Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Pig and Whistle, Cartmel

Simon Rogan
Picture: www.lenclume.co.uk
I heard it through the grapevine. Simon Rogan (the culinary wizard behind L'Enclume) had bought his local. Just aside from the main Cartmel village lies the Pig and Whistle. We knew absolutely nothing about it other that Simon had taken over. Don't bother looking for a website at the moment, as it is an old one owned by the previous proprietors. Nor is there anything on the L'Enclume website.

Within minutes I was on the blower to our fellow Horwich Fine Dining Society members Wayne and Vicki (MrsPetticoat) to arrange a date.

What to expect? Experimental 'at one with nature' gastronomy like L'Enclume? Perhaps gastro pub excellence like Heston's Hind's Head? The difficult part of knowing next to nothing about the menu or level of dining they are aiming for is that your expectations are shot at.

I have to admit, we were hoping for a northern Hind's Head, but what we found was a small village pub, largely untouched by Simon's magic wand (no euphemism intended). You walk through the main door into a small bar where you are generally greeted by dogs and their owners rather than front of house staff.
The Pig and Whistle, Cartmel
The menu is small, but not in a bad way. We were also offered the roasts of the day which were pork and beef and a fish dish which I ignored (fish being evil). The dining room is a little cramped and a tad chilly, so I decided to go for the parsnip soup. Good winter warmer that! My husband had the Goosnargh duck, Vicki had the ham hock and Wayne picked the potted shrimps. Before our starters we also thought it was a good idea to try the cheesey balls (you heard). Rude not to. Bread also appeared. This was served with butter and pots of sea salt and crushed pepper. We do enjoy an establishment which serves salt with its bread, but we had a sneaking suspicion that this was not home made. Not a deal breaker, but worth noting.

Ordering was a bit of an ordeal, as our waitress disappeared after writing down our starters. We mentioned this to another waitress who was happy to resume the order, only for the original waitress to reappear. Apparently she was going to come back, but then off she shot again. Odd.
The Pig and Whistle, Cartmel
My bowl of soup was huge! It was thick and creamy and was served with parsnip crisps. I had to abandon this half way through for fear of becoming too full. Please bear in mind that by this stage I have snaffled four cheesey balls and a piece of bread. Everyone else was quite pleased with their choice of starter, but we did feel that the portion size of the shrimps was a little on the small side compared to the others.
The Pig and Whistle, Cartmel
I'd been ridiculously excited about my beef roast. Simon Rogan does a Sunday roast? Had to be amazing! Both Wayne and I picked this, and gave it exactly the same feedback. The meat was good quality and cooked nice and pink, the carrots still had a little bite to them and the roasties were perfectly crisp. However, it needed a little more seasoning and the whole thing was lukewarm. We were not fans of the spice infused swede which didn't work at all. Overall it was nice, but nothing spectacular. 

My husband had the beef and vegetable pie. Again, he gave it similar feedback. It was a little under seasoned and lacked the 'oomph' that we had expected. The Fisherman's Retreat in Shuttleworth do fantastic, tasty pies so we had hoped for something like that.  

Vicki's dish was the winner really. She had the suckling pig shoulder in cider and carrots. Perfectly seasoned with mash that she couldn't leave alone. 
The Pig and Whistle, Cartmel
Already on the approach to Death's door, we picked two desserts; the sticky date pudding and the chocolate mousse with gingerbread. My husband was a huge fan of the chocolate mousse. The gingerbread was more like a firm lebkuchen; full of festive spice, but a little on the crunchy side for me! The sticky date pudding was very rich, served with a toffee sauce and something that tasted like creme fraiche or yogurt, but had the consistency of ice cream... I would have liked this with (lots of) custard!
The Pig and Whistle, Cartmel
It's a difficult one to sum up. We had high expectations because of Simon Rogan's involvement in this venture, but upon visiting we got the impression that they are only aiming to be a country pub who serve food. If that is what you're looking for, you'll be happy. It's decent food at a reasonable price. I suppose we had hoped for something a bit different; maybe along the lines of a casual Hand and Flowers or (as I have said umpteen times now) the Hind's Head. 

They have only been open a few weeks so may still be finding their feet. If you are in the area it's worth a visit; if not, stay somewhere local.

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