Who: Simon Rogan
Where: 5-7 Blandford St, London W1U (nearest tube Baker St/Bond St)
Why: Sister restaurant to 2 Michelin star L'enclume, unique take on modern British cooking
It's back you know? On the off chance that you don't know, and let's face it, there's a lot going on in the world right now to distract us, Roganic, Simon Rogan's London satellite of his award winning restaurant L'Enclume in Cumbria has reopened two doors down from its original site on Blandford Street, Marylebone. And, it's better than ever.
We first ate Simon's food at L'Enclume in May 2011 and were smitten. Back then, when so many top end restaurants relied upon luxury ingredients like foie gras and lobster to do the heavy lifting, Simon had a way of finding the remarkable in the everyday and the everyday lived in fields and grew in hedgerows on his doorstep, right there in Cumbria. Much came from his own farm. The sense of 'belonging' at L'Enclume was then, and remains now, remarkable. In turn L'Enclume won The Good Food Guide best restaurant in the UK for 5 years running, scoring a perfect 10.
The original Roganic also opened in 2011 (where do the years go?) and was, at the time, billed as a 'two year pop-up'. And that's what happened, two years on, it popped back down again; it was greatly missed. In the intervening period, several trips to Cartmel were made, and thoroughly enjoyed of course, but if you live in London, Cartmel is not a place you can really pop to for lunch (though it can just about be done). Marylebone however is a different matter.
In terms of menus, at lunch, you have a choice between tasting menus (for the full SImon Rogan experience) or the 'Set Business Lunch Menu' that allows for a three course lunch at a reasonable £35. The three course menu also provides for a much quicker turnaround time for those who cannot linger. On the set lunch menu on the day of my visit was the grilled salad with Westcombe (cheddar) and truffle (custard) to start, duck for the main and the strawberry and buttermilk dessert. The full tasting menu contains smaller versions of these dishes that are shown below.
Turning the dial up a notch or two, the full tasting menu shows extensively on the page but more often than not (intentionally) reveals very little about what you are to eat. Stichelton, millet, black garlic for example is an artwork of a blue cheese and millet croquette with a black garlic emulsion piped on top. Everything has been carefully considered and here, as elsewhere, textures interact with taste, and visual impact matters, so yes, tweezers are at work throughout the meal. Really, I don't know why that bothers people so much, especially when the results are this stunning. A standout presentation is the mushroom wafer presented on woodland floor (see pictures below).
Roganic has also got better even in its current iteration, for I admit, I'm lucky, it's not my first time here. Earlier this year, a very strong start by the Roganic team has been converted further into the current offering of something very special indeed. If the Americans have 'shock and awe,' Roganic has 'surprise and delight,' because that is what every dish elicits, a little wave of joy on seeing the dish followed by more delight on tasting. Even those who are afflicted with something of a jaded palette would surely find much here to love. The bread for example tastes like a gorgeous breakfast muffin (most guests request seconds), while the butter's hand rolled, for there are no shortcuts here. Every dish leaves its own mark on your taste memory, such as the grilled salad that comes with a truffle custard (and Westcombe cheddar), and a tomato consomme with sea trout and 'farm offerings' that I take to mean Simon's own farm - a garden in a bowl if there ever was one.
Towards the end of the savoury menu, the set seabass and duck (there are no real 'main courses' here), shy away from the earlier more clever constructions to let the quality of the ingredients shine and allow the perfection of the cooking take a bow, Roganic demonstrating that they can play every card in the deck.
If you already like Simon Rogan's food and ethos, you will simply love Roganic. If you've not tried his food yet, you really are missing something special and you should immediately get yourself to L'Enclume or Roganic to rectify the situation. Head Chef Olly Marlowe does a fabulous job delivering on Simon's vision and Roganic in turn feels properly connected to L'Enclume as a sister restaurant, and that is something the Roganic team can be very proud of.
While some restaurants deliver meals, others deliver a little magic. My sense too that day was that other diners were similarly thrilled, with an adjacent table on their very first visit to the new Roganic, having been fans of the old, expressing the same surprise and delight that I was feeling. London's restaurant scene is rich and diverse, but Roganic occupies a special, unique, place within it, a perfect offering of modern British cooking.