The Lake District is a pretty special place. Not only is it England’s largest National Park with the country’s highest mountain (Scafell Pike), deepest (Wastwater) and largest lakes (Windermere) it is also home to the Keswick Pencil Museum… oh, and the UK’s Best Restaurant!
For a foodie / foodist (whichever you prefer) The Lakes are a true treasure trove. Cumbria has the most microbreweries of any English country (one being ‘Barngates’ at the Drunken Duck Inn) and boasts three Michelin starred restaurants: Holbeck Gyhll, The Samling and the two star L’Enclume.
The Lakeland’s produce too, is tough to beat - the extraordinary coastline yields the magnificent Morecambe Bay Shrimps and Muncaster Crab; from the pastures come, Salt Marsh and Herdwick Lambs as well as world famous Cumberland Sausages.
Those with a sweeter tooth may prefer Grasmere Gingerbread, Sticky Toffee Pudding or, the fell walker’s favourite, Kendal Mint Cake (and, would Christmas be the same without Cumbrian Rum Butter?)
My favourite spot in Cumbria is undoubtedly the charming, medieval village of Cartmel. Situated in the south lakes, it’s a stone’s throw from the salt marshes of the Cartmel Peninsula, Morecambe Bay and a short drive from the bottom tip of Windermere (plus, I can get there in less than 90 minutes from my home in Cheshire.)
A day spent in Cartmel has everything a discerning traveller in search of the finest foods such as myself could hope to find. Not only is it the ‘home of sticky toffee pudding’ and Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume but there is so much else on offer.
Cheesophiles, should make a beeline for Cartmel Cheeses and Bakery – with a relatively small but exceptional quality selection of cheeses, it’s the finest fromagerie I have visited outside of London. I always find something interesting in the Village Shop, whether it is crackers or honeycomb for the cheese, some tasty preserves or indulgent chocolates.
For drinkers, the village has four pubs: the friendly Cavendish Arms (just along from L’Enclume), the Royal Oak and Kings Arms in ‘the square’ and, on the edge of the village over looking fields of sheep, the cosy, Rogan owned Pig & Whistle.
Visitors should also check out the ‘rare wines’ at Hot Wines and Unsworth’s Yard Brewery – producers of Sir William Marshal’s Crusader Gold, and the ruby ale, my favourite, Sir Edgar Harrington’s Last Wolf.
To build up an appetite it’s a good idea to arrive early and take a walk on the surrounding rugged fells; but do arrive at the Cartmel Bakery in time for opening (10am). I always get one of their signature Cheese & Marmite breads and whatever else is looking particularly fine.
Next, a brew at the award winning Cartmel Coffee is called for – it would be rude not to have a slice of their delicious homemade cakes too. There is another quaint ‘tea room’ in Cartmel but the more modern Cartmel Coffee holds the highest rating of Five Cups (from the BSA) making them one of the Top 10 Best Coffee Shops in the UK.
After a coffee and a stroll around the village feeding the ducks, saying hello to Ben the cat and visiting the interesting little shops or the magnificent Priory, it should be time for lunch.
For me, there are the following dining options when spending a day in Cartmel:
· Lunch at L’Enclume / dinner at Rogan and Co.
· Lunch at L’Enclume / dinner at The Pig & Whistle.
· Lunch at The Pig & Whistle / dinner at L’Enclume.
· Lunch at Rogan and Co. / dinner at L’Enclume.
· Lunch at Rogan and Co. / dinner at The Pig & Whistle.
Of course, you could eat at one of the other pubs in’t village but no self-respecting food snob should pass up the chance of eating Simon Rogan’s grub. On my recent trip, I chose the latter option (I’m yet to indulge in lunch at L’Enclume followed by dinner at L’Enclume). Here’s the write up of my Rogan and Co. lunch.
As Simon remains busy with L’Enclume and his projects in Manchester and London, he has pretty much left the menu and development of “The Piggy” in the capable hands of Chef David Hawkins. With a little work to do, I spent the afternoon hogging the warmth of the fireplace occasionally ‘disturbed’ by the friendly locals. As the evening came, I ordered:
Bar snack: Ham Hock Fritters – the perfect crunchy, coating flavourful hock meat. Some of that terrific Cheese & Marmite Bread from the local bakers also arrived.
From the starters, Pressed Ham Terrine with Piccalilli – the hearty, rustic terrines at The Piggy are always good. Served with an equally rustic, coarse piccalilli, this is what proper pub grub is all about.
From the mains I went for, XB Beer Battered Cod with Hand Cut Chips & Crushed Peas – the beer batter, made with Hartleys Cumbrian XB, was the beeriest beer batter I’ve ever tasted. The thick chips and peas were good but it was the caper laden tartar sauce which really took the dish up a notch.
For dessert, Baked Apple Rice Pudding – I don’t quite know what I expected but it certainly wasn’t the dish that arrived. With the chunky pieces of apple and a crunchy crumble sprinkled the dish had excellent textures and well as comforting homely flavours.
Another great day spent in Cartmel. One day soon I must try and make it up to the monthly Food Market that takes place on the third Friday of every month.