L’Enclume, Cartmel – Cerebral

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L’Enclume
Cavendish Street
Cartmel, Grange-over-Sands
LA11 6PZ
Tel. 015395 36362

Food type: Modern British/ Creative

Nearest tube: Sloane Square

Website: L’Enclume

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Table Setting

L’Enclume was the main reason for the road trip in November. A five hour or so drive from my home in Surrey to Cartmel is no mean feat, especially for someone who suffers from travel sickness. I blame my weak inner ear fluid. My desire to visit L’Enclume was born from my visit to Fera at Claridges (which Simon Rogan has recently announced parting ties with) earlier in the year. By no means was the meal at Fera bad. It felt rather industrialised which is unsurprising giving the number of covers. The cooking was polite and correct, but lacked character. It lacked soul. But as Rogan’s food is so highly rated by both food writers and chefs alike, I decided to make the long trek up to Cartmel to experience his cooking first hand.

There is only a tasting menu for both lunch and dinner, prettily presented in a sealed envelope. They do check for allergies and dietary requirements beforehand so I am sure the menu is not completely set in stone. Priced at £130, this is on par with most 2* restaurants in London. It is actually more expensive than say the tasting menu at Marcus. There is also a shorter lunch menu priced at £55. We booked their ‘Cartmel Escape’ package which included the dinner menu for two, accommodation, half a bottle of Nyetimber sparkling wine and breakfast at Rogan and Co. the next day. Just as a side note, unlike many restaurants with rooms, the accommodation (and sister restaurant) is not located at the same site as the restaurant but is a short 2 minute walk around the corner. It was not a problem for us, but it is important to come prepared, knowing what the British whether is like.

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Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London – From Strength to Strength

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Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
68 Royal Hospital Road
London
SW3 4HP
Tel. 020 7352 4441

Food type: Modern French

Nearest tube: Sloane Square

Website: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

I have been very slow to update my blog. One of the main reasons is because of my new job which requires me to do a fair bit of commuting. That leaves me very little free time in between to blog. With free time at a premium, I have prioritised eating over blogging. In between, I have also discovered Instagram. Yes, I know I am a bit late to the game, but the whole app is rather addictive and I have found myself spending more time uploading pictures and notes of my meal there rather than writing a formal blog.

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Restaurant Entrance

Anyhow, almost a year to the date, we returned to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road for lunch. Last year, we dined at the Inspiration table which was an excellent experience altogether. Much like my free time, getting a table at RHR is hard to come by given how small the restaurant is. Despite the restaurant not featuring prominently with today’s Instagram crowd (the restaurant allows photos via camera phones only) it is still a very popular spot for both their regulars and gastro-tourists alike. One of the main reasons is because the food here continues to evolve with todays trendy dining crowd. Although the cooking here may be rooted in classical flavours, they continue to modernise, embracing newer cooking techniques and lighter flavours. Of course, Ramsay has been blessed with a very talented team as well with long time sous chef Matt Abe now heading up the kitchen.

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Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham – World Class

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Restaurant Sat Bains
Lenton Lane,
Nottingham, NG7 2SA
Tel. 0115 986 6566

Food type: Modern British

Nearest train station: Nottingham

Website: Restaurant Sat Bains

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Restaurant Sat Bains

There are some restaurants that you have such a perfect experience at that you dare not revisit in case it does not live up to that memory. Restaurant Sat Bains is one of those – a restaurant I had visited nearly 4 years ago for my birthday and had one of those most interesting, thought-provoking meals. I can still remember each and every single dish of that meal which is a testament to how memorable my experience was. This would be my 3rd visit here, having visited once when they held a solitary star. For the complete, experience, we would also be staying in one of the hotel rooms, which are all individually furnished and unique. Nothing beats rolling into bed after a lengthy meal.

The drive up to the restaurant takes you through an industrial estate which is rather unattractive. Energy pylons hang overhead. This is a very unlikely setting for a fine dining restaurant. Yet, the moment you arrive, you are transported into a little tranquil oasis. The property has undergone a bit of development since my last visit. One of the rooms has made way for their new prep kitchen, there is the addition of their developmental kitchen (Nucleus) which doubles up as an exclusive dining room and finally they continue to expand their gardens by growing vegetables on site.

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Tasting Menu

One of my fellow diners used to frequent the restaurant, back when he was living in Nottingham and the restaurant was actually called Hotel Des Clos. Back then the restaurant offered an a la carte menu, with the tasting menu (surprise menu) created spontaneously by the kitchen. By that, what I mean is, they did not actually have a tasting menu so when the customer (on the very rare occasion) ordered the tasting menu, the kitchen would scramble to come up with something. These days, the a la carte menu is gone and there is only a choice of 7-course tasting menu (£85) or a lengthier 10-course menu (£95) which features a few extra dishes. We dined at the Chef’s Table on this visit where the 10-course menu attracts an additional £30 supplement. Sat’s Great British Menu winning dish ‘Ham, Eggs & Peas’ is available as an extra course for a supplement of £15 and cheese is an extra £8. We went for the full monty with all the extras although we opted to skip the wine pairing in favour of a couple of bottles from their excellent wine list.

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Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham – Championship Pedigree

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Le Champignon Sauvage
24-28 Suffolk Road
Cheltenham GL50 2AQ
Tel. 01242 573 449

Food type: Modern French

Nearest train station: Cheltenham Spa

Website: Le Champignon Sauvage

Le Champignon Sausage, better known to the locals as ‘the champion sausage’ has been flying the gastronomic flag for Gloucester for nearly 30 years. Chef/ proprietor David Everitt-Matthias has been doing the foraging thing that is so much the rage in todays dining scene long before it was even a thing. It is almost as if he was prophetic in his cooking style, a man way ahead of his time, to include foraged food items on the plate while every one else at that time was messing around with sous vide and foams. Along with his wife, Helen (who runs front of house), Everritt-Matthias has successfully retained 2*s for more than a decade and a half. During this time, many chefs have passed through the kitchen doors, going to carve a career of their own. Alumnus include Matt Worswick and Mark Stinchcombe (winner of Masterchef Professionals 2015). In fact, when I was chatting with Phil Howard recently, he mentions that any chef coming from the kitchen here are technically very sound. David is also the rare breed of chefs who is (until this day) always there cooking in his own kitchen and has never missed a service.

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Dining Room

We dined on a Tuesday night where the restaurant offers the standard fixed priced a la carte menu – 3 courses for £65 as well as a cheaper menu du jour for £32 (also available during lunch). There is no tasting menu available. There are around 6 options per course on the standard a la carte menu where the dishes are slightly more elaborate than the ones on the menu du jour. Selecting the dishes can be tricky though as all the items sound very appealing. The wine list does have a good selection of half bottles and if you look carefully there are some absolute gems at a very fair price. The dining room features tables that are nicely spaced apart and *gasp* table cloths. Unlike many restaurants, they maintain a sensible level of lighting such that you can actually see the food you are eating. Service here is excellent, led by an experienced front of house team, although I wish the atmosphere would have been a lot less hush-hush.

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the Kingham Plough, Chipping Norton – Careless

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the Kingham Plough
The Green,
Kingham,
Chipping Norton, OX7 6YD
Tel. 0162 
8405 405 

Food type: Modern British

Nearest train station: Kingham

Website: the Kingham Plough

The Kingham Plough is one of those places that has always been on my radar ever since chef/ proprietor Emily Watkins started appearing on Great British Menu. Unlike many people, I do take cooking shows like GBM and Masterchef with a grain of salt. You just have to look at how inconsistent the judges scores are compared to the chef’s scores to conclude that at the best of times, the judges are just chatting a bunch of codswallop or at least biased towards certain types of cooking. With Emily winning the fish course, it made me take notice of her pub/ restaurant, but even that itself was not enough reason for me to make a special journey to dine there. Our meal at the Kingham Plough was an impromptu decision, made the day before, as we were staying in the area for a couple of days, having dined at the Wild Rabbit the evening before.

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Restaurant Exterior

We dined at lunch where there was a cheap lunch menu (3 courses for £18) alongside the standard a la carte menu. There are 4 options per course on the small a la carte menu. Thats not a problem for me though this may be limiting to some diners. Items are rather fully priced. Starters are £10 – £12, Mains £22 – £25 (except for the vegetarian option which is £17) and Desserts £7 – £8. Although I am sure that Chipping Norton and the village of Kingham must be an expensive neck of the woods, the prices here are on par with what is being charged at 1* Hind’s Head and Royal Oak, both located at fairly upmarket areas. There is also a bar snacks menu with an extensive selection of snacks and larger plate options which cost about the same amount as a starter.

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