My first meal here was in July 2011, as follows.
The head chef of Roganic at the time of my first meal there was Ben Spalding, who was senior sous chef at l’Autre Pied in 2008 and 2009, and senior chef de partie at Gary Rhodes W1 prior to that. His foreign experience included being head chef at Restaurant Lipp and chef de partie at Vue de Monde for four months. He trained earlier in his career at Per Se and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. The dining room is long and narrow, with fairly small tables and a wooden floor, though at least there was no music to add to the noise levels. Hanging lamps were cunningly positioned at a height that pretty much ensure that diner’s heads will bump them when getting up, though the lighting itself was effective.
The menu has no à la carte, but a choice of either 6 courses (£55) or 10 courses (£80). There was also a three course lunch menu available at £29. The short three page wine list started at £26 and was predominantly old world. Example wines include Rainer Wess Gruner Veltliner 2010 at £34 for a wine you can buy in the shops for £10, Mas De Daumas Gassac Blanc 2009 at £59 for a wine that retails at £25, up to a few more prestigious wines such as Corton Clos du Roi Grand Cru 2004 at £149 for a wine you pick up for £40 at a wine shop. We drank the very pleasant Riesling Eroica 2008 from Washington State at £49, which compares with a retail price of £14. Mark-ups were not the worst in London but neither were they especially kind, and I would say that the list could usefully be expanded given the quality of restaurant here.
The bread rolls were made from scratch, all from a sourdough base: pumpernickel, speck and potato and buttermilk were the choices: these had good texture (16/20). The meal began with nibbles of an aioli garnished with edible flowers and chervil on a rosemary and chickpea wafer. A pretty and enjoyable beginning (15/20). Broad bean and hyssop (an aromatic plant in the mint family) with fresh curds and beetroot was next, nicely presented in a bowl. This was pleasant rather than inspirational, the beetroot taste quite subdued but the broad bean flavour coming through well (15/20).
This was followed by Rubin turnip baked in salt, smoked yolk, with sea vegetables and wild mustard. To me this was more interesting, the earthy flavour of the turnip working well with the egg, and the salt and mustard tastes livening up the dish nicely without dominating it (16/20). I really enjoyed seawater-cured Kentish mackerel, orache (better known as a weed than on a plate), with broccoli and warm elderflower honey. Presentation was again lovely, and the mackerel was excellent, the broccoli appearing in three forms: as shoots, as a puree and also dehydrated. The honey was a local one from Regent’s Park, and the flavour balance of the dish was very good indeed (17/20).
This was followed by shredded ox tongue with pickles, sandwiched between two sheets of sourdough paper, garnished with radishes and carrots. The dish tasted better than its potentially off-putting name, the ox-tongue having almost the texture of a puree, and having a distinct but pleasurable flavour. The vegetables with it provided some balance to its richness, though perhaps some acidic element such as some lemon would be a useful additional balance to the richness and improve the dish further (15/20).
Flaky crab and mallow cream was next, with squid and cucumber. This dish was again prettily presented with edible flowers as a garnish, along with some squid ink croutons. This was a pleasant dish, though the use of the squid ink to me seemed to add colour rather than anything really useful taste-wise. However the crab was fresh, the little cubes of squid in with the crab entirely non-chewy, the crab was mercifully shell-free, and the cucumber helped to make a refreshing dish (15/20). Vintage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel was also enjoyable, the potatoes carefully cooked and the combination with the herbs working well. I confess that this when I compared this to the dazzling potatoes at Arpege in Paris this dish seemed a little pedestrian, but to be fair the Arpege version cost more than the whole meal here (16/20).
Monkfish with chicken salt (salt with chicken extract), clams and rainbow chard was a success. Monkfish is a “meaty” fish that can stand up to strong flavours, and the reduction of the chicken stock was a logical accompaniment to the fish. The dish was a little salty, presumably due to the stock reduction, but it was for me a pleasurable levelof saltiness; the monkfish, which can easily be chewy, was very well cooked here (16/20).
Cumbrian hogget (a one year old sheep), was served with artichokes and chenopodiums (also known as fat hen or goosefoot, related to spinach). The balance of the dish was fine, but I found the texture of the lamb sweetbreads was a little chewier than I would have liked. The hogget itself was correctly cooked but I wonder whether it is really an improvement on lamb (15/20).
For dessert I had excellent white chocolate sorbet on a base of rapeseed, plums and meadowsweet. This sounds a little odd but the overall effect was refreshing, and the sorbet had excellent texture (16/20). My dining companion enjoyed a dessert of sweet ciceley (a herb that has a hint of anise about it) with strawberry, buttermilk and verbena. There was also a dessert of warm spiced bread, salted almonds, buckthorn curd and smoked clotted cream. I found this dish worked less well, mainly because the smokiness of the clotted cream was very strong indeed, and dominated the dish (14/20). Finally, with the coffee was a lovely Victoria sponge with excellent texture and a high quality raspberry (easily 16/20).
The service was genuinely excellent throughout, with a very capable manageress (Sandia Chang) and knowledgeable waiters. Overall this was a very enjoyable meal, and one which was a pleasant surprise to me: I had expected pretty food, but was concerned that some of the more unusual ingredients might be too intrusive. In fact the elements of the dishes went together well, the balance of the dishes was very good and there were no technical problems to speak of. This was definitely one of London’s best 2011 restaurant openings.
Further reviews: 15th Aug 2012