After a broadly successful but not outstanding trip to the Pig & Whistle, I was intrigued to see how the other “casual” Simon Rogan restaurant in Cartmel would compare. We had booked for dinner but swapped last minute to lunch which they were very accommodating about. The restaurant is housed in a clean rustic building with simple and elegant place settings. Lots of space between tables adds to the relaxed feel. The staff are very well turned out and there are plenty of them.
The menu is short and focused, 3 choices for each course. It was all very reasonable: £28.50 for 3 courses / £19.50 for 2 courses at lunch. Even better when we’re brought an amuse bouche and fresh bread. The amuse was a cheese cracker topped with pickled onion and cheese “snow” with some micro-leaves (beetroot maybe?). It evoked a ploughman’s in a single bite with strong sweet onion, I was hoping for more depth in the cheese powder though (and personally I’m never sure of the texture of these snows). Rolls next, the brown with ale and a simple white. They came hot and were very moorish, nothing fancy but just excellent fresh rolls and soft butter.
The wife skipped starters but I couldn’t resist the mackerel in coal oil, especially after loving the ox in coal oil at Roganic. This dish came beautifully presented, the mackerel underneath topped by a stained-red pickled kohlrabi, radish, oyster emulsion and a dash of oil. Raw mackerel and smokey oil gave a contrast of flavour and texture, just like the coal dish. The vivid green oyster emulsion added depth and fishiness without being overpowering. A cracking dish.
The mains were works of art with fresh skilfully cooked elements plated prettily. My generous beef main came with two good pieces of rump cap that had been cooked sous-vide and a slow cooked beef “floss”. Served with jerusalem artichokes, mustard jus and greens. The meat was incredibly tender (especially considering the cut), barely needing the Laguiole steak knife they brought over. It paired perfectly with the rich, crisp floss and soft artichoke. I couldn’t fault this dish. The wife’s main was middle white pork and cabbage. A tall square pork belly piece cooked again perfectly to be meltingly tender with an unctuous layer of fat and crisp skin. The charred cabbage still had bite but with added flavour from the crisped, almost burnt, edges. We felt the portion could have been slightly more generous though, especially given my beef.
I was torn between the cheese and dessert but opted for something sweet and we visited the superb Cartmel cheese shop afterwards instead, the perfect compromise. My dessert was a sweet spiced pear cake with pear slices, malt mousse and tea. Not sure if the tea was the iced bit, I found the crunchy texture odd with cake though. Ignoring that part, the cake was moist and well spiced which combined with the velvety malt mousse and was very satisfying. Soft poached pears added some fresh fruit and it was one of the best desserts I’ve had in a long time. Not overly sweet and somehow very comforting. The wife had frozen yogurt with blackberry and caramelised cobnuts. The blackberries came as a sharp gel which cut through the sweet yogurt whilst the cobnuts added crunch and sweetness. Another excellent dessert.
A very satisfying lunch, every course was delicious and well balanced. All of this with 3 cracking glasses of wine for £75 (excluding service) is incredible value in my book. Whilst we admittedly drank a bit more at the Pig & Whistle (and went for dinner), the fact this lunch was cheaper was surprising. My only niggling thought was that perhaps everything was a little safe. The menu read as slightly more adventurous then the dishes came out. Maybe that’s an indication of the skilful combinations, but I wanted my palate to be slightly more challenged (although not to the same extent as Roganic). However I can’t really complain about flawless cooking and ingredients presented as pieces of art, thoroughly recommended!