushroom dumpling, all of which sent the taste buds into overdrive.
The unexpected, but welcome addition of mouthwatering crusty bread with salted butter followed before the arrival of our exquisite starters - Caramelised potato, smoked eel with dill and ramson, and a Mackerel tartare, horseradish with radish pickles and dill.
Credit to head chef Tom Reeves on a thoroughly appealing menu, with Simon Rogan's influence clear to see thanks to the great use of creative ingredients and flavour combinations, with all the produce sourced from Simon's farm in the Cartmel Valley and from trusted Lake District suppliers. With the wine flowing, we were happy to take our time and savour the wonderful atmosphere only a Michelin star restaurant can bring.
Main course was a tough choice, but after such a delicious fish starter, I followed a similar path by opting for the Parmesan Crusted cod, grilled marrow, watercress and shrimp sauce, which didn't disappoint, while my wife's pick of Dry aged dexter beef cheek, horseradish glazed kale and whey onion was equally appetising, with the rich meaty flavours melting in the mouth.
Sumptuous desserts of Dark chocolate fondant with apple marigold and Baked rice pudding with macadamia and blackberry followed, adding some welcoming sweetness to the pallet, before we rounded off the event by sharing a selection of cheeses along with an espresso coffee and petit fours.
Happy that the comfort of bed was just a few steps away, it didn't seem long before we were back at our table the following morning where another surprise awaited in the form of a blind 'tasting menu' breakfast of porridge with whiskey and freshly baked cinnamon buns followed by smoked bacon, field mushrooms with parsley butter and home-made baked beans, deviled eggs and brioche toast from nearby Kendal.
It's the thoughtful touches and surprises that make overnight staycations like this so special and as we left Cartmel with plenty to reminisce we almost forgot about the length of the journey ahead. So whether you live close to the beautiful Lake District or not, I'd say the extra mileage is totally worth it.
'Stay and dine' at Rogan & Co is available Tuesday to Saturday and includes a three-course dinner with snacks and breakfast. Prices start from £375. For more information visit the Rogan & Co website.