My only regret about my last trip to London was that i only had the six course menu at Roganic. This time I happily opted for ten courses, but the funny part is now, looking at the print out they gave me at the end of the meal it seems we had a total of seventeen courses (counting the amuses as one course and bread as one course). Joking with Ben Spalding on Twitter en route to the restaurant, he said he was going to “stuff me like a little piggy”, and he did…
We were welcomed with a glass of sparkling English wine from (I think) Kent, they chose it in a blind tasting with Champagnes and indeed it was very good, a curious kick from a little added pinot blanc to the grape mix. We had two amuses, the first was smoked cream cheese with squid ink crisp bread and caraway seeds. Lightly smoked, lightly creamy, nice contrast with the black squid ink bread.
The second amuse was a breaded and deep fried lambs sweetbread, topped with (I think) radishes and something sharp which cut nicely through the fatty sweetbread. This passed the one mouthful test with flying colours. A bottle of Puligny Montrachet was ordered to ease us into the meal.
Next came the bread, I was anxious to get my hands on a pumpernickel roll but as well as this we had some soda bread rolls topped with oats and sugar (delicious, expect yet another Roganic roll rip-off at the next supperclubJ!), buttermilk and potato rolls, and rosemary crisp breads.
Never again will I neglect to photograph the inside of a roll at a restaurant…
Next we moved onto the menu proper; Millet pudding with grains, burnt pear and Devon blue. A similar dish was on the menu last time around but now Stichelton has been replaced by Devon Blue cheese. I loved this before and again this time, I still don’t get how something burnt can taste nice, but the creamy blue mould flavour from the cheese really works together with the burnt flavours of the pear. This time a slightly sharp green sauce was added which I couldn’t quite identify but helped balance the dish.
Next up was a smoked Braddock White duck egg with pickled roots, fried seeds and chervil dressing. There was also some home cured beef tucked under the yolk. The whole dish was delivered under a smoke filled glass dome and was wondrously smoky. I’m not sure I personally liked the dish (perhaps too smoky for my tastes), but as with all of Bens cooking, it was flawlessly made and presented.
Salad of warm oca (artichoke family), artichoke cream, Jerusalem artichoke crisps, celery and malt crumbs came next, this was about as wintry as a dish can get, strong earthy flavours, the oca was almost potato like, sitting on a strong puree and with good texture from the crisps. The malt crumbs added some flavours of coffee and chocolate which really well complimented the other flavours.
Roasted langoustine, purple sprouting broccoli, deep fried kale, crispy shallots and chokeberry vinaigrette was a favourite. The langoustine was fat and rich and creamy, the acidity of the chokeberry was a perfect pairing and I think this is where our Montrachet really shone.
Time for more wine, we accepted a recommendation from Jon Cannon and went for a Californian Esprit de Beaucastel blanc; as it turns out an excellent accompaniment for the following courses.
The last time I ate one of Bens Mushroom dishes was in August at the Critical Couples dinner. At the time I was blow away by the intensity of the pom pom mushroom; it seemed to taste more like mushrooms than mushrooms can. I was surprised again now by the poached and roasted king oyster mushroom, puree of roast chestnut mushroom and dried porcini, served with beetroot and sea leaves. Again the intensity of flavour in the mushroom was outstanding; strong and rich. Quite unique.
The next dish was caramelised cauliflower, sour cream, charred lettuce and pennywort. This was very clever; again intensity of flavour you wouldn’t get from the vegetable on its own, this had been roasted and burnt around the edges, beautifully complimented by the charred lettuce.
Theatre came next, a little clay pillow was presented to us, this contained a Kind Richard leek, it had been baked for many hours and was now to be served as our next course. They whisked it away and returned a few minutes later with the leek, presented with rosemary, shallots and bacon cream. This was further garnished with some finely microplaned dark chocolate; the only non-british item on the menu. This dish was another outstanding example of intensifying the flavour of a vegetable. Marvellous.
Next up was another dish I recognised from my previous visit; potato cooked in chicken fat, served with snow peas, clam juice and crispy chicken skin. Outstanding dish the first time I had it and just as good this time around; someone remarked it was like all the good bits of a roast dinner, and I think that just about sums it up.
Next we veered back to fish (or was the last course another fish course? I don’t know but I love that it’s not important). This was Cornish plaice with sea beet, preserved leek and sprout leaves, also some little brown shrimps to garnish. It was here we realised that this was only the second actual piece of flesh we’d eaten during the meal and none of us minded. Nicely cooked plaice, lovely accompaniments.
A change in wine in preparation for the next dish; a Sonoma county Zinfandel that was more Primitivo than Zin; delicious, chewy yet unoaked red.
Then the main event; 52 hour braised longhorn shortribs, pumpkin, mayweed and smoked redcurrants. This was a damn fine bit of cooking; rich and strong sticky beef, sharp currants and a sweet pumpkin puree. I’m afraid this too passed the one mouthful test (albeit in two mouthfuls).
They were kind enough to leave the sauce on the table, so I created my own Roganic dish called “gravy and roll”. I imagine Ben will steal this and put it on the menu next week.
Next came a selection of British cheeses and chutneys, all ripe and delicious but I’m afraid I can’t remember the names.
After some more wine, the desserts came thick and fast, A fresh mint granite, warm spiced bread with buckthorn curd, salted almonds and smoked clotted cream (I love this dish, but the mini meat fruit style sea buckthorn blobs went back to the kitchen untouched, I guess that’s an acquired taste). Warm salted original beans, toasted almonds and apple sorbet was light and fresh, Yorkshire rhubarb with almonds and apple sorbet was delicious; complex and fruity, and another dish to pass the one mouthful test.
I believe if I didn’t have to leave to prep for my supperclub the next day, the food would have kept coming indefinitely and I probably would have just kept on eating. I loved my second trip to Roganic as much as the first; Lovely to come across Bens cooking again, and especially to experience it at the exact opposite end of the year, and in January when seasonal and foraged produce is at its minimum.
I can’t really imagine a trip to London without going to Roganic, Maybe I’ll pop back in May. Hmm, that could work, let me check with my wife.