Roganic Restaurant Review
Dinner in London’s most-hyped and new opening is bound to present a few problems:
The first of which is: “can I get a reservation”. The second of which might include: “which friends do I invite to join me”. The third might simply be: “will it live up to the hype?”
Tricky problems, indeed. And that is before you read their website and note that is only going to be open for two years as a form of “pop-up” restaurant. And then you get their menu and it all seems quite intimidating: some foreign-sounding ingredients (with little in the way of descriptions); a smallish wine list and a cosy-sized restaurant. Oh, and a choice of 2 menus for dinner – a six course or a ten course. No sirree, there is no ALC (a la carte. Again, the patois. Apologies).
But worst of all is the hype. The general hype on social media platforms – along with the various *official* restaurant reviewers (read as newspaper hacks) – leads you to believe it is remarkable. And by golly, they’re all correct.
A simple tweet, a few emails and text messages to and fro and their head chef, Ben Spalding had managed to squeeze our party in for a Saturday night. Albeit, the sun was still rumoured to be shining at that hour in summer, it made not a lot of difference.
Friends were over from Cape Town; others from the length and breadth of London and beyond. I’d just returned that morning from sunny Provence. I’d deliberately not read too many of the reviews as I wanted a relatively untarnished “expectant” palate frenzy. Yup, I can be weird like that some times. I’m a chef; it is known to happen occasionally.
So, what to make of a restaurant that is 6 weeks into their 2 year “pop-up”, that’s sister restaurant up in Cumbria has stayed off the radar for many lovers of food (yet achieved countless awards and recognition in the trade) and is headed up by the relatively young chef Ben Spalding?
Let’s begin with the menu:
Roganic Dinner Menu – July 2011
I think pictures will fill in for what the words may allude to.
We started with some gorgeous breads and a healthy dollop of butter on a stone.
Chef Ben then sent us an amuse bouche. I forget the description, but can only tell you it was gorgeous!
First course was described as the following:
Broad bean and hyssop, fresh curds, and beetroot
I’m not a fan of beetroot and haven’t been since I was a child. This however is in a class of its own and was gorgeous. Yes, I know. Probably the only place I’ll try beetroot. Or perhaps Simon Hulstone’s place in the “English Riviera” who is rumoured to be a whizz with the stuff (A private chef’s joke, amongst friends from Kai We Care)
Scarlet ball turnip baked in salt, smoked yolk, sea vegetables and wild mustard
This was one of the dishes that had most reviewers in frenzy. And the odd enquiring question from those at our table too. How on earth do you smoke an egg? Delicious! Great little dish.
Seawater cured Kentish mackerel, wild orache, broccoli and warm flower honey
There seemed a faint tang of anise about the garnish. Some guests described it as looking like a little like the Japanese Bonsai type of arranged gardens. Beautifully presented and stunning dish: My second favourite dish of the evening.
Heritage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage, and wood sorrel
For me this was the stand-out course of the evening. I’ve no idea on how they do it, but would happily return for a few more platefuls. Good Lord, it was great!
Cornish monkfish, chicken salt, wild mussels and rainbow chard
Again, a thoroughly enjoyable dish, with the saltiness of the chicken skin/ salt derivative. Playful, yet great flavours.
Cumbrian hogget, artichokes and fat hen
I enjoyed this dish, though perhaps not as much as the preceding courses. I do prefer my meat slightly less cooked, however that is just a personal preference.
Cheese selection. Great little cheese plate, served as a break before the dessert
Sweet ciceley with strawberry, buttermilk and verbena
One of the most attractive desserts, with unusual ingredients that I’ve encountered in ages. Beautifully presented and it ate very well too.
I think we then had one of their other dishes as a surprise. By this stage, my early flight and long day in the sunshine, coupled with several extraordinary dishes (with matching wines), had left me rather “tired”. I will stick with tired as Ben politely tweeted me – you looked toasted! Perhaps I was, hence the fuzzy memory. Oops, again.
We finished with coffee and petit fours, and then retired for a post dinner drink outside.
Sandia, our host for the evening, along with her wonderful Hungarian sommelier and “northern lad” waiter were magnificent. Hard to believe they’ve been open for only 5 weeks and their attention to detail was remarkable. Their hospitality and service is something that London tends to sit up and take note of. Even if they’re only to be here for two years.
Huge thanks to Chef Ben Spalding for allowing us to be his first table of 10. I hope that it didn’t impact on the kitchen too much and your accommodation of our requests was humbling.
To finish, I suppose:
IF you can get a reservation
IF you can get some friends together for dinner
And IF you can ignore the hype surrounding London’s hottest restaurant opening this summer
Then, I suggest you come to London to see it for yourself. It is a marvellous eye-opener and a wonderful, intimate restaurant that delivers far more than it sets out to achieve. By a very long shot.
For more details on the restaurant, please visit their website:
Or if you’d like to follow them on Twitter, they’re here:
Chef Ben Spalding is on there too. Just don’t ask about sea gulls