I’m not going to subject you to a dish-by-dish account of our 10 (well, 11) course lunch at Roganic. It’s been reviewed to death, see for example here and here. But it’s too good not to report back on.
When we went to L’enclume in April we were blown away by Simon Rogan’s hyper-local approach, making stars out of neglected vegetables and herbs, supplied from his farm and team of foragers. We were also seduced by the paradise village of Cartmel, replete with treats including the cheese shop, bakery and village shop – home of the sticky toffee pudding. We wondered at the time how the newly announced Roganic, a “2 year pop-up” in Marylebone would be able to reproduce the feelings of la belle vie evoked by the clean air, stone cottages, plants and flowers and slower pace of life in the village.
Well, inevitably Roganic couldn’t hope to reproduce those conditions. In fact the fairly pokey little space with ill-judged low light fittings (resulting in numerous entertaining head-clonkings) was pretty far away from the idyll of Cartmel. But it didn’t matter because Roganic has its own charms. The service was uniformly lovely and friendly, with informative but unobstrusive descriptions of dishes, and good steers through the wine list. And the food managed to hit the same heights as the mothership (perhaps even better?!). So if you’ve got to be in dirty old London on a Saturday, I can’t think of many places nicer to be.
What’s curious about the food at both Roganic and L’enclume is that the food philosophy is deliberately gentle. It is not about flavours exploding in the mouth, or generous portions of protein which sate you into sleepiness. It’s finely-judged. The 10-course menu leaves you with some residual energy. You don’t stagger out, holding your stomach desperate to lie down on the pavement (although we achieved this state a bit later on, at MEATliquor, but that’s another story).
This I think is a good thing, but I can see how others, after shelling out their £80 per head may prefer a more visceral experience. For me each and every dish was a joy, nothing was served which wasn’t interesting, and all dishes were distinct pleasures. Some dishes hit the real heights: a smoked, slow-cooked egg yolk with shavings of salt beef – right up my street. A small but perfectly formed roast langoustine with soft but tender cured Arctic char. The classic L’enclume dehydrated and roasted cauliflower, singing with sweet and earthy flavour (even cauliflower-hater Lap might enjoy this). And how can you not love a heritage potato cooked in chicken fat, served with chicken skin? Bilberries with dried caramel, yoghurt and iced lemon thyme was miraculous. And a special bonus course paired spiced brioche with smoked ice-cream and tart sea-buckthorn.
We left over four hours later – just as Ben Spalding and his team were having a well-deserved sit-down and a takeaway pizza before cracking on with their evening service.
It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely value.