Scallop and fried sea-vegetablesMore pictures
Roganic is a London outpost for L’enclume, a restaurant that while being situated miles away from London in Cumbria (somewhere I’ll likely never be able to make my way to) still makes it’s way onto my wish-list and offers a menu that appeals to me so much on occasion I find myself heading to their website just to see what is on it. Their mantra is using the best of what their local area has to offer both in terms of ingredient and local surroundings; but how will this translate to the London ‘pop-up’ scene?
Is this really a pop-up? I would say no. While the tables and floor don’t sit greatly with nearly each one needing expert leveling from front of house staff (they have come down from Cumbria as they’ve been replaced by newer ones) and indeed only a temporary lease has been signed it’s a good 2 year long one – meaning thankfully this place will be around for a while longer than all other London pop-ups and indeed other non-successful new foody ventures. I say thankfully because the daily changing menu means that great dishes such as millet pudding with creamy blue cheese will continue be served to their lucky diners for a good while longer; and that is a ‘good thing’.
Yep I said millet pudding. Millet, commonly known in the UK as bird food. The thing that made me so enthusiastic about the L’enclume menu is that I would read the menu and not know all the ingredients, or at least know what they taste like. As a first course the inclusion of millet put a smile on my face and I was extremely excited to see what was going to follow. Mixed with grains I’m not sure I could differentiate between the two but combined they formed, when mixed with creamy Devon blue cheese a food reminiscent of, for me, a perfect wet risotto.
The second course was a huge winner and another ‘surprise ingredient’ of Smoked Braddock White. Presented at the table under a apple wood smoke filled glass cloche after the smoke cleared the Braddock White turned out to be a bright yellow smoked duck egg yolk with Braddock White being the bread of duck that laid it. The way the dish was served reminded me of a kind of steak tartar, indeed if the salt beef has been removed it would have been a perfect vegetarian dish to eat while your carnivore friends are having their meat based version. The grains used had a marmite like taste that provided a perfect meat-tasting compliment to the rich slow-cooked yolk.
Aside from the salt beef and some corned beef provided as part of the amuse bouche the menu so far had been very vegetable based and for the first 6 courses the only other meat making it’s way to the table was a thick, juicy scallop. Personally I loved this focus on vegetables and was by no way disappointed at the lack of normal tasting menu staples such as foie gras, offal and sea-food because the vegetables we were served were clearly as fresh as you can get and cooked perfectly but also cooked in ways that make them taste as meaty as the meat that we were ‘missing out’ on. I think if you were blindfolded and fed them if would be a very difficult challenge to guess them all as non-meat.
Mushroom, cauliflower and potato formed the base ingredient of courses 4, 5 and 6 and all were treats. The smooth textured mushroom was given a delicious crunch with the beetroots they were served with and pureed mushroom provided a beautiful earthy depth to the dish. Cauliflower when caramelised is a totally different taste to how you’ve likely had it before as is the grilled lettuce it comes with. I’m not a huge fan of either ingredient but here I was disappointed in the fact that I hoovered up both in a couple of mouthfuls. The cooking of the potato (Mr Little’s Yetholm Gypsies) in chicken fat gave it the taste of a rich chicken broth and the accompanying ingredients basically made this dish taste like a lovely sans-meat roast dinner.
After all that when the meat came around I felt a little bit disappointed. The poached plaice cooked in the fennel stock gave the smooth, clean tasting fish a bit of a different punch of flavour but, other than the inclusion of the sea beet, it was a dish that I have had numerous times over the years; very tasty but a little meh. The duck was as pretty as a picture, with a crisp skin and perfectly pink meat. The smoked red currents needed a bit of a helping hand from charred onion (I think) to be the desired meat partner but it worked well as did the sweet carrot puree when combined on a fork.
The selection of cheese is smaller than most but contains some of the best of British and if your stomach can stretch to it I would strongly recommend going for it if not to have some of their ‘port substitute’ French Maury Mudigliza from the Languedoc which is delicious, deep and rich and served lovingly chilled. The wine choice on a whole is excellent and while the list looks a little small my top tip is to ask the sommelier to choose for you as it seems to open up a number of beauties not listed that really really work with the food to make fantastic tasting food taste even better.
Would I recommend Roganic? Very very much so. While I have a slight grumble that the use of ‘pop-up’ is trying to make them sound cool, in the same way that I feel the term ‘start-up’ is over used in the web industry, they don’t need to use gimmicky words to get people through the doors, or at least they shouldn’t. The food being served is the best the season is providing, the cooking adds tons of value to an already great product and the front of house are all warm, welcoming and know the food like the back of their hands. I’ve already been twice in a month – that’s probably all you need to know. Loved it!Tweet