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"It’s your job to eat, drink and make merry." Roganic makes fine dining fun

Fine-dining restaurants have a lot to learn from the recently reopened Roganic. What really sets it apart, says Mark Hedley, is the opportunity to eat seriously well in a not-so-serious environment

At most fine dining restaurants, you have to effect an almost religious reverence upon entering. They are bastions of hushed tones and reserved discernment, their patrons expected to worship at the altar of haute cuisine. Don’t laugh too loud, whatever you do – or you might be mistaken for an American. Or even worse, a banker. (Ahem.)

Arriving at the newly reopened Roganic couldn’t be more different. As I open the door, a trio of staff greet me like I’m a long-lost son. They don’t know me from Adam, yet their cheery demeanour and expressive welcome immediately put me at ease; front of house Melissa Thompson has a smile to warm even the coldest of early spring days.

No need to worry about poring over the menu here: there are just two decisions to make – the short or the long tasting menu.

The original Roganic pop-up just down the street was such a runaway success that chef Simon Rogan decided to go all in. He even managed to find a property on the same road, Marylebone’s Blandford Street – this time in the old L’Autre Pied site.

Rogan’s two-Michelin starred Lake District restaurant L’Enclume has long been lauded as one of the best restaurants in the country – as close to Noma as you can get without buying a Scandinavian Airlines ticket.

Naturally, roganic (sic) ingredients play a big part here. A high shelf runs along the length of the wall: it’s lined with jars of homemade preserves, pickled fruit and lovage vinegar. The ingredients have come directly from Rogan’s Cumbrian farm.

The wine selection follows suit. For an aperitif, we’re served a 2013 sparkling wine from Davenport – one of only three commercial UK vineyards to become exclusively organic. It’s a sharp and stylish testament to how good both British and organic wine really can be.

An apple tart is created by using a Japanese mandolin to slice the apple, and then reconstructing it into a circle using tweezers

Over the course of nearly three hours, we technically enjoyed 19 different dishes – albeit some of these were literally just one bite. But even the smallest were mighty: the food may be ultra minimal, but my word does it go big on flavour. There were so many stand-outs, that there aren’t enough column inches here to do them all justice, so forgive me for just serving the potted highlights.

A serving of queen scallops, pickled apple and gooseberry syrup was a masterpiece in intensity – rich, sharp, and sweet flavours are experienced as a symphony, one taking the lead, then rescinding to another in waves.

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Another dish saw white and brown crab meat accompanied by cabbage and crispy chicken skin – surprising combinations that work far better than they have any right to.

A poached and toasted cod with lovage seed sauce was one of the finest fish courses I’ve had. Ever. There’s no waste, either – skin is used for crisps and the trimmings made into a mousse, sharpened up with pickled onions.

And the desserts certainly don’t disappoint. An apple tart is created by using a Japanese mandolin to slice the apple, stripping it layer by layer, caramelising it, and then painstakingly reconstructing it into a circle using tweezers. Meadow sweet ice cream shows equal purity of dedication, taking several days to infuse. There is a peppering of Douglas fir on top – Christmas tree needles are literally dried and ground into an ultra-fine powder. The flavour is sensational.

The irony about Roganic is that although it may not have the church-like quiet of some of its Michelin-starred counterparts, it does still employ a religious devotion – but that happens behind the scenes, by the chefs and by Rogan himself.

“Don’t worry about the food – leave that to us,” said general manager James Foster, when he explained that there wasn’t a menu. “It’s your job to eat, drink and make merry.” Well, if we must.

Tasting menu: £115; wine pairing £75. 5-7 Blandford Street, W1U 3DB; roganic.uk

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