It's not very often I go to fancypants restaurants but that doesn't mean I don't love the excitement and taste sensations that often accompany these forays into high end dining. I love them and I wish my pockets were deeper. For Christmas this year, we went to Roganic, the two year pop-up restaurant that's been wowing London this past year. Chef Simon Rogan has a michelin-starred restaurant, l'Enclume, in the Lake District but is looking to open a place in London. Set in the heart of Marylebone, Roganic is a small, understated restaurant serving 3, 6 and 10 course tasting menus.
We went for the six-course tasting menu as we felt 10-courses was a bit much for lunch and we did have to nip back to work. I also have to confess I didn't understand most of what the ingredients were.
We were greeted with an amuse-bouche of seawead crackers and pork belly croquettes.
The crackers tasted of the sea and had tiny pickled apple cubes, squid ink and some kind of sea vegetable. The croquettes were warm and packed an intense porky punch for its small size. I ate the whole thing in a heartbeat.
You know the place is fancy when butter is served like this:
There were three types of home-made rolls: rye, pumpernickel and cheese and onion.
Lovely and warm.
Our first course was called Grown-up yolk from a golden egg, salt, vinegar and garlic:
The yolk was actually smooth chicken mousse encased in a golden jelly. There was a salty, vinegary sauce under which was small crunchy garlic, and what I thought were crispy rice, pieces. It was an interesting experience in textures although a tad over-salted. But the yolk looked uncannily real.
The second course was Westcombe dumplings, cream of onion and liquorice powder:
This was a little plate of goodness that reminded me of hearty German grub that will warm your cockles on a crisp and chilly day. It's probably the cheesy dumplings which were soft, bouncy little pillows and tasted like gnocchi but a thousand times better. I loved the little, grilled onion skins. If only I could plate my dinners like this I'd probably feel like a queen.
The third course was hand-dived scallop, alexanders, celery and salsify:
The scallop (for there was only one) was cooked perfectly with a nice bit of char and still bouncing in its juices. I wasn't really sure what an alexanders was but it was tasty and I liked the slightly crunchy texture similar to celery. I'm assuming it's a veg. I've always been intrigued by the word salsify and I'm glad I tried it. It reminded me a little of sweet potato or garlic chips. And the foamy thing tasted like tart green apples which complemented the scallop. Bootiful.
The fourth course was plaice (flatfish) 'in the woods', artichoke and black truffle.
I admit I didn't get the taste of black truffle, but the plaice was crunchy on the outside and possibly the tenderest piece of fish I'd ever eaten. It was so soft and silky and yet retained its elasticity, not giving way too easily to the knife. It sat in an intense mushroom broth (porcini, chanterelle and possibly more) and was accompanied by a Jerusalem artichoke mash and garnished with an artichoke crisp. I have to say I'm not such a huge fan of Jerusalem artichokes but the crisp was exceptional. I wish someone would package and sell Jerusalem artichoke crisps because it'll be a huge hit.
The fifth course was Reg's guinea hen, parsley root, salt-baked turnip, offal and yarrow.
I felt a sense of trepidation when I saw we were being served guinea hen. I'd had guinea fowl once before and it was one tough mother. But this, cooked two ways, was juicy and melted in my mouth. It was tastier than chicken but didn't have that overly powerful gameyness to it. Well impressed. I don't really attempt offal much (except for paté) but this went nicely with the guinea hen. In fact, this dish just came together. It was heavier than the others, being the meat dish, but not overpowering.
The sixth and final course was the dessert course, one I was looking forward to as I have a weakness for sweetness. This was definitely the weirdest combination of flavours: Cumbrian stout in blackberry, liquorice and sea buckthorn.
This was essentially stout ice cream rolled in blackberry crumble. It didn't really do much for me and tasted a little malty but I'm afraid I wasn't a big fan of the liquorice sauce which just overshadowed everything. The best thing about this dessert was the orange sea buckthorn mousse which was pleasantly tangy and reminded me of a sour tangerine. That I will be seeking out again.
We ended the meal with a coffee and a final amuse-bouche of Douglas fir milkshake and the first mince pie of the season.
The pastry casing was very thin and it was packed full of dried and alcohol-soaked fruit, just how a proper mince pie should be.
This was a delightful culinary experience where I encountered ingredients I had never heard of and in combinations which I'd never come across before. Each course was amazing and just kept getting better until the disappointing dessert course but my companions finished theirs and I think I'm just extra fussy about my desserts.
However, the portions were small and we were pleasantly full at the end of the meal but not bursting. You can request wine pairing with the menu as I saw a couple a few table away discussing their wine with an enthusiastic sommelier. We had a glass of English sparkling rosé that was very good. I don't think I've tried English wine before but Roganic has a love of everything English and you can see that reflected in their menu. And above all, the service was impeccable but very friendly and laid back.
Roganic will be open until June 2013 after which hopefully they will move to a more permanent location in London. They also do a reasonable three-course lunch with wine for £35 which is frankly a steal because you also get two amuse-bouches. I'd definitely go back for more.
19 Blandford St.
London W1U 3DH
Tel: 020 7486 0380