karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)
After a few stressful weeks, I felt the need to indulge and reward myself so booked a table at Roganic for lunch. I'd been there during opening week but wanted to try out the new menu which is now all head chef Ben Spalding's.
Knowing that eating the full 10 course meal would take several hours, I'd booked a table for 12 and was indeed the only guest for a while. This meant I had a free choice of tables so naturally I picked the one by the window which provided excellent light for photography. I've written about the restaurant in my previous post so straight on to the food:

Squid ink paper amuse bouche

The amuse bouche was crunchy "squid ink paper" with a light and fresh cucumber mouse and various seeds. A lovely bite to tickle the tastebuds.

Bread and butter

The bread and butter. The bread (the new chestnut flatbread, pumpernickel, Irish soda and buttermilk) was just as good as during my first visit and the whipped butter was served on Jellybean, the pebble.

Heirloom tomato

The first course was "Heirloom tomato, poached lamb tongue, dill custard", layered in a bowl. Sandia Chang, the maitre d' who usually served me during this stay, described it as a savoury trifle which was a rather apt description with its various layers of different flavours and textures. The chopped, chewy tongue was at the bottom, then a layer of the soft dill custard and finally a sort of salsa. All very fresh flavours that expanded and chased each other as you chewed/moved the spoonful around in your mouth.

Braddock White duck egg

Braddock White duck egg, puff ball mushroom, barley flakes, samphire and marjoram oil. As with most dishes at Roganic, this was a delightul combination of textures: the warm soft egg, the crunchy mushroom and samphire and the crispy barley.

Then, an early highlight, not only culinary but also theatrically: Cured and smoked River Tweed trout, sweet and sour peppers, and crab apple:
Cured and smoked River Tweed trout Cured and smoked River Tweed trout Cured and smoked River Tweed trout

This was the most remarkable piece of fish I'd ever had. It was so soft it literally melted in my mouth, sweet and beautifully flavoured. The accompaniments suited it perfectly. What a delight.

Pork belly and smoked eel croquettes

Pork belly and smoked eel croquettes, black mustard, sea purslane and fresh corn was another taste revelation. The combination of pork belly and eel, both usually rather fatty, was rich but surpisingly not greasy at all. The sweetcorn was lovely (I really seem to be warming to it)

Stone baked prawn

Stone baked prawn, purple sprouting broccoli, pickled elderberries and loganberry oil. Charmingly, the prawn was at first presented to me raw on a large pepple before it was taken to the kitchen to be cooked (I sadly didn't take the chance to take a photo). Excellent combination with the tart fruit.

Royal Kidney potatoes

Royal Kidney potatoes cooked in chicken fat, snow peas, goat's curd and clam juice. The successor to the most stunning potatoes I've ever had, this was equally wonderful but completely different because it was served with liquid accompaniments.

Skate belly and king scallop

The stunners just kept on coming with this Skate belly and king scallop dish, served with young leek and caramelised cauliflower. The seafood wonderfully caramelised while cooked to perfection, this was another hearty dish.

Cumrian rose veal

Closely followed by the main, Cumbrian rose veal cooked in buttermilk then roasted, cobnuts, cabbage and mead sauce. Superb meat with excellent accompaniments. Another winner.


The first dessert: Bilberries (stewed and whole), dried caramel, natural yoghurt and iced lemon thyme. Lovely tart fruit with the powdery caramel not being sweet at all. This was a perfect palate cleanser after the earlier rich dishes.

White chocolate sorbet

The second dessert was a White chocolate sorbet with rapeseed, Herman plum and meadowsweet granita. Sweet granita, crunchy seeds (up until then I hadn't known you could actually eat rapeseed rather than just use them for oil) and tart plum. Perfect.

Bay leaf milkshake, shortbread

Bay leaf milkshake, shortbread. This was another surprise as the bay worked really well.

Skipping the cheese this time, I finished with a cup of hot chocolate, accompanied by the tiniest cupcake ever:
Mini cupcake, hot chocolate

The stunning food and the friendly, relaxed and chatty service made the three hours and 20 minutes I spent at the restaurant fly by in no time. Having eaten so well, I didn't actually need another meal that day and only brunch the next.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
When I heard of Roganic opening I canceled my original dinner booking on Friday and booked a table there instead. I had heard and read very exciting things about Simon Rogan's food at L'Enclume so when I learned he was opening a (temporary but relatively long-term of two years) restaurant in London I saw my chance to sample his food without having to trek to the Lake District and phoned to book a table and managed to get one of the last ones.
The restaurant on Blandford St. (about 150 yards up the road from L'Autre Pied so in excellent company) has an unassuming, green front, so much so that I walked right past it the first time. The restaurant itself is rather small (only 25 covers) with a front room and a small extension in the back with skylights. There are only placemats on the dark brown tables, which gives the place a nicely casual atmosphere. If there is one thing I can't stand in fine dining restaurants it's stiff white tablecloths with equally stiff waiting staff. At Roganic, the first are absent and the latter are anything but stiff. I received a very friendly welcome was shown to my table in the back overlooking the rest of the restaurant (which is great, some places put lone diners in a corner somewhere) and given the menu and wine list.
Now, here's the thing about Roganic: There is only one choice for dinner, the ten(!) course tasting menu (at least currently, I believe some other options are planned and lunch is either five or the full ten courses and there are vegetarian options for each). Helpfully, they left the menu on the table which was handy when trying to remember what exactly it was I was currently eating.
The equally friendly and helpful sommelier recommended a glass of nice white wine for me (which I can't remember now, must remember to take photos of bottle labels but the second glass was a Roter Veltliner) and then the first treat appeared, a "chickpea and rosemary wafer":

Amuse bouche: Chickpea and Rosemary Wafer

This was a fun, light and crunchy bite that already hinted at what was to come.
Then, the bread and butter arrived, both made fresh and in-house, and the purpose of the large pebble on the table became clear: It's not for decoration but serves as plate for the scrumptious, fluffy unsalted butter. Genius, just like the bread: the pumpernickel is so unlike in texture to any other I've eaten. While the dark, malty flavour is typical, the textre is light and almost fluffy with a crisp crust. The other two (potato and sage?) are equally excellent. I think I could happily eat just bread and butter and call it a meal.

Bread and butter

The first actual menu course was Broad bean and hyssop, fresh curds and beetroot. Here was where the list of of the many things I'd never eaten before that evening started: hyssop (the thin stalks with yellow leaves). It's light and sllightly bitter, almost reminding me of chicory, and provided the crunch needed as contrast to the soft beetroot foam and curds. Light and fresh, this dish woke up your tastebuds.

Broad bean and hyssop, fresh curds and beetroot

The first stunner of the evening arrived next: Scarlet ball turnip baked in salt, smoked yolk, sea vegetables and wild mustard. The star of this dish wasn't the crunchy turnip but the smoked yolk. This was cooked in the waterbath so set at the same consistency all the way through, soft but not runny, with a wonderful flavour. With the added crunch from the turnip, the green sea veg and slight kick from the mustard sauce, every bite filled your mouth with flavour that kept kicking in. Truly remarkable.

Scarlet ball turnip baked in salt, smoked yolk, sea vegetables and wild mustard

The first non-vegetarian dish was next: Seawater cured mackerel, orache, broccoli and warm elderflower honey. What can I say? A perfectly cooked piece of fish with crackling skin, complimented by all things around it, not least the elderflower honey (collected in Regent's Park or so I was told). I'm not a big fan of honey and definitely not in savoury dishes but this was great, almost tart and provided the balance needed. Orache was another sea veg I hadn't eaten before, putting the count at four, as I'm sure there were at least two in the previous dish (more if you count the specific variety of turnip). Another stunner, definitely.

Seawater cured mackerel, orache, broccoli and warm elderflower honey

On to the meat: Shredded ox tongue, pickles and sourdough paper. The warm, deeply meaty flavoured tongue was not really shredded but ground into a very fine paté, the crunchy "paper" was like exceedingly thin toast and the pickled veg were in light and crunchy contrast to the soft tongue. Genius.

Shredded ox tongue, pickles and sourdough paper

Back to seafood with Flaky crab and mallow cream, young squid and cucumber. With its freshness and subtle flavours, this was the perfect palate cleanser after the rich ox tongue. Wonderful. New things count: 5 (mallow, another sea veg).

Flaky crab and mallow cream, young squid and cucumber

Another vegetarian dish next and this one was a killer: Heritage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel. Despite sounding relatively simple, this was full of flavour, warm, strong potatoes, smoky oniony powder and crunchy herbs. So so good. Best potaotoes ever. No doubt.

Heritage potatoes, in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel

Back to fish, described as "the first main": Roasted brill, chicken salt, surf clams and rainbow chard. The stunner here was the emulsion which wrapped the fish in a meaty film while leaving the flavour of the fish and clams intact. I have no idea how this works but it does and it was another favourite.

Roasted brill, chicken salt, surf clams and rainbow chard

Meat again for the last main: Cumbrian hogget, artichokes and chenopodiums, putting the new things count to 7 (hogget - from a sheep older than lamb but younger than mutton - and chenopodiums. The meat is slow braised for over 20 hours and comes apart touched. Lovely, strong flavour, with the accompaniments providing balance in texture and lightness. Very yummy.

Cumbrian hogget, artichokes and chenopodiums

When the plate was cleared away I was offered an extra cheese course which I accepted but asked to be served at the very end as early cheese isn't my thing and my request was happily accepted.
So, the desserts, starting with Sweet cicely with strawberry, buttermilk and verbena which was sweet indeed but also tart and "green" so wonderfully balanced. Lovely. New things count at 9 (cicely and verbena).

Sweet cicely with strawberry, buttermilk and verbena

The last dish on the menu was Warmed spiced bread, salted almonds, buckthorn curd, smoked clotted cream. Crunchy, crumbly and warm bread, fruity buckthorn and soft cream. In a word, scrumptious. New things count: 10 (buckthorn, at least something I'd heard about when Nathan Outlaw cooked with it on Great British Menu a couple of years ago).

Warmed spiced bread, salted almonds, buckthorn curd, smoked clotted cream

It wasn't over yet, though because something else came along: Cherry Soda and Marshmallow. Very tart blitzed up cherries and a soft, sweet marshmallow. On their own they would have been too strong but combining a bite of marshmallow and a sip of the soda was perfect. This put another huge smile on my face and I asked for a spoon as I didn't want to leave anything behind, just as I often used a bit of bread to mop up the juices on the plate.

Cherry Soda and Marshmallow

Finally, the cheese. There was a great choice on offer, all British and most types represented, including the mighty Stinking Bishop. A generous helping, too, it's rare you get that much to choose. Another star here was the gooseberry chutney which was just awesome. I suggested they should put it in jars and sell it, I would certainly buy one.

So, this was it, almost three and a half hours after taking my seat I had had 13 courses and a truly remarkable experience, both in terms of food and service. All the people serving me were friendly, gracious, very knowledgable about the food they were serving and happy to answer any questions. They were also clearly delighted seeing me enjoying myself so much. I wasn't the only one to enjoy it, either. There was a rather lively table of four in my room who chatted away between courses but when the food arrived they were just as stunned as I was and ate in complete silence after a few excited initial remarks like "This is the best broad bean I've ever eaten!" which underlines exactly what the food at Roganic is about. The dishes aren't just one main, expensive ingredient with a few accompaniments but all the elements shine equally.

None of my descriptions can do it justice and you have to try it for yourself. It's not just me who thinks that, all the reviews I've read so far contain similar remarks. Steve Groves, Masterchef Professional winner last year and sous chef at Roux Parliament Square said on twitter "Food this good hurts my head.", Daniel Clifford, two-star chef at Midsummer House said "what a real gem in London" (he was there when I left, with Kenny Atkinson who were in London because they appeard on Saturday Kitchen the morning after). High praise from high class chefs indeed and they are probably the most difficult people to please.
If you want to visit, be quick because this is going to be a very busy place indeed. Even more so than now that not that many people know about it. Also, I was lucky to get a table during the "soft opening" with a nice discount deducted from the final bill. When it is running at full pace, the 10 course menu will set you back for £80 and the five course lunch menu for £40. With two glasses of wine, the extra cheese course and 12.5% service, my bill ran to £90 which I was very happy to pay.

On my way back from the gents' (two glasses of wine and a bottle of water had taken their toll) I walked past the open kitchen door and had a brief chat with Simon Rogan, thanking him for the wonderful food.

I left with a huge smile on my face and a spring in my step, despite being rather full. The individual portions are small but 13 courses do add up and the bread is just too yummy not to constantly nibble on (and will be replenished throughout the evening). I didn't even need breakfast the next day.

So, Roganic offers food that is out of this world (while being locally sourced) and impeccable service, too. I felt very welcome from the moment I walked in until I was shown out afterwards, without being overwhelmed. It is really hard to believe they had only been open for a week when I was there.

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April 2016

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