Despite what some may think, the lunch of a Broadsheet editor isn’t all crudo and burrata. I’m ripping the lid off a tuna can or reheating last night’s leftovers at best. But I’d also be a liar if I said the job didn’t have its perks. Like, an eight-course lunch courtesy of Britain’s best restaurant.
I am, of course, talking about L’Enclume, the pioneering paddock-to-plate fine diner led by chef Simon Rogan, which finishes its five-week residency at Bathers’ Pavilion in Balmoral this weekend. Having just celebrated 20 years and a third Michelin star, it’s fair to say the L’Enclume team has landed in Sydney at the peak of its powers.
So, in a cost-of-living crisis where my thrifty midday spreads are the definition of the sad, slapped-together meals Tiktok has rightfully branded a “lunch of suffering”, I graciously accepted the invitation, worth a whopping $420.
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I arrive at the venue after a white-knuckled Uber ride that in no way resembles Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s visit to the actual L’Enclume in their much-quoted film The Trip. I am not dressed for this. Everyone is swaddled in white linen and looks like they own one of the nearby yachts floating on Middle Harbour. Meanwhile, my black Uniqlo look is giving “budget funeral”.
I proceed to the dining room where Sam Ward, an effervescent chap who is managing director of Rogan’s restaurants worldwide, runs our table through the experience. Did someone say matched wines? Oh, go on then.
The first dish arrives – a beetroot and radish tartlet with a crown of trout eggs. Intent on launching gracefully, I nibble at this gorgeous, arguably one-bite thing. Fish eggs start flying. I lose a third of the zingy, ponzu-spiked jewels to the expensive carpet, possibly decreasing its value.
I rally for the rest of the starters, each one to be eaten by hand. The fritter of pig and eel – one of many L’Enclume signatures on the card today – looks like a fallen star studded with corn kernel, and bites like the chocolate crackles I devoured as a kid. It’s astonishingly good – my favourite so far. No, scratch that. The Yarrawa pudding, with its little mohawk of uncooked sheep’s milk cheese from Pecora Dairy in Robertson, has my lactose-loving heart.
More signatures hit the table. Surprisingly, one of the heaviest is a delicate seaweed custard ferrying bone marrow, beef broth, a little pile of oscietra caviar and Tasmanian royal miyagi oyster. The dish – which is served in a hefty ceramic bowl by Blackheath artist Simon Reece alongside a hand-hewn spoon by Potts Point woodworker Ted O’Donnell – explains why it took three years to cook up the collab with Rogan. Ian Pagent and Jessica Shirvington of Bathers Pavilion have gone all in. No detail (or expense) has been spared.
L’Enclume’s moustachioed somm Valentin Mouillard shares drinks duty with Bathers' boss Tom Sykes, bouncing between Clare Valley riesling, junmai sake and artisanal kombucha. After almost three hours of this, it’s safe to say I’m elegantly smashed. I stare into a medallion of pearly white rock cod in a foamy, umami-laced broth – and I swear to god the thing is staring right back at me.
After much slack-jawed ogling, it’s suddenly time for dessert. Enter the famous “anvil”, the restaurant’s namesake (L’Enclume means anvil in French) and the most hyped dish of the day. The waitstaff – who’ve been theatrically pouring things onto my plate all afternoon – do it one more time for the ’gram, tipping out a clear, spruce-infused syrup onto a puck of caramel mousse, miso and diced apple. I am no longer giving budget funeral. I think I’m dead.
Petits fours and coffee are on offer, but alas it’s now 5.30pm and this is Sydney, not Cumbria. The traffic on Military Road is catastrophic. Finally back home, I watch my dog hoover his dinner of organic turkey and flaxseed loaf, which is certainly worth more than the tuna I’ll be eating for lunch tomorrow. I feel weird about it. But you know what? At least we both ate well today.
L’Enclume’s residency at Bathers’ Pavilion ends on Sunday, August 20.