Lunch at Roganic Marylebone:
I have a wish list of rather fabulous and often rather expensive restaurants I’d like to visit. And, although I am sometimes lucky enough to get a request to review, it’s often the case that where I want to visit is not where I am asked to visit. So, I look for an excuse to lunch at places like Roganic, and the occasion on Tuesday, a birthday treat for The Hedonist (which might just have been on my own personal wish list too) was one such event. Lunch menus are often just that little bit less expensive than the dinner version and creep into ‘affordable for a special occasion’ for me.
Roganic is the London pop-up of Simon Rogan, who runs L’Eclume in the Lake District. So, many of the dishes at Roganic depend on sourcing from the Lake District and share an obvious heritage with L’Eclume. It’s a tiny and unpretentious place on a side street in Marylebone with around 26 covers if the back room is used. And, part of the charm for me was that every member of the front of house team really understood the dishes, from the source of the ingredients through to the cooking method and rationale. My initial disappointment at lack of choice (there is a three course menu, a 6 course menu and a 10 course menu), turned to delight as I followed through the 6 course menu and realised that the progression of flavours was quite deliberate. Now, whilst I wouldn’t normally chose a tasting menu at lunch time (I am SUPPOSED to work in the afternoons), this worked really well because of the perfectly structured menu and I left convinced that it was much the best way to experience the food.
We started with a selection of amuse bouche. Sometimes it’s good to be a carnivore. In addition to the top platter of parmesan crisps with dill cream, my personal favourite was the smoked eel and pork croquant, a crunchy ball of flavour – there’s only one because The Hedonist doesn’t eat meat.
To follow for me, carrot with ham fat, wild basil and pickled celery. The ham fat was crunchy, a bit like pork scratchings, submerged in a sweet carrot puree with little slices of pickled celery cutting through the dish. The Hedonist had a vegetarian version of the same dish which he pronounced excellent.
Then, mushroom broth, tiny sweet pickled mushrooms in a mushroom broth offset by creamy buffalo and morsels of water mint and salsify.
Sea scallop, oyster, seaweed and watercress was perhaps my favourite dish, delicate and light, incredibly moreish!
To follow, for me lemon sole with smoked marrow and roasted bone sauce served with tiny half-dried Italian tomatoes. Now, my companion’s vegetarian version was pronounced the weakest dish he was served…but, mine was a lovely contrast of intense and smokey bone marrow jus with melting sweet fish.
Duck breast was beautifully pink and tender. Reg is a farmer in the lake district who, apparently, rears his ducks in a particular way to ensure very lean tender meat (I think we were told they were barn raised and not allowed to swim!).
We added in a cheese platter for no other reason that we were really enjoying the meal. And, we really enjoyed the addition to the menu for £10.
A tiny milk shake with apple jelly was presented as an amuse bouche before we went on to dessert.
I substituted the menu dish of macerated strawberries for Hazelnuts and sweet cheese. I have a mild strawberry allergy, though I lapse every so often and eat them anyway! I could so easily have been badly behaved…but the Hazelnut dish was delicious.
The whole meal was accompanied by a bottle of Greco di Tufo and, with coffee and service the bill was just over £180 for the two of us. As I’ve read elsewhere, this really is a dining experience. You need to set aside at least a couple of hours and come in a relaxed frame of mind. And, enjoy the theatre of the food. I did!
19 Blandford Street