Simon Rogan is chef-proprietor of the award-winning L’Enclume (French for anvil) restaurant-hotel in Cartmel, Cumbria. Opened in 2002, it has since gained two Michelin stars and two sibling operations in Cartmel: Rogan &Co., a more relaxed restaurant, and the Pig & Whistle, a gastropub. Rogan also runs The French restaurant at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, and next spring will open a new restaurant at Claridge’s in London.
Describe an ideal Christmas: where, who, and what you would eat . . .
An ideal Christmas - I don’t get them very often since I usually end up working - would be a quiet, traditional one with only the closest of friends and family, with traditional festive food. And the Cartmel countryside is so beautiful in the winter, very Christmassy. The past few months have been very hectic, opening two restaurants in Manchester and planning for the Claridge’s launch next spring, so the sanctuary of family and tradition will be very welcome. Our home gets decorated big-time, too – we even have three or four Christmas trees throughout the house!
What’s the worst Christmas you can remember?
Two years ago, over the entire Christmas period, it was so cold in the Lake District that we had no running water due to frozen pipes. Luckily, we have three bathrooms in our house so we just kept filling the cisterns with snow so that we could flush once the snow had melted!
Do you cook Christmas dinner?
Yes, I cook at home in Cartmel for the immediate family, which includes my younger son Michael and my two grown-up boys, plus my partner Penny – we do a big spread to satisfy everyone, including turkey, duck and some fish (Penny particularly enjoys a whole salmon).
Do you have any favourite Christmas suppliers or merchants - or any Christmas foodstuffs you are fond of?
Turkey and duck from Higginsons Butchers in Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria. A Fortnum & Mason hamper is pretty special too.
Any tips on how best to cook turkey and trimmings?
Use a good-quality, free-range turkey that has been hung long-legged for at least a week. Smear herb butter between the skin and the flesh to keep the meat moist and use de-skinned Cumberland sausages, fried onions and herbs for your stuffing.
Are there any Rogan family traditions at this time of year?
TV, sofa, fireplace, lots of food, large G&T, a short walk, then the same all over again.
Which cheeses would be on your cheeseboard at a party?
My favourites are Westcombe cheddar, Stichelton, and St Marcellin. We are so lucky that we have a charming little cheese shop in Cartmel (called Cartmel Cheeses).
What’s good to eat on Boxing Day?
We always have a huge traditional fry-up late morning to get us going, and then we sort out all of the leftovers from Christmas Day, adding jacket potatoes, cold meats and pickles at tea time.
Do you have a winter drink or cocktail that you make for yourself at home?
My favourite tipple at the moment is gin (either Tanqueray or Sipsmith) with a fiery ginger beer.
Christmas cake or mince pies? Or neither?
Mince pies definitely, with a cup of tea – the best combination. I never really liked Christmas cake; I find it too rich.
Do you prefer town or country in winter?
It’s very nice to have access to both, and I am enjoying the contrast between the teensy village of Cartmel and lots of meetings in Mayfair at Claridge’s, with my Manchester restaurants sort of in the middle. I get the tranquility of the Cumbrian countryside and the huge contrast with the fantastic chaos of central London.
What can we expect from the new restaurant at Claridges?
A few surprises - in the space and in the food. It will definitely be a modern restaurant with traces of L’Enclume but respecting the history, glamour and location of Claridge’s. We will be truly seasonal and we want to really engage the customers, so are planning a very accessible, open kitchen space, to try to break down the barriers between kitchen and dining room.