Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Posts tagged ‘restaurants’

Rogan & Co – more Lakes excitement

Rogan & Co, Cartmel, South Lakes

Let’s not beat around the bush.  We just had a fabulous lunch.  It finished at quarter to four.  Sybaritic in the extreme.  And my last blog said I was a bit worried about the whole same old same old in this part of the lakes – and with South East pricing – and now I will take that back.

Let’s start at the end.  We went for a postprandial walk. We went around to the sister restaurant of Rogan & Co – L’Enclume. And today, I see in the news, that The Good Food Guide has named it as restaurant of the year – beating Heston Blomenthal’s Fat Duck into second place!  The chef Simon Rogan is committed to Nature not Science.  This is the top end stuff – 20 course tasting menu and the like.  We saw a delivery in the back of a car.  Went and chatted to the two guys there – and found we were talking to the head of front of house – and the restaurants very own Forager!  (Sorry guys – didn’t write your names down – but you know who you are!)  Just food lovers who were deeply excited by local, excellent ingredients.  They have started their own smallholding (plants only – no animals as yet).  And there was something else special.  They wanted to chat because we were interested in food too.  It was an attitude that everyone could be a potential customer, so why not be nice to everyone?  Many organisations could copy this simple idea.  Anyway, it is a much nicer way to live and be, isn’t it?

Lovely Janie - happy at the end of our meal!

Lovely Janie – happy at the end of our meal!

Foraged food for L'Enclume

Foraged food for L’Enclume

So, Rogan and Co was the place we had our lunch at.  The sister restaurant – not cafe style (Like both Raymond Blanc and Jamie Oliver have done).  It felt more (very high end) table d’hôte, to the L’Enclume’s multi-Michelin starred extravaganza.  Continuing with the backwards theme – we start with the end!

Coffee was silky, strong, not bitter and served with fluffy hot milk – oh, and stunning home made little doughnuts served with apple puree, and a tiny salted caramel chocolate confection.

Puds?  Yes, you had to, even though I know what we had had before. I had a poached pear.  Jane had toffee apple.  Sorry, this undersells both confections.  Just look at the piccies.




And we did have stickies with them – a pudding wine.  We chose one – and were offered another to try (gratis – thank you).  Golden, fragrant beautifully matched to each pud.  Wow.  Jane’s was like gorgeously wet toffee, which just made the apple sing.  And my zesty, lime with lemon driven Chenin Blanc from Thailand (I kid you not) just did the same for my pud.  Look, I know puds are bad, and naughty and and and…but, but, but this was our 29th wedding anniversary – OK?



Mains driven by the meat.  Lakes bred lamb.  Very local pork belly.  Hugely concentrated reductions (Gravy would be madly understating the fragrant sauces – and sauce is still too large a word).  Look, lets just say it went very quiet.  I tried the lamb.  It was a melt in the mouth explosion of powerful flavour that reminded you that that sheep had not lived in vain.  The pork was just as good The sauce, morels, tangy crunchy seasonal veg – were all as good as it.




We started madly with soused herring and duck rillettes.  Again, we had the usual excitement of matching pieces – like meat (or fish) and 7 veg…photos from a phone, but I hope you get a feel for the place.

20130829_134519 20130829_134501

Starters and tasters

Starters and tasters

As you would expect – an amuse bouche to start – a fennel crisp, with a stunning goats cheese quenelle.

We started by feeling a bit apprehensive of a new place, which could have been a bit up itself (the main web site was a bit scary, not enticing to me).  But I hope the style of this review has not been backwards in coming forwards.  This is a place that knows about food and service and people – and it seems to love them all.

Holiday in The Lakes

These photos are from the pubs own website – hope they can like the publicity!

This was our best meal so far…

OK – we are in the Lakes for a week.  And we hear it is not a culinary desert.  We’ve visited before – stayed at The Rothay Manor near Ambleside 25 years ago – and it was exceptional then – and still gets great reports.  But we had noticed a lot of sameness about pub menus.  Lots of the reports on advisor sites seemed to say the same. “It was so good we couldn’t finish it – even had to miss breakfast the next day…”.  This worried us a bit.  Not that we have become soft southerners or anything like that, but we had thought that sort of quantity over quality mentality had gone.  No, the 20 ounce gammon Steak with pineapple or fried egg, or both is alive and well here in the North West.  We despaired and ate in a lot…more of that later!

Serendipity was on our side in gorgeously scrummy Hawkshead.  We had visited Town-end – National Trust farm which one family had lived in for 11 generations (near Troutbeck if you want to visit).  And then The Beatrix Potter Gallery…where you can see what a great artist she was.  (And realise that the National Trust and our great National Parks would not be so central to our British way of doing things without her altruistic interventions).

We then had a British panic.  It was 2.35 pm.  Most pubs and full service restaurants stop serving lunch at 2 or 2.30.  Resigned to a sticky bun, we thought – lets just have a drink in here first…

The Queens Head in Hawkshead serves lunch until 3!  We wanted a light snack, so opted for a starter and side of skinny fires to share.  The home-made fish cake was served on a bed of risotto – creamy, fishy and meltingly mouth filling.  It made the fish cake itself seem even fishier.  And it had proper chef’s touches like pea shoots and other shiny morsels, with their own dressing.

Underneath it all, we had a very posh fish and chip lunch.  Do not be fooled – these people know how to cook.  It was the same price as everywhere else, but in a different class to what we have had up to now.  Some places seem to live on a past reputation or just on their views.  The Queens Head crew are there for the food.  They deserve a visit.

Cooking from scratch

Stefano Hatfield is the editor of The i (the 20p a day cut down version of the Independent).  (I’m not mean – it’s just a time thing…).  With a name like his, he is, naturally, of mixed parentage – English dad, Italian mum.

I’m very interested in his take on the chattering classes views of the horse meat scandal.  “as the guard slips and they sneer at the poor for buying cheap frozen products”.  His mum (widowed twice and then bringing the kids up as a single parent) would cook in the art of cucina povera – cooking of the poor.

Some grown, some given

Some grown, some given

It isn’t rocket science to make the most of what you have.  Buying less, buying better quality and locally, and using it all with as little waste as possible could easily make your food spend much lower.

You may have to peel stuff, wash it and chop it up – but it is good fun.  Look, we all can and do cheat on occasions (although I do still laugh in the face of a sealed tray of mashed potato for £1.50).  There is a time and place for a ready meal, or something as part of a meal that just makes the whole thing easier – but most things can and should be cooked from scratch.  We don’t teach it enough in schools.  We don’t pick things up from our mums, because they have been convenienced out of the cooking habit too.

I read a review recently bemoaning the fact that most newer cook books don’t have sections on what to do with leftovers.  I beg to differ – mine does!  And has a chapter on The Four Day Chicken.  (Roast, Second roast micro-waved, risotto on day 3, and chicken soup day 4).  Check it on Amazon!  “(Can Men Cook?)”

New joke added below from a fun guy 🙂


The Inn, West End near Guildford Surrey

I had one of those exciting re-meets yesterday.  I met up with an old University chum, who I hadn’t seen since 1987!  Yes, Christmas cards and occasional e-mails.  Nothing else.

We had decided on this pub, being equidistant (and believe it or not you can go to web-sites key in postcodes and it will tel you what is in the middle – and what pubs or restaurants are nearby.

I got there early (overestimating the distance) and Steve arrived on time.  The last time we had said goodbye was at a reunion of the old crew from Newcastle.  What was so good was it was as if the intervening period had not happened.

The Inn @ West End's Kitchen Team

The team at The Inn

We were meeting up to talk about my cookery adventures and Steve’s ambitions and ideas for his own adventure in similar areas.  There was a bit of catch up of course (how can his eldest daughter be 30.  That just isn’t right!).

We ordered from the one page bar menu – extensive enough, and very varied to cater for all appetites.  We chose a quite sumptuous Kedgeree, with an exquisitely just cooked poached egg on top.  The kedgeree was quite risotto in wetness, and the curry-ness was amplified with quite a lot of white pepper – which no-one uses since we all got black pepper grinders!  This is sad, I think because the flavour is deeper and more all-encompassing – and hotter.  It kept us quiet and happy, anyway, and was washed down well with something of a macrobiotic nature for Steve (Luscombes fruit juice from Devon) and some Aspall’s Suffolk cider for me.

What a great catch up – and it will be repeated now we have re-made acquaintance.  And what a splendid place to meet.  The Inn was packed on a January Wednesday lunchtime – which is no mean feat.  The place and the staff patently love food.  This won’t be the last time I visit!  They even got excited when the saw my “Can Men Cook?” business card – which always goes down well with me!

New Year’s Eve

The Rock Inn, Haytor, Devon.  It does sound old fashioned and rather romantic, doesn’t it?  Their advertising by-line is “steadfastly traditional”.  Not a bad summary!  (See more at ) . And you can see Haytor on the way.  What more could you want?

Going out on a feast day is often ruinously expensive and often bad for the palate as well as the pocket.  Not at The Rock.  Mid November they changed their web page saying there were no rooms at the inn (heard that before around Christmas time?) – but they were still taking bookings for tables.  We jumped at it – and I had already decided my order! Seared Scallops on celeriac  puree and crispy pancetta for starter, followed by roasted lamb rump (with roasted root vegetables and rosemary fondant potato, with a red wine sauce). Jane had Balsamic Poached fig with parma ham, followed by pan fried sirloin of beef medallions.  They were served on wilted spinach, roasted tomatoes, peppercorn sauce and hand cut chips.  As you can tell, it was modern British – the holistic approach to the plate, where all the items complement one another.  Well cooked, served with chat and a smile, and not even ruined by the bill!  The main dishes were really quite exciting – and not worryingly big (satisfied but not over full).  The starters, especially the scallops were simply orgasmic !  Steamed marmalade pudding with whisky creme Anglaise  and a chocolate Cointreau Tart completed the proceedings, and quite finished us off.

Hope you had a great evening too.  Happy New Year to you all!

A B&B in a different class – The Ashton, Lancaster

I was running a workshop in Lancaster this week, so needed to stay away.  I asked the company to recommend a suitable hotel – and they suggested a B&B.  This always sounds like a second best alternative, doesn’t it?  The Ashton could not have been further from this supposition.  I think it is one of the best home from home places I have stayed in for a long time.  It felt nearer to being a house guest at someone you have know for a long time.

It is the little things.  The front door is shut, and locked.  You have a key to get back in.  That makes it different from ‘Reception’ doesn’t it? And James asks you if there is anything you don’t like to eat.  That’s because, like going to a dinner party, you will be presented with your dinner – no faffing around with a menu (But there is a wine list…)

Doesn’t that make it feel calmer already?  It got better.  I arrived about 3, so was greeted with tea and cake.  How civilised!  Apparently, if it was later the choice extends to wine.

The building is Georgian in style (I’m not clever enough to know if it is real or not – but it felt so).  The rooms are darkly decorated – in the style of those times – and it makes it feel very cosy and different to our light addiction.

I had two dinners and two breakfasts (Not at the same time).  First night – Moroccan chicken in couscous with a tangy vibe, and lots of little tasty morsels involved.  The salad was substantial, with grilled Haloumi cheese on top.  Healthy and tasty at the same time.  Spoilt the health kick with a sticky toffee pudding – oh well!

The Ashton

Breakfast>  A proper sideboard groaning with goodies.  Yes, I started healthy again, with mixed fruit and yoghurt.  But then I couldn’t resist the Eggs Benedict.  I should have realised as egg was plural that two poached eggs and two pieces of muffin and three pieces of smoked back bacon would make the hollandaise sauce a molten addition of loveliness – and all a bit much!  (Look, I managed it, OK)

Night two – moving to Italy or Spain – pork meat balls (finely herbed, hint of garlic, loads of pepper), in a fine sauce.  Less substantial salad, but again healthy – and I ruined it again with treacle sponge and ice cream!

I’d learnt my lesson on morning one, and asked for a half Egg Benedict.  It really was just as good, and I waddled happily to my car…

It is multi award winning – and definitely worth a try to see if you can get in.  Be warned, I may be ahead of you in the queue!

The birthday Progress – more food!

The Birthday Progress – more food!

Yes Jane’s big birthday was a real food and people pleasure ride.  Let me take you through the rest of it.

It all started in our hometown, with after work drinks and nibbles with work colleagues.  The nuts and olives just make you drink more.  The rather splendid Tapas at Claytons lounge in Marlow did keep us enticed.  I don’t know about you, but this is one of my favourite ways of eating.  Lots of different taste sensations, some naughtier than others (some feeling almost healthy…), but it just makes sure you don’t get bored.  It feels like the antithesis of pizza.  I do like a bit of pizza, but like small ones that you can share bits of each others.  Otherwise that last slice of a giant one just feels too much like hard work to me!

Hail, hail the gang’s all here!

We had lunch on the way to Devon.  The Cross House Inn at Doynton (Gloucestershire borders with Avon and Somerset – near Bath) had a really splendid lunch delight.  We knew we were in for loads of food over the next week or so, and the menu looked a little on the heavy side.  Then we noticed “ Hot Belly Pork Roll with Apple Sauce and a handful of chips”.  This was £2.50.  What a tasty bargain!

Next day we met up with Jane’s sister, brother-in-law, and their brother and sister in-laws. They are party animals.  We were all booked into The Lazy Toad in Brampford Speke, near Exeter.  I have blogged about the wonder of their food before, and even gone as far as recommending on Trip Advisor.  We had always been there just for lunch, but this time we were going the whole hog (which they have on the menu occasionally…) by having the full evening menu and collapsing to bed after.

After pressies (great excitement) we moved on.  The menu is sort of fine British cooking with a modern twist.  You can see that from the starters:

Ham Hock Terrine

And the mains: (below)

Creedy Craver Organic Roast Chicken – like chicken used to be

And what fine puds!  You’ll have to go to sample them…

We had assumed we would not need breakfast.  But you know how it is – you manage somehow.  No lunch after our walk – because we really didn’t need that.  Mike and Judy, our old neighbours from Cheltenham days, joined us in the evening in Bovey.  I cooked a light dinner of steamed salmon (just stick a lid on the frying pan after adding lemon juice), with crushed potatoes and green beans.

Gidleigh park – last blog – was reserved for the day itself.  Go back if you missed that one!

After one night of food abstinence, we set off for St Enodoc hotel in Rock, North Cornwall.  This place was very modern, lovely views – and has a Michelin starred restaurant.  (Can you feel a theme coming on?)  The restaurant has a full fish tasting menu with the potential to have a flight of wine with it – different wine to enhance each course.  We wanted simpler – and Nathan Outlaw is most famous for sea food.  I had the same starter, which we shared a bit, both nights.  Queenie Scallops.  Six gorgeously tasty little melting moments of succulent delight.  It seemed wrong to eat them.  Bread was absolutely essential to mop up the quite marvellous sauce.  We did fish (bream and plaice) on the bone on night one, then fillet (grilled Brill and Haddock) on the second evening.  Look, the stuff is really kept immensely simple.  Finest possible ingredients not played about with too much at all.  Sometimes simple just is best.  The veggies were simple and fine (would have preferred the leaks to be 2 minutes longer, but minor detail based on wanting less crunch than many prefer).

Light breakfast the next morning, because we were meeting our friends Gus and Wendy from Gweek area of Cornwall at The Lost Gardens of Heligan.  Thank goodness they did a simple light lunch, or we might have gone off “pop”!

We had managed to spread it out a bit – both the friends and the food – but it still meant we were overwhelmed both with smiling happily and with high level food.  The beans on toast was such a down to earth delight for supper that evening.  And I never know if a nice Rioja is the best wine with this, but it certainly finished us off!

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