Finally it was my turn to dine at the 2-year pop up restaurant Roganic in Marylebone. Â I was taken there by the lovely Skinny Bib who has been a RoganicÂ regular since the restaurant opened last summer. Â Roganic is owned and overseen by Simon Rogan, who has earned his reputation with L’Enclume in the Lake District.
According to The Skinny Bib, the food by the not onlyÂ amazinglyÂ talented but also surprisingly young RoganicÂ Â head chef Ben Spalding has always beenÂ exceptional, Â but has developed remarkably over the past year. Â I don’t have any comparison and I can just say that the food at my visit was stunning. Â Innovative, exciting, challenging and playful while at the same time deeply comforting and satisfying. Â It might very well be one of the best meals I have had in the last year.
Here some facts and impressions about Roganic, which apart from superb cooking, offers the whole package.
1. There is no a la carte menu, only a 6 course tasting Â menu for 55 and a 10 course tasting menu for 80 pounds. Â If you Â make it for lunch, you can take advantage of the 3 course menu for 29 pounds, which – I was told – comes with some extra courses on top.
2. Roganic is a paradise for vegetarians. Â Even though I am not a vegetarian myself, I adore vegetables and I think that they should take centre stage in gourmet cooking much more often. Â Roganic has a 6 and 10 course vegetarian menu and also the non-vegetarian menu comprises of some pure vegetable dishes.
3. The serviceÂ is beyond lovely – good looking, charming,Â knowledgeable and treating you as a long lost friend rather than a customer. Â One gets the impression that not only the kitchen but also the front house staff is excited about and proud of the food being served, which is a nice thing to feel as a customer.
4. The ambiance isÂ decidedlyÂ low key. Â The small restaurant comprises of only around 10 tables (just guessing) and there are no table clothes or posh furniture. Â The relaxed and welcoming atmosphere makes you feel at home and ready to go for the gusto.
5. Â Don’t get me wrong, Roganic is expensive. Â However, 55 pounds for a tasting menu considering the quality of the food, the attention to detail and the pleasure I have gained from it all I say it is superb value for money. Â In fact there is almost no better way to invest 55 pounds!
Now a little culinary journey through whatever Roganic has to offer. Â Please forgive me my slightly blurry memory of some of the dishes, I was too preoccupied enjoying each single one of them to focus. Each dish consisted of so many ingredients, half of which I have never heard of, that I really would have had to take notes…
The pre-starter consisted of “ham sandwich” (crispy ham filled with a cream of horseradish) and fluffy and light croquettes.
I made the mistake to eat too much of the 4 varieties of home made bread, still warm from the oven and absolutely delicious with the home made butter served on a stone. Â The bread alone makes the trip to Roganic worth it.
Then the first course: Â Poached and grilled king oyster mushrooms with bouncy texture and earthy flavour were served with salty samphire and sea purslane on a mushroom puree. Â Beautiful.
I loved this dish that the Skinny Bib termed “modern egg and soldiers“. Â The soupy component was served in an egg, so pretty. Â I am a bit annoyed with myself, but I can’t remember at all what the ingredients of this dish were. Sorry…
Who but a slightly mental chef would think of wrapping a langoustine in pork scratchings? Â Yes, that’s Ben Spalding for you. Â The subtle flavours of the juicy langoustine were not, as one would think, destroyed by the pork skin but intensified and I loved the combination with the artichoke and carrot puree. Â A stunning and inventive dish, with the only downside of pork pieces sticking between your teeth for the better part of the evening.
For me, leek is an absolutelyÂ unnecessaryÂ vegetable, Â and someone who can make leek taste good deserves a medal. Â Ben Spalding bakes his leeks (it’s a special one called Darwin leek) in special clay spiked with rosemary and serves it on a bacon sauce sprinkled with a generous helping of chocolate truffle shavings. Â I liked this dish but didn’t love it, which probably has to do with my leek aversion rather than Ben’s recipe. Â The bacon sauce was beautiful by the way, creamy and naughty liquid bacon.
Now the fish course: Roasted Cornish Gurnard came beautifully presented on a bed of salt, resting on a stone, surrounded by sage. Â It was cut at the table and served with brown shrimp, celeriac (another one of theseÂ unnecessaryÂ vegetablesÂ if you ask me) and sprout leaves. Â The flavoursome and succulent fish tasted heavenly with the salty shrimp and the fresh leaves. (let’s not talk about the celeriac).
The meat course was one of my favourites as Â I love the combination of sweet and savoury and sour: Â The 52 hour (not 48, not 53 but 52 hours!) braised longhorn shortrib fell off the bone,Â unbelievableÂ soft with a sweet flavour coming from the rich sauce. Â This was cleverly counteracted but the tangy smokedÂ redcurrants.
Ahh the desserts! Â Rich and caramelly apple tart served with some kind of sorbet (sorry my memory again…) was very good, but the star tastewise and also for the looks was the Yorkshire rhubarb. Â The combination of the tart rhubarb, the yoghurt ice cream, the iced lemon thyme and sheet of dried caramel on top was a dessert from heaven. Â Very fittingly it started snowing when it was served…
2 post-desserts. Â Stop.
I rolled out of Roganic with a big smile on my face and my head filled with the pleasant memories of novel flavour combinations, Â new ingredients and a veryÂ satisfyingÂ meal.
- Food: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Ambiance: 8/10
- Value for Money: 8/10
- Chances of Returning: 100% (yes yes yes!)
- Verdict: Roganic, I love you!