Just to warn you, I am likely to begin uncontrollably ‘gushing’ in this blog post. You see, I am in the first flushes of love all over again.
Regrettably I didn’t used to write my blog when I was taken to L’Enclume in Cartmel last year for my birthday. If I had, you would be understanding of the level of extreme excitement I experienced whilst waiting for my date to arrive to dine at Roganic. Roganic is a two-year pop-up restaurant based in Marylebone, London. The brainchild of L’Enclume’s founders Simon Rogan and Penny Tapsell, Roganic serves as a channel through which Simon can deliver the magic of Michelin-starred Cartmel cuisine to us lucky lot in London.
Casting my mind back to February 2010, I am blown away by the memories of my trip to Cartmel. The day had begun on a high note, we had ascended Helvellyn in the early morning (enthusiastically volunteering myself to clamber over the Striding Edge pass – what FUN!), then we drove to the picturesque village of Cartmel, where we checked in to L’Enclume. After apologising for our unelegant hiking attire we relaxed in one of their gorgeous rooms with a hot bath and a bottle of chilled bubbly. After a while we went down to the restaurant where I discovered they were creating something very, very special indeed. It was one of the best meals I had ever eaten; exciting, unpretentious, joyous, and most of all, delicious. I have such fond memories of that trip, so when I heard that Roganic was opening in London, I booked myself in and attempted to commence a fasting period in preparation for the gorging marathon feast I was going to have at Roganic.
There have been mixed professional reviews of Roganic since it opened a couple of months back. Sadly, those who often dine for free, and get paid for their ‘critiques’ often tend to approach places like Roganic with a sense of cynicism and quite often seem to just want to make sure chefs don’t try and ‘get ahead of themselves’. I approached Roganic in a wholly different mindset, rather than thinking “I’ve been to L’Enclume before and it was perfection, I’m going to go to Roganic to relish in Simon Rogan’s inability to reproduce the high-standards of his Cartmel institution in a *tsk* pop-up restaurant!”, I thought “I’ve been to L’Enclume before and it was perfection, I’m going to go to Roganic again because I have high expectations and I’m confident they’ll be met”.
I wasn’t wrong.
Oh my! Was I ever so right?!?
Roganic is small. It’s cosy and it’s welcoming. The staff are one of the most pleasant and delightful teams I have ever had the joy to spend the evening with. I must at this point pay special mention to Jack. Jack was one of our waiters for the evening and one of the most likeable and genuine people I’ve ever met, he amused, charmed and informed us in the most unpretentious manner. A truly top-notch chap. The rest of the staff were incredibly pleasant and really seemed to take great pride in their work, passionately describing the varying courses to us, without ever coming on a bit too strong as sometimes you can find in certain places. By the end of the evening, I had warmed to them all so much I was keen to join the team myself and offer to wash-up in the kitchen.
However, on to more important matters; the FOOD!
You can choose between a 6 course or a 10 course taster menu. Thinking how we were going to really make the most of our evening we opted for 10. It seemed ambitious, and it certainly was just that. Presented with a wine list, we enquired with the sommelier if it was possible for him to recommend a wine for each course and we consume by the glass in that manner instead of just opting for one bottle. He was more than happy to oblige and each time we changed wines, he took the time to explain his choice for us and gave us a bit of background to it.
We kicked off proceedings with an aperitif. A meadowsweet and vodka foam was ‘squirted’ into a cocktail glass for us and we savoured the nectar-sweet drink whilst grinning wildly and raising eyebrows in delighted expectation. We were then presented with a canapé. A light, fresh and luxurious cucumber cream on a paper of squid ink with alioli. Just scrumptious.
Then came the next 10 courses. Rather than take you through each, one by one, I have posted photographs below of each and an accompanying caption describing what they are. Suffice to say that each and every one was nothing short of ambrosial. My personal highlights were the Old Cotwsold Legbar, the mackerel, which we were informed is the only dish to have remained on the menu since they opened – they change the menu every 6 weeks – so if I were you I’d get down there and sample it before they potentially loose their minds and replace it – and the bread. Sweet lord, the bread! Warm pumpernickel rolls, soft and doughy, coated in their clotted butter with maldon sea salt… *Drool*
Despite opting ourselves for the 10 course menu, I would suggest that unless you’ve been in some serious eating-contest style training, you should opt for 6 courses. Sadly you miss out on some of the true highlights, however 10 really is a lot. By the time the veal in buttermilk course arrived I feared an epic Mr.Creosote moment, and they actually offered to reduce our portion size as my eyes must have been bulging out of my head. I kid you not dear reader. I actually turned down cheese after the meal. I have NEVER, in living memory, turned down the offer of cheese. Fearing it would be a step too far at the time, I politely declined.
Actually, on second thoughts, ignore that last recommendation. You really should opt for 10 courses, just don’t eat for 2 days in advance.
For me, there is only one bad thing about Roganic: The fact it’s only going to be open for 2 years.
The food is outstanding, the wines are impressive (see below for a list of the accompanying wines we were served), the staff are both professional and utterly charming, and the ambience is exceptional. The room was filled with laughter and the sounds of people having a truly marvellous night out, which is always deeply encouraging.
I will warn you however, Roganic is not cheap. You are paying Michelin star prices here. However, despite being a ‘pop-up restaurant’ you are getting Michelin star quality food and service. It’s a place to go for a real treat. You won’t be nipping down there every weekend (or if you are able to afford to I’d like to volunteer my company, as long as you’re paying!), but do, DO make sure you get down there at least once before it closes. This is foodie heaven, and there’s no denying that.
The photos below are presented in the order that we had them and accompanying wines included Leth Roter Veltliner 2008 for the starter courses, Chateau Ste.Michelle Erioca Reisling 2008 also for starter courses, Weingut Niklas Südtiroler Lagrein 2009 for the mains (my personal favourite) and a bottle of Taurasi (sadly I didn’t catch the year).