Roganic is a pop-up restaurant from Simon Rogan. It's coming up to its closing date in June and I wanted to try it out before the shut down so a lunch time booking saw us head up to Marylebone on a ridiculously cold and snowy Saturday in March. The restaurant itself is a sparse wooden floored white walled room, plain and very much a temporary space befitting a pop-up.
We started with a likeable British sparkling rose from Balfour, my first experience of a British sparkling wine and enjoyed it. The first of the amuse bouche turned up before the menus. This was a cheese crisp, with shallot and a few drops of sauce. This was essentially a posh Quaver, with a lovely sweet and sour note from the juicy shallot ring. The next amuse bouche turned up in a iron pot, opened to a blast of sweet smoke from the hay within. On the hay lay two croquettes, a fantastic salty, smoky, rich morsel of smoked eel and pork belly with a hay sauce on top, the second a rich cheese croquette topped with nettle puree. The waft of hay smoke was lovely, and as each table received this dish the room filled with the smell throughout the lunch in a most agreeable manner. Those who wish should ask for the vegetarian croquette to be served separately, as I noticed with some tables who arrived after us, perhaps it had been mentioned.
The menus offered 3, 6 or 10 courses, and the only thing asked was that an equal amount of courses were chosen by us both. Although we had the choice to pick out courses from both vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus we both went for the 10 course from each. Vegetarian's are catered for very well, the vegetarian menu was just as varied and complex as the non-vegetarian which itself had a number of vegetarian courses. The influence of high quality produce from Rogan's Cartmel farm on the dishes is clear to be seen. Bread was a generous selection of six warm soft rolls, a white, wholemeal, and cracked wheat covered rye. These were served with an excellent unpasteurised butter.
The meal started with an unusual mushroom dish. A well flavoured incredibly light mushroom mousse, containing sweet pickled mushrooms was topped with a disc of mushroom caramel, itself topped with garlic drops and a blade of wild garlic. This innovative take on a burnt cream/crème brulee was a superb start to the menu, the sweet crunch of caramel balanced with the silky soft mousse and pickled mushrooms, the garlic drops and wild garlic a familiar accompaniment to the mushroom flavours yet the dish as a whole providing a whole new experience. A simply fantastic dish. Following this a bowl with swede dumplings, a handful of puffed barley resembling the Honey Monsters favourite food, a few leaves of nasturtium and hogweed was presented, into this a broth of vegetables was poured. The broth was particularly good, rich with tomato yet didn't overpower the dumplings or nasturtium. Following this a millet risotto, overlaid with a caramelised disc of pear, some celery foam, a pear syrup and a few elderberry leaves. The millet was rich with a blue cheese, Devon blue. Millet makes for an excellent risotto base, providing somewhat of a denser bite than rice, retaining the strong cheese perfectly, the pear sweet and flavourful, all coming together fabulously.
The fourth course saw the first time we had variations of the same dish, a dish much applauded, both at Roganic and at the newly opened The French, in Manchester. For me cubes of raw ox, in this case veal pieces, with sunflower seeds, balls of pickled squash and turnip purée all overlaid with a highly unusual coal oil. For my wife the veal was replaced with carrots of outstanding quality from the Cumbria farm. The coal oil is sunflower oil infused with charcoal, and was a highly original taste reminiscent of coal itself, yet not overpowering the ingredients, instead providing a rich smoky taste. A very clever dish, unlike anything else I've had before, incredibly more'ish and worked equally well with both veal and carrot. Next up saw another vegetable dish, three types of artichoke, a chunk of lemony globe artichoke base, crisp shavings and soft bulb of jerusalem artichoke and purple artichoke. These rested on a crunchy malt soil on a base of Ragstone goats cheese puree, this was accompanied with rocket and rocket puree. The goats cheese was strong, and together with the crunchy soil provided the dominant flavours although without overpowering the artichoke selection.
Next up was an excellent dish, a single large prawn from the Isle of Skye, just about cooked, with an unusual intensely flavoured oyster snow, a herb puree and sea herbs, and the unusual addition of reindeer moss. I've seen reindeer moss on a Ray Mears programme, where despite repeated soakings it was mostly bitter and inedible, however this was crisp dry sprig of moss, providing a subtle perfumed taste reminiscent of pine and winter and provided a crisp texture with the prawn and snow. I'm not sure how the snow was made, but melted like icing sugar in the mouth. All elements blended to a terrific dish again unlike anything I had before. My wife's course was a favourite of hers, providing a couple her of favourite ingredients, ducks egg and beetroot. A smoked ducks egg yolk of considerable size accompanied beetroot whole and pureed, charred baby gems and sour cream. A flood of rich, sticky yolk coated the excellent beetroot to great effect.
A fish course followed for me, an excellent fillet of Devon Lemon Sole, on a bed of fennel puree, some baby leeks, cockles and fennel stems. The sole was cooked to perfection, an intense aniseed note from the puree and cockles intense salty and savoury. The baby leeks were charred and fine examples of their kind. For my wife, 2 cores of a hay baked celeriac, brocolli whole and pureed, sage and crunchy vinegar rice. The celeriac was really good, soft and rich with butter yet retaining its flavour really well.
My final savoury course was a superb combination of Linsdale beef cheek, bone marrow, salsify, buttermilk sauce and Alexander for me. The richness of the cheek and marrow was balanced with the fresh buttermilk sauce, sweet salsify and together with a fantastic gravy provided a sure fire winning end to main courses.My wife had a lovely piece of cauliflower, likely cooked whole in a pan, browned with a caramelised edge accompanied with buckwheat, a hint of pine and a rich and decadent brown butter sauce.
We opted for a supplemental cheese course, but shared one between us. This was a very nicely presented slate with shavings of an Isle of Mull cheddar, celery, apple, pickled walnuts and crisp bread. I'm a sucker for a good piece of cheddar, and each element piled on the shaving was a really excellent mouthful. I really enjoyed this.
The first dessert was crisp tuile, with a gorgeous buttermilk ice cream, a minty snow of granita and a syrup of sea buckthorn. This was an innovative and again unusual dish, the bitter note in the sweet sea buckthorn syrup partnering the creamy buttermilk ice cream and mint granita and sweet crunch of the tuile in a pleasing fashion. The second dessert was a selection of poached forced rhubarb, gel and crisp, with a honeycomb ice cream, sorrel and pile of gingerbread crumb. The rhubarb itself was lovely, with a decent bite, earthy yet not to sweet nor sour, the creamy honeycomb and ginger biscuit were familiar pairings and a great plate. The sorrel leaves had a pleasant citrus flavour and were lovely dipped in some ice cream. Rather than petit four's, a third dessert was presented, a bowl of apple mousse on some stout jelly, and topped with a crunchy granola. The jelly retained its stout flavours really well, and mousse was light without being too rich, with a good apple flavour. All desserts were excellent.
My wife tried a glass of The Flower and The Bee with the first few courses, an excellently named Spanish white, and I had something quite different, a bottle of Camden Pale Ale, unlike any beer I've had before, light, terrific smelling and good enough that we ordered another bottle for my wife too.
Although it's only open for a few more months, Londoner's who haven't been should really try and fit in a meal at Roganic to sample Simon Rogan and Andrew Tomlinsons dishes. The food is innovative modern British cooking of the highest order, and excellent ingredients are used, especially those originating from the Cartmel farm. Although the room is plain and a tad noisy, it's there with the realisation this is a temporary space. The staff are friendly, attentive and knowledgeable, and all understand the dishes and ingredients really well showing a great deal of enthusiasm for the food. Vegetarians are on an equal footing with non-vegetarians, with some sophisticated and complex vegetable dishes standing shoulder to shoulder with the meat and fish dishes. The bill came to £246.
A new permanent home is being sought for Roganic, no places or timescales being mentioned as of yet, and a similar ethos and food can be found at the newly opened The French in Manchester's and of course at L'Enclume and the other Cumbrian ventures.
Croquettes in hay.
Mushroom burnt cream. Mushroom caramel, mousse, pickled enoki's, garlic drops and wild garlic.
Swede dumplings, nasturtium, hogweed, barley, vegetable broth.
Raw ox, coal oil, sunflower seeds, squash, turnip puree.
Carrots, coal oil, sunflower seeds, squash, turnip drops.
Selection of artichokes, malt soil, Ragstone goats cheese, rocket.
Prawn, snow, sea herbs, reindeer moss.
Smoked ducks egg, beetroot, charred baby gem, sour cream.
Lemon sole, fennel, cockles, baby leeks.
Hay baked celeriac, broccoli, vinegar rice.
Cauliflower, brown butter, buckwheat
Isle of Mull cheddar, crispbread, celery, apple, pickled walnuts.
Forced rhubarb, honeycomb ice cream, gingerbread, sorrel
Apple mousse, stout jelly, granola.