19 Blandford Street,
(020) 7486 0380
The ViewLondon Review
Offering the meticulous, painstaking attention to detail of fine dining without the starchy, suffocating surroundings that often go with, Roganic has arrived in the capital all the way from the Lake District, bringing with it the best of British ingredients and adventurous, earthy cooking.
If you watched The Trip and laughed at the trading of comedy blows between its stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, you’ll have watched them sit down at chef Simon Rogan’s Michelin-starred L’Enclume restaurant in the Lake District. As well as being a love letter to the Lakes, it also brought L’Enclume to a wider audience, so this opening in Marylebone chimes with good timing. While Rogan is not in the kitchen at Roganic, one of his main men Ben Spalding heads up the operation, and it brings a similar commitment to organic produce and earthy British flavours as L’Enclume, something that embellishes the menu with unusual edible plants like hyssop, orache, lovage and chenopodiums.
It’s been billed as a pop-up, but it’s here for two years so it’s hardly a temporary residency. The site they’ve picked on Blandford Road, Marylebone, has a discreet military green exterior and behind this lies a bare, stark room with minimal wooden furniture, glaring bespoke lights hanging overhead and a slightly roomier section down a couple of steps to the rear. There must be a maximum of 20-25 covers tops and, such is the tightness of the space, you even have to be careful navigating your way down to the loos as a steady stream of plates are brought the opposite way by the staff.
The atmosphere couldn’t be further away from the showy, ostentatious, often ridiculously pretentious presentation and service that you sometimes find at Michelin star restaurants. This is mainly thanks to the staff, although the basic design – they even have cardboard wedged under wobbly tables - plays a part in keeping things chilled. Happy to have bit of banter with customers, explain all of the dishes with a deep understanding of them and even give recipes using gingerbread from Grasmere in the Lakes, the relatively young staff are a credit to the operation.
At present there are two ways to eat at Roganic: a 10-course taster menu (evenings) and a five-course lunch menu. The evening session costs £80 per person (without alcohol) - a hefty price point that puts it in competition with the capital's big boys, but you get plenty of plates – and a few extras – for your money. A more flexible menu where you could order as many – or as few - plates as you feel like would definitely be a good thing.
After freshly churned butter with Maldon salt is spread on presentation stones at your table, and beautiful warm bread is placed in the centre of your table, a procession of plates emerge from downstairs, in all shapes and sizes. British produce, from as far north as the Lakes and as far south as the Kent coast, is used with plenty of earthy flavours and flora employed.
Out of the 10 dishes there are several highlights including a smoky Kentish mackerel, served with an opaque eldoflower-infused honey flecked with tiny strands of broccoli; the slow-cooked ox tongue with brittle sourdough crisps is another cracker, as is the vintage potatoes covered in an onion ash. This also features on L’Enclume’s menu and sounds like a disaster waiting to happen but is arguably the most impressive dish of the sitting, with the smoky, caramelised flavour of the onion ash combining wonderfully with the spuds and the refreshing bite from the wood sorrel, an edible plant with an unusual citrusy flavour.
Not all the dishes have the same impact as those above and a couple are an acquired taste. The crab with cream, cucumber and squid ink crunchy bread is one that is served cold and a creamy cucumber flavour dominates the plate. Overall, though, there are plenty more high notes and only the occasional one that doesn’t elicit a positive response. The only problem you’ll have is finding room for them all, particularly as a cheese course turns up announced towards the end.
A Spanish white Albarino and a red Malbec are matched to dishes and the red is a powerful, heady brew with lots of rich and intense flavour. Dubbonet Champagne is also offered as an aperitif. There are plans to match drinks, both non-alcoholic and even things like real ale, to the menu.
The Last Word
Replacing the pomp, ceremony and flash surroundings of Michelin star cooking with an almost blank canvas that completely puts the focus on the food is a brave move. At these prices a lot of people tend to choose a venue as much for the ‘experience’ on a special occasion as the food, but this little piece of the Lake District in London is furrowing its own path and, for that, it should be commended.
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