Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria has been voted the UK’s best restaurant in the carefully curated annual Harden’s Top 100 Best UK Restaurants diners’ poll.
The 3 Michelin-starred Lake District dining destination has featured in the Harden’s Top 100 every year since the list first launched in 2011, but this is the first time it has reached the top spot. Feedback from diners hailed it as “a completely faultless experience” marshalling the finest local produce – much of it from Simon’s ‘Our Farm’ on the surrounding hillsides – to provide “a symphony of beautifully orchestrated food” in a 17-course meal.
Chef Owner Simon Rogan said: “My team and myself are honoured that L’Enclume has been rated the number 1 restaurant in the UK by diners on behalf of Harden’s. To have been featured in Harden’s Top 100 every year since its inception in 2011 is an amazing achievement and being awarded the top spot for the 2024 edition is a testament to the amazing year we’ve had.”
L’Enclume head chef, Paul Burgalières added: “I am very proud of everything we have achieved at L’Enclume over the past couple of years. To take the position of Executive Chef has been a great honour, and I am excited that our work at the restaurant has achieved such a high level of recognition.”
The 33rd edition of the Harden’s guide, published this week, is one of only two surviving established UK restaurant guides made available in print, and the only one based on feedback from normal diners rather than a group of professional inspectors. A total of 30,000 reports are submitted from a survey of 2,500 diners. Restaurants at all price levels are included: from street food vendors to the country’s most ambitious dining rooms, with 2,800 restaurants listed in total.
Peter Harden, co-founder of Harden’s, comments: “L’Enclume has always been consistent in its top quality offering and it was wonderful to hear the recent news that Paul Burgalières, who has been a key figure in L’Enclume’s evolution over the past six years, has now been appointed Executive Chef. Coming in at £300+ it’s certainly one of the higher priced restaurants in our listings, but we see none of the resistance from diners with regards to paying those prices that we’ve witnessed at other top establishments. Those who’ve made the pilgrimage think it’s money very well spent.”
Newcomers Solstice (Newcastle), Grace & Savour (Hampton in Arden) and Ugly Butterfly (St Ives) are some of the UK’s newest eateries to have swiftly hit this year’s list, along with Bouchon Racine, Restaurant St Barts and Alex Dilling in London.
Strikingly, the number of Top 100 restaurants based in the capital has fallen to an all-time low. Usually expected to make up between 45-50% of the final rankings, this year only 36 of the UK’s best restaurants are located in London.
“London’s grip on the Top 100 list is the weakest that we have ever recorded (the lowest previous figure was 41 in the 2020 guide),” explained Peter. “Whilst 12 months is too little data for firm pronouncements, this swing to the shires may reflect the increasing excellence of dining out across the country.”
Yet it is not regional cities that are driving any swing from London, but destination dining in scenic locations as demonstrated by this year’s top placed establishments.
“Unlike in other European countries, our greatest cities still tend to lack depth when it comes to quality restaurants at the top end,” said Peter. “The closest any city comes to London’s 36 in the Top 100 is Edinburgh and Cambridge with just 3 apiece. England’s largest cities like Birmingham and in particular Manchester have a large number of total entries in the guide, but proportionately fewer at the top end in the Top 100 or Top 500. With 8 entries in the Top 500, Brighton beats either location in this department. Top dining in the sticks is often just that, with Top 100 restaurants outside London often to be found in leafy touristic locations such as this year’s winner, L’Enclume in The Lake District; or the number 2 on the list: Outlaw’s New Road in scenic Port Isaac.”