Revisits Roganic, Early 2012

Roganic is one of the few restaurants where I really, really want to see what's new on the menu, and regret it when someone tries a dish that I didn't have... Simon, Ben and the team have an incredibly sensitive palate and a very inventive use of seasonal and foraged ingredients.  Last time I was at Roganic they were still using all of the glorious summer produce, with delicate herbs, edible flowers and the freshest ingredients.  A winter menu is much more challenging for the kitchen - to truly stay seasonal, with a very limited range of produce, a kitchen has to be particularly inventive.

It was lovely to come back into the restaurant - the staff are so friendly and so enthusiastic that it was great to catch up with them again.  Most of the original front of house team are still here, with Jon Cannon, Sandia Chang and Jack Settle still providing their usual warm cheer...  Sandia has also taken on the duties of sommelier.

We were greeted with a glass of Chapel Down sparkling wine from Kent (very good) and a couple of amuse.  There was a squid ink crouton with smoked cream cheese and celery cress, and a beef coquette with corned beef, apple, cress, carrot and grain mustard mayo.  Both were delicious - the beef dense and chewy, and the richness offset by the crisp apple.  Smoked cream cheese is also a revelation - the really tangy sourness cutting through the umami /iodine flavour of the crouton.

Roganic's bread is always a joy, and considering the tiny space they have downstairs in the kitchen(s), is an amazing testament to their commitment.  Today's offerings included the famous pumpernickel, Irish sodabread, buttermilk, and a sweet chestnut and thyme parchment.  These are served with freshly churned butter. 

We left ourselves in the hands of the staff and settled in for the tasting menu.  First came the millet pudding with grains, burnt red pear, tangy rich Devon blue cheese and honey cress.  This is a beautiful dish, sitting in its green pool - the burnt edge to the pear adding an extra dimension to a familiar cheese pear combination.  The grains were chewy but soft and yielding and topped with sea kale, not too much iron intensity. 

Roganic likes to play with water-bath egg yolks, and this winter it's a smoked Braddock White duck egg with pickled roots, wild chervil and salt beef.  The dish is served under a cloche filled with cherrywood smoke.  The yolk becomes a dense, buttery globe of golden goo, offset by delicately soused grapes, which cut through the richness.  Under the yolk a little stack of salt beef and something not unlike granola provide a depth of texture.  The smell of cherrywood pervades the dish and the chervil adds a gently aniseed kick.  

Taking mushrooms to an art form, the poached and grilled king oyster mushroom is served with dehydrated powdered mushroom soil, Douglas fir pine, red and yellow beetroot.  Intense umami flavours are achieved by roasting off the tomato in a mixture of Lea & Perrins, tomato and barbecue sauces - a deeply satisfying sweet and sour flavour.

And how can you transform the humble leek?  Brought to the the table on a bed of rosemary spiced soil is a leek wrapped in a clay casing.  Broken open and then plated, it's dressed with a layer of 72° grated chocolate.  The King Richard leek is first intensified through sous vide in a water bath for several hours, before being baked in its clay coat.  Served with beautifully scented sorrel, rosemary, puffed rice, shallots and bacon cream, the shallot is intact but yielding, intense in its meaty sauce, yet preserving the integral taste of the leek.

One of the kitchen's real endeavours is to introduce us to unusual varieties of vegetables, and Mr Little’s Yetholm Gypsies are a Scottish variety of potato with a red white and blue colouration.  Cooked in chicken fat, with snow peas, mussel juice and a little goat curd, it was full of flavour and packed a punch but presented in a beautifully delicate way.

Plaice poached in fennel stock, sea beet, and sprout leaves tastes very meaty.  With Morecambe shrimp and preserved leek fondant, it worked well with the other dishes.

Then Gressingham duck, carrot, mayweed and smoked redcurrants.  The smoked redcurrants are a revelation - tiny little bombs of intensity which sing happily with the roast salsify and rich duck.  The smooth smoky tomato sauce provides a kick and the meat just falls apart.

For dessert, a pool of warm salted chocolate is poured for you at the table, with toasted almonds and sloe sorbet.  It's dressed with sweetly aniseed flavoured atsina cress and tiny diced zinging pear - a dense but refreshing combination. 

We finish with a fir milkshake and cupcakes spiked with rosehip and popping candy - the depth and warmth of the warm milk feel like a bedtime treat, leaving you relaxed and complete.

I must admit to initially feeling a little disappointed with the menu, but it quickly became apparent that even more effort had gone into these dishes than those in the summer.  It's much easier to arrange fabulous fresh ingredients at the height of the summer - working a little bit of magic on the humble winter leek is much more difficult, and actually shows the lengths that Roganic will go to stay true to their seasonal and local credentials.  Personally I like all those amazing raw summer ingredients, but the Hubby preferred the rich intensity of the winter menu.  This is the point of Roganic, to suggest that it makes you think about your food would do it a disservice - this is food you can just eat because it tastes delicious.  But personally I like to think about my food, to question my attitudes, and I came away from Roganic even more impressed by their repertoire.  Hurry up Spring, I want to see what's coming next...

The Current Menu

10 Course Lunch / Dinner Menu £80

Millet pudding with grains, burnt pear and Devon blue

Smoked Braddock White, pickled roots, wild chervil and salt beef

Roasted Looe scallops, purple sprouting and chokeberry vinaigrette

Poached and grilled king oyster, pine, beetroot and coastal sea leaves

Caramelised cauliflower, sour cream, raisin, roasted lettuce and pennywort

Mr Little’s Yetholm Gypies cooked in chicken fat, snow peas and mussel juice

Plaice poached in fennel stock, sea beet, preserved leek and sprout leaves

Gressingham duck, carrot, mayweed and smoked redcurrants

Warm salted chocolate, toasted almonds and sloe sorbet

Yorkshire rhubarb, dried caramel, natural yoghurt and iced lemon thyme

All of these gorgeous photos were taken by Paul Winch-Furness for Roganic 
and are reproduced here with his kind permission...  
For more examples of Paul's work go to 
Follow Paul on twitter as @paulwf

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