ROGANIC:The audacious little pop-up that won't go away and which part of you wishes you'd never stepped foot in because you know from here on in you've sort of spoiled yourself for others...
10 Course Tasting Menu at £80 per person
(without wines/water or coffees)
Millet pudding with grains, burnt pear and
Razor clams flavoured with fennel, crow garlic , squid toast, brown butter and legbar emulsion
Langoustine wrapped in pork skin, artichoke, carrot and buckthorn vinaigrette
"Grown up yolk from the Golden Egg", Bok Choi, warm mayonnaise and barley milk
Caramelised cauliflower, sour cream, raisin, roasted lettuce and pennywort
Poached and grilled king oyster, pine, beetroot and coastal sea leaves
Huss cooked in Chicken fat, roasted celeriac, brown shrimps and sprout leaves
Cumbrian veal breast glazed in Maple wild garlic, smoked redcurrants, and oca
Warm bramley cake, liquorice curd, walnut and pink lady sorbet
Well that was something! Typically a visit to such a celebrated and in this case, topical restaurant is a premeditated affair. On this occasion, the process of choosing a restaurant, making a phone call and getting there took less than 40 minutes and whilst getting a last minute table could be read as a sign of less than overwhelming popularity, in this case I think a combination of good luck and time of the week were to be thanked. And thanked is the word - an evening at Roganic, little sister of Simon Rogan's wildly applauded restaurant L'Enclume in the lake district proved to be nothing short of mesmerising.
An unassuming front entrance nestled a few short steps behind
The focus is of course undividedly on the food and service as well both justly deserve. Each course is a veritable artwork with more than half of the courses being in some way embellished or given life at the table which significantly enhances the drama of the occasion. There doesn't appear to be a facet of the dining experience that hasn't in some way been "Roganicised"
A homely (in that way that you can't quite make at home but like to think you could) selection of breads were served and left in a basket on our table accompanied by rich and salted butter coarsely smeared over a smooth stone.
The service was flawless and omnipresent without being intrusive. The staff, good-looking young and keen individuals are all knowledgeable about their product and deliver their lines (for this after all is a performance) without any hint of repetitive strain or tedium.
The wine list is something of a mystery. Probably due to spatial restriction though I suspect as much by design as by accident, the list is rather short and unassuming.
Our waiter helped select a wonderful Bauer Riesling which was not only exceptional value for money (£48) but perfectly matched to our first few courses.
We also opted for a few glasses of red to wash down the heavier courses as the menu progressed. Again the glasses are reasonably priced for such quaffable and versatile wines. A Bierzo and a Le Pradel at £8 and £10 respectively. A bottle of Ty Nant water costs £4.45.
A quick word about the Chef. Whilst this is Simon Rogan's restaurant, uber-talented newcomer Ben Spalding heads the kitchen. I say newcomer as this is his first Head Chef role in the UK for the 26 year old Brit yet his impressive CV reads like a Michelin Star hall of fame with time spent at "28+ Restaurant" in Gothenburg, Sweden , 3 Michelin starred restaurants "Per Se" in New York and "Royal Hospital Road" in London, L'Autre Pied and Gary Rhodes W1 at the Cumberland Hotel in London and Shannon Bennett's restaurant "Vue de monde" in Melbourne, Australia . Spalding has also spent time at The Fat Duck, Le Manoir, the Capital hotel in
Each of the dishes demonstrated a different and often lavish way of preparing what was discernibly rather simple, readily available ingredients and yet showcased both the talents of the team and also the inherent qualities of the raw produce. Some dishes were of course more protracted than others though the theme of deceptive simplicity never veered too far off course.
Both myself and dining companion both favoured the same dish (very rare occurrence) which was the Langoustine wrapped in pork skin with artichoke, carrot and buckthorn vinaigrette.The menu changes so quickly in this place that I'm not sure this will be an option for much longer but if you do happen to get a reservation at Roganic and this course is on the menu you are in for a treat.
A close second was the Poached and grilled king oyster, pine, beetroot and coastal sea leaves, this seems to be more of a staple of the Roganic menu and it is easy to understand why. The textures here are as interesting as they are diverse .
In conclusion, it is hard to decide whether I can't wait to go back or I don't want to go back at all because the experience couldn't possibly be improved on and knowing what to expect takes away some element of the pleasure. If Roganic also moonlights as a marketing exercise to lure people into big Sister L'Enclume, it has succeeded in weaving its magic on this particular diner as the very next day we were looking at the website to book a two day stay.
I suspect that given the enormous success that this "pop-up" has enjoyed it is inevitable that a new home will be found and the format afforded a longer leas of life. Having said that, it is definitely worth making a trip over the coming months should this not be the case. Whatever does happen, it's sure to slingshot even further the titan in the making that is Ben Spalding.
Roganic truly is something special and different and that, in this town at least, is ever harder to achieve.