We had a wonderful meal at Simon Rogan's Roganic last year, and when it closed without any confirmation of a follow up London venture I was disappointed that we would not be able to sample his cooking again without a long journey up to Cumbria. So, to my delight, when Claridges announced he would be taking over the restaurant from Gordon Ramsay, I knew we would be heading for lunch as soon as we could.
You can't help but feel a bit special when heading into Claridges, and as we arrived a little early we soaked up the ambiance in the lobby before heading in. The room is impressive, with Claridges stunning art deco architecture, but a natural, organic feel, with pebble stones on wooden tables with a comfortable ambiance.
We were sat and Jack, joining Fera from our Fitzrovia haunt Kitchen Table, came over for a chat and took our drinks orders. Nice to see a familiar face. Throughout the meal the service from all was top class, just the type of consummate professionals I would expect at venue like Claridges, and not a hint of stuffiness.
Starting with some cocktails, pea shoot, apple marigold and vermouth for my wife, and a lovage and herb rye whiskey for me. Both were unusual, and quite different to anything I've had before, and as I'm a fan of lovage it was great to taste it in such a different way. However, note to self: Don't have whiskey cocktail instead of breakfast.
The first dish was brought out by Simon himself, a rather impressive start. A crisp barley wafer with smoked eel, lovely, light and flavoursome. The canapes were all equally lovely, a mouthful of the sea in the form of a mackerel wafer, a fabulous bite of rabbit, crisp, warm and rich, and an absolute peach of a dish, a bowl with potato mousse and winslade cheese dish, including duck heart for myself, being particularly memorable. The last amuse bouche was clever, an almost ice cold salad of crab with rhubarb acting as a perfect palate cleanser before the bread course, a hunk of bread with butter and unusually a cup of sweet onion broth.
The main dishes were all very much what I would expect from Simon, very light, bags of flavour, highly technical, unusual herbs and foraged ingredients. The cabbage/beef course had an amazing smoked broccoli cream I will remember for a long time but the star was a dish brought out by Simon himself, a grilled salad. This was amazing, a barrage of crunchy and crispy textures from the grilled leaves, underneath a gorgeous truffle custard redolent with strong truffle flavours served in a wooden bowl and with a large wooden spoon, which i used to scrape the bowl clean of every last trace of that custard. I've seen some of the opening reviews where some found they weren't so keen on some courses, but I couldn't fault a single dish, and every element from the shellfish butter with the prawn to some delightful discs of pickled tongue with the hogget an absolute treat.
Desserts were similar, light, fresh with perfect balance. I loved the cherries that came with the yoghurt, and the celery pieces at the bottom of the ice cream dish were a touch of unexpected genius, I now know that if you do it right, celery can go in a dessert. This was finished with a blackcurrant wafer and a fizzy blackberry concoction, which was excellent, and I think a much better choice than the chamomile milkshake I've seen described elsewhere.
The petit fours were again something out of the ordinary, especially the sweet cicely cake, a ghost of a sponge so light it barely seemed real. We ended the meal with a fancy filter coffee poured at the table, in a rather cool Japanese filter kit, the coffee a fabulous Kenyan blend that we took without milk and clearly a cut above most coffees I've had.
Our wine, recommended by the sommelier on my vague instructions for something sweet, fruity and fragrant was a bottle of Patrimonio ‘Grotte di Sole’, Antoine Arena 2010 (£75) and was perfect with the food, lasting us right to the petit fours.
The bill came to around £420, our most expensive London meal, but with the surroundings, food, service, booze and a 15 quid (!) coffee it wasn't too much of a shocker. We enjoyed a memorable lunch, Simons food is exciting, unique and every bite a joy. Vegetarians are equally catered for, with Simons food naturally being more vegetarian friendly, especially with so much being sourced from the farm in Cartmel.
Puffed barley, onion, watercress. Puffed barley, smoked eel, watercress.
Berkswell cheese, pickled plum. Mackerel, seawater cream, caviar.
Stewed rabbit and lovage.
Chicken skin, thyme, roasted garlic.
Scallops in buttermilk.
Peas in buttermilk.
Winslade and potato.
Crab, rhubarb, goats cheese.
Kohlrabi, rhubarb, goats cheese.
Malt bread, onion broth.
Raw beef, smoked broccoli cream, scallop roe, acidic apple juice.
Sweetheart cabbage, smoked broccoli cream, fresh curd, acidic apple juice.
Oxalis, smoked yolk, carrot, juniper.
Prawns from Gairloch, picked alexander, asparagus, shellfish butter.
Asparagus, picked alexander and sunflower.
Grilled Salad, Isle of Mull, truffle custard and sunflower seeds.
Cods cheeks poached in dulse stock, artichoke, beetroot and sea orache.
Artichokes with dulse, beetroot and sea campion.
Herdwick hogget, pickled tongue, mushroms, turnips.
Celeriac baked in hay, crispy skin, hen of the woods, turnips and hazelnut.
Chamomile, butterscotch, celery.
Sheep's yoghurt, cherries, Douglas fir.
Hampshire Strawberries,woodruff and elder flower.
Blackberry and lemon verbena.
Sweet cicely cake.
Banana mint drops.
Fera At Claridges