Best Restaurant in the UK?
L'enclume, meaning "the anvil" in French as it is located in a former blacksmith's forge, has been voted best restaurant in the UK by the Good Food Guide for the last few years now. We visited in December 2015.
The entrance is modest, quite bright and neither pretentious nor stuffy looking. The whole village is lovely, being a down-to-earth foodie haven with friendly villagers to match.
There's a lengthy wine list, cocktails and local beer - we covered our bases and had a glass of Nyetimber English fizz, a couple of negronis and two different bottles of Unsworth beer which is brewed in the same village a few streets away.
L'enclume is a visual feast so we have plenty of photos but the photos perhaps don't do the food justice. Each course came out so quickly there was barely time to take note of what was served. We gave up trying to review and just let ourselves enjoy the evening.
The introductory course was the famous Oyster pebbles. Sweet macaron-like shells filled with a taste of the sea!
This is probably the course I enjoyed the least but it was certainly interesting! We suspect they're made from foraged oysterplant rather than any actual oysters. From here the journey progressed...
The first few courses were really canapés and came out in rapid succession so it was almost impossible for us to take decent photographs nevermind notes!
A crispy pork and eel mix with onion tapioca on ham cream fat.
Diced raw scallop with cauliflower puree, strawberry vinegar gel, puffed pearl barley and yarrow.
Whey onions, Chives, Duck gizzards, Tunworth foam, Squid bread crumb and chrysanthemum!
Crushed Jerusalem artichoke, Pickled artichoke, Westcombe dumpling, Cured pork fat, Hen of the woods and Texel green cress.
Caper jam, Venison mix- coal oil, tobacco, smoked salt, Diced gherkin, Onion ring, Micro fennel, Fennel gin candies, Mustard mayo and Fennel cress.L'enclume - Poached lobster, apple and walnut
Parsnip crisp, Watercress purée, Lobster claw, Apple gel, Diced kohlrabi (raw) and Grated walnut.L'enclume - grilled lobster, black pudding, parsnip
Parsnip puree, Watercress purée, Lobster tail – roasted, Apple discs, Black pudding crumb, Lobster oil and Lobster sabayon.
Carrot puree, BBQ carrot, Roasted carrot, Carrot cooked in cheese whey, Blanched carrot, Scurvy grass emulsion, Scurvy oil/ fresh chopped scurvy, Crispy pork skin/onion, Red mustard cress and Fermented carrot – microplaned for seasoning.
Butter poached brill, Chicken skin/yeast flake crumb, Shallot puree, Lovage emulsion, Fermented oyster mushroom, Grilled onion shell, Wood sorrel and Chicken jus/chicken fat.L'enclume - Huntsham farm, Longhorn beef, brussels sprouts, kale leaves and smoked bone marrow
BBQ brisket, Oxtail croquette, Ratte mash, Grilled sprouts, Sprout leaves, Smoked bone marrow, Beef jus and Texel green cress.
Pastry case with Quince poached in red wine, Gingerbread ice-cream and Ginger breadcrumb.
Poached pear with Pear puree, Granola, Lactose ice cream, Pear granita and Shizo cress.
Caramelized pumpkin with Pumpkin vinegar gel, Candied pumpkin seeds, Brown butter/toasted brioche ice-cream and Almond meringue.
Spiced apple cake with Compressed apple, Apple puree, Woodruff mousse, Yoghurt tuille, Sorrel syrup and Bucklers sorrel.
Aerated apricot kernel mousse with Frangipani and Silver dip.
With the first bite of each course we were thinking "how did they do that?". Flavours were so condensed, items cooked to perfection and textures spot on. Course portions are small but for dinner there's only one menu with seventeen (on our visit!) of them plus a supplementary cheese course which can take place before or after the five courses of dessert (!), we opted for one plate of cheese between us after the five but it pushed us over the edge! Seventeen courses should be enough for most people! But it's not just the food. The staff are unbelievable - so many of them constantly moving from table to table to kitchen. No less than 5 separate staff members attended to us in a waltz. The youngest lad had told us he had a degree in cheese which we could believe!
Of course, it's not cheap at £130 a head (it had just increased from £120 a few weeks before) but when we'd finished we both agreed that it was the best food we'd ever eaten and how do you ascribe a monetary value to that? L'enclume "only" has two Michelin stars and admittedly we've never been anywhere with three (yet!) but it's very difficult to imagine how food could possibly taste better!
One last thing - toilets were spotless!
+ The most amazing food we've ever experienced!
+ Relaxed non-stuffy setting
+ Accomplished team. Staff knowledgeable and very professional
+ Foraged ingredients, local cheese, beer and English wine available
+ Clean toilets
- Very expensive