Chef Simon Rogan runs one of the most celebrated and respected restaurants in the UK, L’Enclume in the Lake District. His forays to London have been hit or miss. A long-running pop-up, also called Roganic, received mixed reviews a few years ago. His next venture was a high-end collaboration inside Claridges hotel, called Fera; when I ate there the food was good, but perhaps surprisingly for a five-star hotel, the service gave new meaning to the term “slow food”, with an hour’s wait between courses. Fera restaurant is still there, but Rogan has now parted ways with it. Undeterred, Rogan is now back in the capital again, with Roganic (mark II).
Remember that trendy biology teacher at school? The one who didn’t blush during the lessons of human reproduction, and let you play with the jars of pickled animals? This could be his staff room, with its vaguely 1970s mismatched décor and big preservation jars of who-knows-what lining the shelves. The lampshades appear to have been made as a GCSE Art & Design project, and the artwork on the walls, Metalwork 1. All that’s missing is his orange macramé tie cast aside on the desk, and the corduroy jacket with the elbow patches hanging from the back of one of the chrome and wicker chairs while he’s got his lab coat on.
Even by central London standards, Roganic has arm-plus-leg prices (tasting menu: £115 per head, not including drinks or service). However, the “business lunch” set menu costs a mere £40 per head for six courses.
The preserved raspberry tart (pictured above) was – we were warned – messy. You’re best to pop them in your mouth whole, and allow the slightly tart flavours to wash through you. This was followed by little “goldfish bowls” of fermented beetroot and apple juice, which tasted a bit like a Japanese kombucha (fermented drink) – very refreshing.
Raw bavette with scurvy grass in pickled kohlrabi also came in canapé-sized, one-bite big morsels, the prettily-folded translucent root revealing the foraged leaves and raw beef inside. Scurvy grass isn’t a grass, incidentally, but it does have a high Vitamin C content, and so has a slightly astringent taste; it’s those little leaves that look like mustard seedlings. Served on big pebbles, as you do.
Salt-baked celeriac, enoki, whey (their enigmatic description, not mine) arrived with a spill of powders, tangle of mushrooms and dabs of mysterious beige secretions that I expect you could find in your pockets after a particularly wild music festival. But the tastes and textures were well-judged and intrigued the palate.
Pork belly, carrots, kalibos is what the menu told us. Kalibos is a heritage variety of red cabbage that failed to make an appearance on the plate, but we didn’t miss it. The pork had been slow-cooked, sous-vide, to keep the flesh pink and the fat creamy-coloured.
Caramelised apple, meadowsweet. More foraging from Rogan here, with the meadowsweet flavour (from a wild plant) distilled into a sorbet. The apple tart was exquisitely rolled into thin layers and perfectly textured. This was followed by smoked juniper fudge (their description), which simply tasted of fudge.
This might be a temple of gastronomy with some jaw-dropping prices, but it feels surprisingly casual, even a little cheap in appearance. Fans of innovative cooking and dishes are unlikely to be deterred by this, and the dishes are certainly unusual, owing much to New Nordic influence – the foraging, the preservation, the (gratuitous) use of some juniper; as it does to modernist cooking techniques – the use of sous-vide and maltodextrin powder. If you don’t want to fork out a couple of hundred quid each for dinner, then the £40 set lunch is a far preferable alternative, and isn’t inferior to the expense account shebang of dinner menu.
Tue-Sat 12-2pm, 6.30-10pm.
Six-course set lunch, £40 per head;
Tasting menu, £115 per head excluding drinks (£75 for paired drinks) and service.
5-7 Blandford Street, London W1U 3DB; +44 (0)20 3370 6260; roganic.uk