The picturesque village of Cartmel in the southern Lake District boasts two restaurants of distinction: the highly innovative, Michelin starred L’Enclume, and the less celebrated but nonetheless successful Rogan and Company. The two restaurants share the same owner, Simon Rogan, their own bio-dynamic kitchen farm, and a commitment to excellent cuisine.
Opened in 2007, and occupying a central location in the village, Rogan and Company is housed in an attractive grey stoned house with origins in the 16th century. Despite its low, oak beamed ceilings, the restaurant is light and airy, with wide front windows, glass partitions and large mirrors giving a greater sense of space. Decorated in pastel shades with wooden floors and clever spot lighting, the room has a fresh, contemporary feel.
Up till the start of 2012, Rogan and Company was noted for serving high quality bistro food. It has recently changed to a “restaurant only” concept, reviving the style of dishes offered in the early days of L’Enclume. Dishes such as salt baked kohlrabi with ruby chard and roasted buckwheat and cheese sauce or goat’s milk curd with rocket, beetroot and radish testify to this. Vegetables and herbs are given almost equal weight with meat and fish on starters and main courses.
That more people can experience the inimitable style of Simon Rogan’s cuisine, at more affordable prices, can only be a welcome development. With the same carte being offered for lunch and dinner, a three course meal, with six choices of starters, mains and puddings, can be enjoyed for £30-£35, (although there is a cheaper set price lunch menu.) The wine list is also an attractive prospect with affordable prices not in excess of £30.
In the kitchen, Chef Louie Lawrence, previously sous chef at L’Enclume, leads a team which treats top quality farmed and foraged ingredients with care, sensitivity and real flair. Precision in timing, balance of tastes, textures and colours, and elegant presentation are much in evidence.
Two well made breads were offered. Pumpernickel, with its mild rye taste and dark colour, was particularly good in texture and flavour.
An amuse bouche of grilled asparagus preserved the intense flavour of this vitamin rich spring vegetable. Bacon hollandaise and crisp pancetta added a creamy smokiness which complemented it well.
A starter of soused mackerel was gently marinated, giving a light, bright taste to the dazzlingly fresh fish. The pickled vegetable garnish, which included red carrot, was offset by a sauce of mustard and dill, which added warming spice and aniseed herb flavours. These balanced the dish beautifully.
In contrast, another starter featured confit Goosnargh duck. The soft, melting flesh, paired with Jerusalem artichoke in soft and crisp forms, was lifted by a highly reduced sauce of and tarragon and mulled cider.
A main course described as poached chicken understated the complexity of the cooking which involved wrapping the flesh around a garlic mousse. The result was moist, delicate and gently aromatic. Enoki mushrooms, spinach and celeriac proved highly suitable garnishes whilst the whole dish was brought together by an intense, well flavoured jus. This was as exemplary dish with clear flavours and clean presentation.
Even more accomplished was a main course of wild Brill which was a veritable tour de force of fish cookery. The luscious, white flesh was perfectly timed to preserve its soft texture and delicate flavour. The fish was partnered with lobster dumplings, two crescent shaped ravioli with wafer thin fresh pasta encasing the beautifully sweet and succulent flesh of the crustacean. A light lobster cream added richness and crisp deep fried leeks gave texture and height to the dish. Visually, as with the other dishes, the presentation was stunning.
Desserts were less complex but equally well crafted.
Poached rhubarb, soft and sweet, was a riot of pink. Buttermilk custard and lemon was an excellent foil, giving balance with a hint of acidity.
Spiced pineapple tart saw a finger the confit fruit paired with coconut ice cream. Whilst the puff pastry lacked the richness normally associated with this variety, the ice cream was well flavoured, velvety smooth and of the correct consistency.
Service was cheerful, solicitous and knowledgeable.
Overall, judging by the meal we had, the new approach to reviving early L’Enclume style dishes is likely to be an unqualified success. But Rogan and Company should not be seen as a mere adjunct to its more distinguished sister restaurant a hundred yards around the corner. Here is a restaurant that is succeeding it its own right, popular with locals and those from further afield. The addition of rooms on the first floor, still to be completed at the time of writing, is likely to add to its attraction.