[UPDATE: 2021-12-28: This restaurant is permanently closed]
So far this year we have seen the openings of restaurants by a few prominent chefs: first Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, then Pollen Street Social by Jason Atherton, and then in May The Gilbert Scott by Marcus Wareing. And most recently, it’s Simon Rogan (from the Cumbrian one Michelin-starred L’Enclume ) who opened the restaurant Roganic in Marylebone. It’s a two-year “pop-up” restaurant venture – meaning that it will be gone in two years time, when the lease is up.
I knew I would plan to visit this place at some point later on this year, but I certainly did not expect to pay a visit only three weeks after its opening. It was a rainy Saturday, I had not done my food shopping for the weekend, the fridge was completely empty (most unusual) and I just couldn’t be bothered to face fighting my way round the supermarket. So the next hard task was to decide where to go for dinner. I didn’t expect any tables available at Roganic but I thought I’d try my luck anyway – and I was glad to have made the phone call as there was a table for two the same evening.
The restaurant was not huge – seating for approximately 20-25 people. The decor and setting reminded me very much of L’Enclume, and maybe a little bit warmer and more cosy than L’Enclume – but then my last visit to L’Enclume was in November 2010, when Britain was hit by the heavy snowstorm and extreme cold weather.
After ordering some Philipponnat champagne, the amuse-bouche was brought to the table: Rosemary and chickpea with aioli on crisp bread. The vibrant colours certainly made it memorable in terms of presentation, and it tasted just as nice as it looked – the garlic aioli flavour did not overpower the freshness of the other ingredients, and the mouth was left with a surprisingly refreshing aftertaste.
Just like L’Enclume, there was a wonderful array of bread. This evening we were presented with potato bread, spelt bread and pumpernickel bread, fresh baking hot from the oven. A massive dollop of butter was placed on the stone on the table – and at first I thought “what a waste of butter”. But then when we tried the butter, we couldn’t get enough of it – the butter was churned to a soft whipped-cream texture at the restaurant, with Maldon salt added to it to give that slight saltiness and crunch. It was so delicious that we ended up eating 11 bread rolls between us and had a second helping of butter during the whole dinner.
The first two courses were broad bean and hyssop, fresh curds and beetroot; and Rubin turnip baked in salt, smoked yolk, sea vegetables and wild mustard. Both courses were so colourful and presented so beautifully that they looked like pieces of art that I could just look at and admire for a long time. In terms of taste, the beetroot and curd in the first course went surprisingly well together. The smokey egg yolk in the second course was cooked perfectly – still warm and slightly runny, and with a very distinctive smokey flavour to it.
The next course was seawater cured Kentish mackerel, orache, broccoli and warm elderflower honey – the sweetness of the honey balanced well with the oily strong-flavoured fish, which was perfectly cooked. The thinly sliced dried broccoli and the pattern on the plate augmented the look of the dish – it looked as if the fish was swimming in between the coral reefs in the sea.
At this point I was already impressed with Roganic – I didn’t expect the food to be this good when it’s only opened for three weeks, and the dishes were not that straightforward to put together.
The next course was shredded ox tongue, pickles and sourdough paper – it was interesting, with the ox-tongue that sandwiched between the sourdough paper reminding me of potted meat that I used to have when I was young.
The next course was probably the biggest surprise of the evening: flaky Crab and mallow cream, young squid and cucumber. It was refreshing and had a pleasant aroma that transported my mind to the seaside – it was as if I was eating this dish at an open-air restaurant by the sea. The squid ink croutons gave the crunchiness to the perfectly-cooked pieces of crab meat and squid. It was a truly memorable dish.
The next course was one of the very few dishes that featured on both L’Enclume and Roganic menus: vintage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel. This was supposedly to be one of the signature dishes, but I must say that I was not that keen on it – as much as I liked onions, the dehydrated onion with the onion oil drizzled around the potatoes was just too strong and had a taste that reminded me of something I was not keen on when I was younger.
The 7th course of the evening was roasted monkfish, chicken salt, mushroom and fennel leaves. While the monkfish was cooked slight a bit too much, it was made up by the bold and intense flavour of the stock and the salt made from chicken skin. The mushroom puree and the fennel leaves provided another dimension of strong taste to the dish. Overall a combination of flavours that worked well together.
The last savoury course was Cumbrian hogget, artichokes and chenopodiums. A rich flavour of the hogget with the sweetbreads on the dish, but it was just too salty for my liking – to the point where it left a bitter salty taste after finishing the dish (and so thirsty on the way home that I couldn’t stop drinking water).
For the desserts, the first one was sweet ciceley with strawberry, buttermilk and verbena – the macerated strawberries were refreshing (very welcoming after the previous dish) and went well with the strong perfume flavour of the verbena and mint.
The finale was warm spiced bread, salted almonds, buckthorn curd, smoked clotted cream – I was dreading this dish because I didn’t like the buckthorn at L’Enclume. Each ingredient on its own sounded (and actually tasted) a bit ghastly, but together they were like match-making in heaven. It was a bit like the magic bacon and egg ice-cream at The Fat Duck. The dish was not too sweet and was a good finish to the meal.
Afterwards we were brought the Douglas Fir & Pine milkshake with Douglas Fir flapjack. The milkshake was something I had at L’Enclume. The flavour of this one still reminded me of some medicine I had when I was young – but it was not at all unpleasant.
To finish off this suprisingly good meal, we ordered some tea that was made specially at the restaurant, using a mixture of verbena, douglas fir, and other herbs. To go with the tea, the petit fours were some mini Victoria sponge cakes topped with raspberries.
On the whole, it was a nice meal – apart from the hogget which was too salty for my taste, the rest of the dishes were nicely flavoured, and there were some very memorable dishes. There’s always going to be a comparison between Roganic and the older brother L’Enclume – while some people might claim that L’Enclume was more adventurous and experimental, personally I found that at Roganic the food was less salty (apart from the hogget), and a slightly warmer decor and service. For Londoners who can’t be bothered to venture all the way up to Lake District, Roganic is certainly a well-worthy alternative. It’s a place I’d certainly be back – now I just need out-of-town visitors to give me my perfect excuse to return to this restaurant in the next two years.
Address: 19, Blandford St, London, W1U 3DH , United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)207 4860380
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 12.00pm to 2.30pm; 6.00pm to 9.00pm
Total: 17/20 [Based on visit in July 2011 ]