Harley Young enjoys a Michelin star stay in the picturesque Cumbrian village

Two stops after passing the picture-perfect Grange-over-Sands, we arrived at Cark & Cartmel train station and rang one of the four mobile numbers on the community notice board. A well-spoken gent answered saying he’d collect us shortly. Sure enough, within five minutes, he arrived to take us to the rooms at L’Enclume located just a five-minute drive away (or a 45-minute walk if you’re more active than I).

He mentioned how he’d chosen to retire here and picked up taxi driving to ‘keep himself busy’ in his spare time as the quaint village has its fair share of visitors these days. 

“Back in the day, in the twelfth century, people used to make the pilgrimage to Cartmel for the priory. Now, they make it for Simon Rogan’s restaurants,” said our taxi driver as we drove towards the village, surrounded by stunning scenery and rolling fields full of spring lambs. 

2024 03 11 Grange Over Sands
The view from the train window as we approached Grange-over-Sands Image: Confidentials

We have people visit from all over to stay in Cartmel and try Simon’s offerings.

Arriving at the village, we could see why. 

The Medieval priory towers proudly above the fairytale-looking town, keeping watch over the gift shops, vintage stores, cheesemongers, cafes, handful of pubs and, of course, the three-Michelin-starred chefs three restaurants; Rogan & Co, L’Enclume and Aulis. 

You see, Cartmel is so incredibly rare as a village. As well as being stunningly beautiful, this foodie haven is so densely populated with Michelin stars despite its tiny stature. Small but mighty indeed. 

Me and my travel buddy Rosie (a friend who’d travelled all the way from back home in Sheffield to join me for a girls weekend, bless her soul) crossed over the stream and popped into The Royal Oak for a crisp post-journey pint before we set about exploring the local shops. 

2024 03 11 Outside The Royal Oak Cartmel
Outside The Royal Oak Image: Confidentials
2024 03 11 Fell Brewery Beers
Beers (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) from Fell Brewery in Cumbria Image: Confidentials
2024 03 11 Inside The Royal Oak Cartmel 2
Inside The Royal Oak Image: Confidentials
2024 03 11 Inside The Royal Oak Cartmel 1
A cosy little nook with a window by the fire Image: Confidentials

Exiting the pub and turning left, we were quickly met by the Cartmel village shop; a quaint-looking building filled to the brim with gifts and trinkets aplenty and a plaque that reads ‘Cartmel: the home of sticky toffee’. We spotted the famous sticky toffee pud in the fridges and grabbed a tub each to take home with us.

2024 03 11 Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky toffee puds stacked high Image: Confidentials
2024 03 11 Cartmel Gift Shop 1
A plethora of chutneys, wines and spirits Image: Confidentials
2024 03 11 Cartmel Gift Shop 2
Gifts and sweet treats Image: Confidentials

Pudding acquired, we ventured on to Our Shop by Simon Rogan, located a strenuous five-second walk across the road. Inside, a well curated range of Simon’s best selling products including cook books, specially selected ingredients and farm-grown goods. 

I was chatting to Rosie about the farm, Simon Rogan’s three restaurants in the village and also Tom Barnes’ soon-to-be-open Manchester restaurant, Skof, as we browsed the shelves. The shopkeeper smiled and said “You know your stuff. We’re so lucky to have all of this in such a small village. We have people visit from all over to stay in Cartmel and try Simon’s offerings. We’re all excited to see what his protégé Tom does over at Skof.”  

2024 03 18 Simon Rogan Shop
One of the gift boxes from Our Shop by Simon Rogan Image: Confidentials

It seems the whole village is behind Simon and his team’s ventures. And for good reason, too. Our Farm, the sustainable growing hub that provides all of Simon Rogan’s Cartmel restaurants with a good portion of their produce, works hard to keep the emissions down by using year-round growing methods that the restaurants’ menus evolve with each season. 

The aim is to ‘grow near perfect produce in a natural and sustainable way’ and growers and chefs work side-by-side to learn more about the ingredients served and how they set the restaurant apart. 

More on that later.

Before the sun set we decided to take a mooch around the priory. Spanning 800 years of history, this almighty building with its towering ceilings and intricately carved pews and stained glass windows has a real aura about it. Steeped in culture with a rich and intriguing backstory, this free-to-visit piece of history only further adds to Cartmel's beauty. 

Still serving as a place of worship to this day, Cartmel residents and visitors are invited to join the Sunday services.

2024 03 18 Cartmel Priory 3
Stained glass windows at Cartmel Priory Image: Confidentials
2024 03 18 Cartmel Priory 1
Outside Cartmel Priory Image: Confidentials
2024 03 18 Cartmel Priory 2
Stained glass windows at Cartmel Priory Image: Confidentials
2024 03 18 Cartmel Priory 4
A memorial tombstone at Cartmel Priory Image: Confidentials
2024 03 18 Cartmel Priory
Inside Cartmel Priory Image: Confidentials

With the last bit of daylight, we popped into The Larch Tree; a gift shop just over the road from where we’d be staying, full of natty trinkets, toys and homeware. We could have spent hours in this shop, exploring every nook and cranny of unique and unusual gifts, but it was time to get acquainted with our room for the evening and unwind for a couple of hours ahead of dinner at Rogan & Co.

2024 03 18 The Larch Tree
Toys and trinkets available at The Larch Tree Image: Confidentials

Stepping into the reception at L’Enclume, we were greeted by a delightful scent that instantly put us at ease and reminded us that we were in good hands. 

“It smells like a spa, doesn’t it? It’s lovely,” Rosie said as she took in the inviting reception room decor. 

We were welcomed by two members of staff, each sharing a smile, who showed us up to our room for the evening. We stayed in ‘Ramson’ - each room is aptly named after herbs grown on the farm, a nice touch. 

Ramson faces out onto the front of the street and sits above the adjoining Rogan & Co, but, despite this, there’s no noise disturbance from the restaurant below. The rooms are tastefully decorated with English country textiles and heavy wooden furniture that adds a real touch of class.

2024 03 18 Lenclume Hotel
Inside the rooms at L'Enclume Image: Confidentials
2024 03 18 Lenclume Hotel 2
Inside the rooms at L'Enclume Image: Confidentials

The bathroom is well stocked, too, with hair, body and hand soaps, shower caps, dental and sewing kits and even a massage sponge for exfoliating. On the back of the door there’s two robes with slippers at your disposal for unwinding in.  

2024 03 18 Lenclume Bathroom
Inside the rooms at L'Enclume Image: Confidentials

The refreshments counter is full of homemade herbal teas and the mini bar is well-stocked with Rogan and Fell Brewery’s collaborative beers, as well as a tasty non-alcoholic ginger ale called ‘Zingi Bear’. In a small bell jar are two chocolate chip cookies, freshly made by the restaurant team. It’s all incredibly sweet and inviting, they really do go above and beyond to make you feel welcome.

2024 03 18 Lenclume Room 2
Inside the rooms at L'Enclume Image: Confidential
2024 03 18 Lenclume Room 3
Inside the rooms at L'Enclume Image: Confidential
2024 03 18 Lenclume Rom 4
Inside the rooms at L'Enclume Image: Confidential

On the TV, a little introductory video from the man himself. Simon can be seen on Our Farm picking crops and delicately arranging intricate dishes. A welcome snippet of what we could expect from our dinner. 

2024 03 18 Lenclume Tv
Inside the rooms at L'Enclume Image: Confidentials

After an hour of nattering and catching up on what we’d missed over the last two years (yes, that’s really how long it took us to align our schedules - we’re busy working girls, ok?) we dressed for dinner at Rogan & Co. With our reservation booked for 6:30pm and our room being a literal 30-second walk away, it was nice to not have to rush getting ready.

Entering the restaurant, we noticed how warm and welcoming the vibe was. Not stuffy and pretentious at all, like some other Michelin star-accredited restaurants might be - still absolutely stellar service, though, as we realised when we were swiftly acknowledged with a smile and taken to our seats. The tables at Rogan & Co are nicely spaced out but not in a way that feels awkward. You have a good view of the restaurant and the whole place has a nice buzz to it. 

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Inside
Inside Rogan & Co Image: Confidentials

Interestingly, the music played here isn’t what you’d expect. It spans everything from indie to 90s pop, ditching the classical facade that most Michelin star restaurants choose to go with. It’s modern and encourages chatter amongst groups rather than awkward silences and cold stares from the table across the room if you’re caught enjoying yourself. 

The food is still elegantly served by smartly dressed waiting staff who are quick to proudly recite every little detail and ounce of love that the chefs painstakingly put into each dish. It’s certainly impressive. 

Dinner is served as six courses, with an option to choose your starter, main and dessert. The chef snacks, bread course and palate cleanser are already chosen for you. 

To start, the chefs snacks; onion dashi with lemon thyme, a whipped cod’s roe and nori tartlet, and mushroom with rye cracker (adorably shaped like a toadstool). A lovely combination of flavours and textures, warming our palates for what was to come next. 

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Dish 1
Whipped cod’s roe and nori tartlet and mushroom with rye cracker Image: Confidentials

After the chef's snacks came the bread course; a delightfully sweet yet savoury milk loaf split into six nubs of fluffy, wheaty goodness - served warm, as all great, fresh bread should be. Alongside it were two pots of butter - one salted and another with Marmite. Both equally moreish and complementary to the bread. 

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Bread
Milk loaf with salted and Marmite butter Image: Confidentials

For my third course I was recommended the roasted Orkney scallop served with farm chard and salsify - how could I say no? This dish, available at an additional £12 supplement charge, was worth every penny. Despite there only being one scallop in the bowl, this mammoth-sized meaty mollusc didn’t come to mess about; fleshy and full, the dish paired well with the chard and umami broth. 

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Scallop
Orkney scallop served with farm chard and salsify Image: Confidentials

Rosie chose the stuffed chicken wing with pickled girolles and monte gusto beans. A well presented and dynamic dish with the sauce served tableside. Unlike your typical chicken shop wing, this decadent dish came deboned and was incredibly moist and rich in flavour. 

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Chicken Wing
Stuffed chicken wing with pickled girolles and monte gusto beans Image: Confidentials

Next came our mains (course number four), a delightfully plump and fatty slab of Herdwick hogget served with a tendersweet carrot adorned with sweetbread and black garlic for myself. And what a beautifully hearty dish it was, served in a pool of thick, rich jus that soaked into the hogget making it even more tender.

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Hogget
Herdwick hogget with a tendersweet carrot, sweetbread and black garlic Image: Confidentials

Rosie opted for the miso roasted cod with ballot kohlrabi, creamed potato and Mylor prawns; a visually intriguing dish that took combining textures, temperatures and flavours to a whole new level whilst still remaining fresh and light.

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Cod
Miso roasted cod with ballot kohlrabi, creamed potato and Mylor prawns Image: Confidentials

The pre-dessert, course five, was served in the form of Zaino courgette, apple and sweet cheese ice cream. Despite being designed just to cleanse our palates, this course was delightfully refreshing and moreish - if you’re the type of person who loves crisp cucumber water with a hint of elderflower cordial on a summer's day, this one will be right up your street.

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Palate Cleanser
Zaino courgette, apple and sweet cheese ice cream Image: Confidentials

My favourite course of every meal, dessert, arrived and was rather flamboyantly beautiful wearing a caramel shard hat looking like it was off to Cartmel races. Caramelised butter bread with gladiator pumpkin and dandelion root. A more savoury dish than what I’d typically go for, but still just as enjoyable and satisfying. 

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Pumpkin Dessert
Caramelised butter bread with gladiator pumpkin and dandelion root Image: Confidentials

Rosie chose the chocolate malt tart with conference pear and pineapple weed foam, again, served tableside. The fruity flavour melded well with the chocolate, guiding it away from being sickly and giving the dish just enough zing to wake you back up from a sweet stupor. 

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Chocolate Tart
Chocolate malt tart with conference pear and pineapple weed Image: Confidentials

If that wasn’t enough bang for our buck, we were given two hefty lumps of homemade fudge with our bill as a final goodbye. I ate mine all in one go because I’m greedy. Rosie was more delicate and ladylike with hers.  

2024 03 21 Homemade Fudge
Homemade fudge Image: Confidentials

By this point we were adequately stuffed so decided to pop to the pub down the lane for a nightcap before turning in for the evening.  

We must’ve been out like a light as we awoke the next morning to our alarm going off. Being a busy-brained journalist it's not often I sleep right through the night, but I’d managed it here in tranquil Cartmel. Maybe it was the surroundings and country air that had lulled me into a deep slumber, or maybe it was the high quality mattress and bedding that nestled me. Either way, I was thrilled to wake up bright-eyed and without any aches or pains. 

We got ready and headed next door to Rogan & Co again for our breakfast. This time, the decisions were already made for us; we just had to sit back and relax. We could manage that. This time, we were seated at the other side of the room, close to the chef's pass where we watched as he meticulously arranged the breakfasts ready to be sent to their tables. 

First, we received a stack of pancakes with local honey, yogurt and jam served on the side. With the radio playing in the background and only the sound of light chatter and cutlery to accompany it, as I ate my fluffy pancakes with a fancy little fork I thought “I could get used to this.”

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Pancakes
Freshly made pancakes Image: Confidentials

Next, the main event - Rogan’s take on a full English breakfast. Locally sourced bacon with a well-seasoned garlic butter portobello mushroom, a fried egg from Our Farm’s own hens, a beautifully crispy hash brown and homemade brown sauce. Served with a slice of sourdough and salted butter on the side this was the perfect way to kick start our morning. 

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Breakfast
Full English Image: Confidentials

Before we left, we were given a pair of fresh cranberry cookies to help us on our way. A thoughtful touch which meant our experience of Rogan & Co could continue long after we left (and it did, as I enjoyed them when I got back to Manchester). 

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Cookies
Homemade cranberry cookies Image: Confidentials

UMBEL Restaurant Group’s Operations Manager Nicolas Perdrier met us shortly after checking out and gave us a guided tour of Aulis and L’Enclume as they prepared for lunchtime service.

2024 03 21 Lenclume
Inside L'Enclume Image: Confidentials

As a final treat before we embarked on our journey home, we were given a tour of Our Farm by Nicolas and Farm Manager John Rowlands. 

A short five-minute drive from Cartmel village, the sustainable (and very successful) Our Farm is where Simon and his team grow lots of the ingredients used in their dishes. They also host a series of open air dining events in the summer for a handful of lucky visitors. 

Farmer John walked us through the farm, explaining how each crop is grown for a reason and that they’re done so in the most sustainable way possible. 

“Even the leftover food from the restaurants is turned into compost to be used again,” he said. 

It really is a full circle operation. However, like all farms, Our Farm is no stranger to being a slave to the elements and having to work with what they’re able to produce with our wonderfully bipolar British weather. But John and the team have the knowledge and skill to be able to grow crops that produce award-winning dishes. At Our Farm, they’re always one step ahead, able to meticulously plan their growing seasons and utilise all of the produce created to minimise waste.

They’re even able to grow a type of cress that tastes like beef Monster Munch. 

“A what?” I said in disbelief. Surely you can’t make greens taste like the best crisps on the planet?  Nicolas handed me and Rosie a sprig each and we were shocked to find that it did indeed taste like beef Monster Munch. ‘Chinese Mahogany’ I think it was called.

2024 03 21 Rogan And Co Our Farm
The cress nursery at Our Farm Image: Confidentials

Like all great things do, our tour of the farm came to an end and we made a quick pitstop back to Cartmel for one last look at the village before heading back home. 

Cartmel truly is a wonderful place in the heart of the Lake District, and Rogan’s empire of restaurants is the jewel in its crown. Every person we met in this idyllic location, from stepping off the train to boarding it again, was a delight to speak to and they’re all so proud of their little village. As they should be. 

Cartmel, Cumbria, UK

Follow Harley Young on X @Harley__Young

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