Roganic is a 2-year pop-up restaurant; I think it's going into its second year now. The time limit is quite a clever idea, it kind of urged me to prioritise it on my eat list. I can almost see Simon Rogan opening something permanent in London with Ben Spalding heading the Kitchen straight after the lease finishes in Marylebone, yet I still placed Roganic above The Ledbury or Rhodes.
At 7:30 we were the second table to arrive at this cosy dining room. Perhaps owing to its temporary nature, there wasn't much decor, I felt a bit like sitting in a mini greenhouse at the back of the restaurant. But comfortable, made even more at ease by the John Travolta lookalike (I think it's the chin dimple...). Before hitting the menu, we were presented with some teasers.
Beetroot crisp with goat cheese cream
Smoked pork & eel
As the waitress lifted the lid, a whiff of smoke escaped from the pot and it smelt delicious, like fresh burning hay in the countryside. And that was only 20% of the smokiness, because the rest was locked in the little balls of juice.
By 8:30 it was a full house. There are 4 menu options: meat or no meat, 6 or 10 courses. We opted for 6 courses (£55) because £80 felt a bit too pricey for a weekday dinner. Oh the bread, baked in-house, was addictive, especially the mildly cheesy one with onion powder on top.
Carrot with ham fat, wild basil and pickled celery
The carrot mousse was foam closest to its solid form, and each spoonful transformed into smooth soup, with its subtle sweetness brought out by the crispy confetti of ham. Simply tasty.
Mushroom broth with buffalo curds, salsify and winter mint
The first thing that came to mind as 'John Travolta' poured the broth onto my plate was Shitake mushroom. It was almost like a mushroom stock, strong but probably a little flat and one-dimensional. It was bordering on boring half way through. Buffulo curd was more like steamed egg white, little flavour but silky smooth and it balanced out the concentrated flavours of the mushroom soup.
If I had to choose my least favourite course, this might have to be it.
Sea scallop, oyster, seaweed and watercress
We have had many high-quality, perfectly cooked scallops, but this was different. Still plump and meaty, the scallop wasn't as creamy as usual, but the flavours were much more powerful. If you have had those Japanese dried roasted scallop snacks, It tasted like a well re-hydrated version. Just wished it had more than one scallop on the plate.
The best bit was undoubtedly the oyster mayo that the scallop was resting on. The minerals were pronounced and intense, as if it had taken half a dozen of oyster to make that one splotch. I loved it.
Lemon sole with smoked marrow, roasted bone sauce and nasturtium
Frankly the fish was a bit of a side show, perhaps a bit drier than I'd like, maybe leaning on the overcooked side, but nothing mattered. Because the smoked marrow stole the dish. Unlike the usual oil-drenched bone marrow, this was much cleaner, like a glossy cube of smoky jelly, on the brink of liquid form. And the warmth my tongue turned it into runny bovine goodness, leaving a trail greasy fragrance. Godsend.
Herdwick lamb flank, sweetbread, chard and velvet caps
Just as I thought things couldn't get any better... this reminded me of the suckling pig dish i had at Le Dauphin, in fact they looked quite similar.
The lamb was to die for. It had the soft, baby textures of suckling pig, but thanks to the beautiful layer of fat under the crispy skin, it was packed with that distinctive weaning, milky lamb tang. It was the perfect combination of bold strong flavours with delicate tenderness. The two small lumps of sweetbread were surprisingly mild by comparison, and denser in touch, the contrast was enjoyable.
Rhubarb and measdowsweet, cream cake and sweet cicely
I like rhubarb in desserts, and this was no exception. This was so carefully constructed, the sorbet was more fragrant, less sweet; the tenderised rhubarb strips were more sweet, less texture, the baked custard was more smoothness, less aroma. Each component was lending something to the next to hold the piece together.
I don't know if the dehydrated sponge cake was interesting or unnecessarily odd, just good to have something different I guess.
Douglas Fir Milkshake with brioche doughnut
Thought we were done with six courses, but no, not yet. Just what I wanted too, something to keep this meal endless.
White Chocolate with cookie ice cream and biscuit
And yes, another little kiss good-bye. And this wasn't just a peck on the lips, this was more like I-don't-want-you-to-go-so-I-need-another-gaze-to-settle-my-craving kind of kiss.
Roganic was a perfectionist. There was so much detail in every dish. Every little accompaniment had a purpose, and was well-thought out to make sure it looked and felt part of the picture. And then every course fits in to build one complete and faultless experience. The fact service was also spot on is a bonus. Our waitress was chatty at the right times, and she knew the wines well, the French red did indeed taste of the farm.
Just in case Simon Rogan doesn't set up a permanent space in London, I think a re-visit is a must, perhaps for the 10 courses...
19 Blandford Street