Those are terms I’d use to describe the Roganic experience. Perhaps “casual” too. A small hole in the wall done up minimalistically to host Simon Rogan’s two-year “pop-up” in London. They’re looking for a proper site I heard and in the mean time Blandford Street will function as a temporary platform showcasing dishes that teleport you to the greenery of the Lake District.
Roganic, however, is not a replica of Simon’s two-Michelin-starred L’ Enclume. It has its DNA but will evolve itself under the talented head chef Ben Spalding. Accordingly, dishes here are half Simon’s creations and half Ben’s. There is only the tasting menu. 10-course at dinner time. If for lunch, you may opt for a more concise 5-course that could all be ordered and done by a matter of an hour!
Bread. Sourdough-based. Baked fresh and served very warm. The stout one had this touch of brilliance. The intense aroma poured through once I tore the bread. This came with butter, homemade and also homesalted. Whipped kinda texture. Ethereal. Smeared on flat rocks (which Ben handpicked from the beach in Folkstone) at my table. Chickpea, Oxydized Bread, Cream Cheese. Beautifully crafted. A canape that crumbled on my tongue. The flavours were on the light side. Chickpea paste and sumptuous drops of cream cheese.
First course. An amuse bouche of Broad Bean, Hyssop, Buffalo Curd and Beetroot (1). Very agreeably glossy beetroot, given extra velvety texture by the curd. Sadly, the curd cancelled the subtle taste of this beetroot a bit. The broad beans were stellar. Nicely cooked and bold in flavours. Strong flavours from the shoots, too, with hints of aromatic, bitter hyssops. All in all the least memorable serving of the evening. Maybe I am too critical here as I recently came across the best beetroot dish in the world in Russia..
Smoked Yolk, Salt Baked Turnip, Sea Vegetable, Wild Mustard (2). A particularly “green” dish. The smoky-ness hit my nose from afar. The rich, yolky flavour became less aggressive thanks to the delightfully salty turnip. Salt worked in a wonderful way as it also brought out turnip’s natural sweetness. Understated textural contrast that worked. Seawater Cured Mackerel, Orache, Broccoli, Elderflower Honey (3). The stunner of all dishes. Texture perfect. Again there was this aroma. Strong, indulgent and smelling very much like food (as opposed to things being so waterbathed and sous-vided). laborious cured process that resulted in the superbly moist mackerel. Crispy robe of skin that snapped. Yet again very green. Broccoli puree waving across the plate and amalgamated by its dehydrated counterpart. Uber sweet but light honey bound the elements together. Loved it.
Shredded Ox Tongue, Carrot Pickle, Sourdough Paper (4). Ox tongue very pate-like hidden behind two biteful sheets of sourdough which was not only bready but nutty. Rich meat oozing home comfort as much as innovativeness. Balanced out by the freshness of the radish and the varying degree of crunchy carrot pickles. Personally I’d prefer more acidity in the pickles as it would cut through the tongue with more poise. Nonetheless, my other bib rounded it up as the best dish of the evening. Flaky Crab, Mallow Cream, Squid and Cucumber (5). Fresh, submissively flaky crab sitting on the plate waiting for our abuse. A bite into this revealed a surprise as there were many cubes of squid which added extra layers of texture. Juicy cubes of cucumber to cleanse the palate of the sea flavours. The real ace here however was the ink squid crouton. Powerful bursts. Squiddy taste. Pretty much like squid with new texture. A exceptional dimension to the taste of the sea.
Heritage Potatoes, Onion Ashes, Lovage, Wood Sorrel (6). Everything so little can seriously taste so BIG! This is Simon Rogan’s signature. Perfectly fluffy potatoes. Sweet, powdery onions with a touch of smoky-ness. Tickling roughness on the tongue – seriously! Another dimension of onion goodness from the base of sweet, thick and more intense onion puree. And another celery-like, subtly sustained heat from lovage. Yes, so little food can taste so BIG!!!
Roasted Brill, Chicken Salt, Cockles and Ruby Chard (7). This was, hand down, the most flavoursome fish course I’d ever had. Perfectly cooked brill with crusty chicken salt. What is chicken salt? Australian thingy of salt with chicken extract hereby upgrading the usually light fish flavour to a new height. Meaty cockles. Some more depth from mushroom puree and chard. Interestingly this did not at all taste over-salted. Just intense and pleasurable. Cumbrian Hogget, Artichokes and Chenopodiums (8). Very tender hogget with fat to melt and mellow in my mouth. Sweetbreads caramelised in the decadently glistening jus. There was nothing wrong with this dish whatsoever. That said, as it was the “main” it could do with slightly bigger portion. Slapping the diners with comfort usually deprived in a tasting menu, so to speak.
Desserts.. *big sigh* .. 8 courses had been a relatively lengthy journey. Wasn’t exhaustive as many of my meals in Paris though (L’ Arpege and L’ Astrance came to mind). Sweet Ciceley with Strawberry, Buttermilk and Verbena (9). Looking Christmasy though you won’t find it at Christmas as strawberries aren’t in season. Peppermint cleansing flavours. Soft bulby strawberries surrendering their tangy sweetness for my pleasure. A lot of sugary texture to contrast and finished off with lustrous buttermilk.. gosh! Last but not least was this Warm Spiced Bread, Salted Almonds, Buckthorn Curd and Smoked Clotted Cream (10). Geometrical contrast on plate. Very pronounced cardamom scent. Married off well with nutty almond flakes and ridiculously smoky cream. Crispy bread cut to reveal spongy inside. It was oozing comfort but not quite befitting summer time. Too warm a dish perhaps? But, at the very least, it wasn’t heavy.
… petit fours (I’m actually feeling exhausted writing this up. Didn’t feel it was this “long” eating dishes!). A frothy shot of cherry – not Sherry – that came with a shocking marshmallow. I don’t want to spoil it. I’d just say it was electric when I threw that marshmallow in my mouth And the Vicky Sponge with Raspberry. Little angelic delights. As light as cloud in a sunny day. Flavours more aligned toward a financier.
The meal at Roganic today borders on excellence. Mightily brave dishes. SO brave I found them tremendously exciting. You won’t come across this very often in London or the UK where tradition and conservatism – foie gras, turbot, truffle – prevails. In this regard, I feel Roganic has a similar impact to my first meal at Viajante. However, as labourious as the two kitchens might be, Roganic is the meal speaks “innocent”, “effortless” and “green/organic”. It went more smoothly. We did not taste rigidity or overcomplication in dishes or scientific injection and molecular experiments implicit in Viajante dishes. Just ingredients paired down so they each could shine in their own rights. Throughout the meal, there were sustained elements of comfort hidden among the green leaves making this unique experience not alienating. At the end of the meal it was not an orgasm but sublimity. Not the dishes you’d like to experience on an everyday basis but Roganic does turn Blandford Street into a destination.
And there will be more excitements coming along Roganic-way.
PS I don’t usually mention the service but the Front of House here had been tremendously knowledgeable and accommodating. My other bib was stuck in an indefinite meeting and thought he had missed the meal. Luckily, when he was released from work, I was informed they could pause my meal so he could still pop in and catch up with the dishes he had missed. Given the bustle at Roganic, I understood this would put a strain on the kitchen. Much appreciated indeed!! XXX
My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “9 out of 10″.
19 Blandford Street
Tel. 020 7486 0380