Most visitors are drawn to the Lake District for its hiking paths and bucolic views. Don’t shout it too loudly though, but there is also an exciting gastronomic scene afoot in the region. Cumbria boasts seven restaurants with Michelin stars. Among them, Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume (in Cartmel) is arguably the most famous. While we were not quite lucky enough to pay it a visit, we did the next best thing and spent a highly enjoyable recent evening at Henrock, the chef’s latest restaurant venture in the region.
Nestled inside the opulent Linthwaite House Hotel, Simon Rogan’s angle with Henrock is informal luxury. There’s no oxymoron here. Think of the dining experience here as being first-rate cooking but in a relatively relaxed setting – no starched table clothes or surly French waiters – at prices that will not break the bank. Consistent with every other Rogan venture – your reviewer first tried Roganic in London many years ago – Simon’s approach remains one of farm-to-fork. The chef was a proponent of this approach long before it became fashionable, growing his own produce in the garden adjacent to L’Enclume. The ethos is maintained at Henrock, where we told with great passion about the harvesting of vegetables, the emphasis on seasonality and an acknowledgment of the local. Indeed, Henrock is named after a nearby outcrop. It was hence a fitting touch that our amuse-bouche (pictured) comprised a cleverly composed mix of puréed chicken-of-the-woods mushroom combined with egg yolk, presented to look like a rock and served in an egg cup. Such effortless class combined with inherent playfulness demonstrated a sign of things to come.
The menu at Henrock is mercifully short comprising just five starters and mains, with the former priced at around £15 and the latter roughly double this. Our trio chose reasonably extensively from across the menu allowing us to get a sense of the venue’s full capabilities. Across our sextet of dishes the common theme was food as art. The decorative nature of each dish was first-class and the contents mostly lived up to the show too. I rated the delicacy of my smoked eel, where a soy mushroom sauce worked as a superb addition – an umami overload (in a good way). My duck main was even better. I rarely find this meat to my pleasure, since it is often served too fatty and lacks flavour. However, the meat here was lean and Rogan’s team had gone to town with inventiveness, combining it with Korean influences – I love my gochujang – and bitter chocolate. The pork belly sampled by one of my comrade’s did not receive quite such high praise, but nonetheless was consumed with gusto.
Throughout, service was exemplary. A bit of northern charm – particularly if you’re a Londoner – goes a long way. We were also impressed with the wine list, which had an above-average range of offerings by the glass, many under Coravin too. Henrock’s South African list in particular deserves plaudits. For around £100 all-in, we were highly pleased. Most diners would struggle to get anything comparable at this price point down south. Here’s to the next trip to the Lakes.