Roganic

Note: Ben Spalding has now left Roganic.

Roganic is the two year pop-up restaurant recently opened by Simon Rogan (hence the name Roganic), the head chef behind the critically acclaimed L’Enclume in Cumbria. The pop-up reference relates to the fact that Roganic takes over the remaining two years of the lease at 19 Blandford Street in Marylebone, previously the restaurant, Michael Moore. The current intention may be to operate Roganic for two years only, but it gives Rogan and head chef Ben Spalding a chance to bring to Londoners a sample of the innovative cooking that made L’Enclume such a go-to restaurant for foodies.

Two years hardly feels like a pop-up. Be that as it may, it does go a long way in explaining why Rogan has decided to spend very little on refurbishing the restaurant. The dining room is tiny and the décor is rather bland, but with only 25 covers it’s comfortable enough.

There is a choice of two tasting menus, a 6-course menu for £55 and a 10-course menu for £80. Allegedly, both menus are designed such that you receive the same quantity of food, even though you obviously get fewer courses with the smaller tasting menu. We started with an amuse bouche of squid ink flatbread with aioli, linseeds and cucumber mousse which was lovely. With its delicate hints of cucumber, it was light and refreshing.

Squid ink flatbread

Squid ink flatbread

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Verru

I came to hear of Verru through K, an Estonian-born Russian friend of mine. The restaurant only opened a few months ago and boasts of an Estonian chef, hence the name Verru which is a play on the word Võru, the name of a town and county in Southern Estonia. Chef Andrei Lesment’s French training is evident. The restaurant’s website talks of Baltic flavours, but Verru’s menu reads more French with hints of Baltic influences thrown in.

Situated on Marylebone Lane, right near Le Cordon Bleu, the restaurant is small with an awkward layout. Nevertheless, it still manages to dish up an intimate and cosy charm. K tells me the look is very Estonian. There are leather seats, brickwork and distressed wood walls.

A very good starter of roasted quail (£7.50) was nicely cooked and moist. It came with a flavoursome slice of boudin noir, almonds and some deliciously exotic mandarin syrup. With the richness of the boudin noir, slightly more acidity was called for.

Roasted quail

Roasted quail

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Texture

I went to Texture Restaurant and Champagne Bar when it first opened in 2007. While I thought the food was good, I found it unremarkable for a fine dining restaurant. But since then, the word amongst foodie circles is that the food has evolved and is now fantastic. It also won a Michelin star last year, a fact which is also hard to ignore.

The restaurant is a collaborative effort between Icelandic Head Chef Agnar Sverrisson, and sommelier Xavier Rousset who won the UK Sommelier of the Year award at the age of 22. The two met when working at Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons. Sverrisson has also held positions at other notable restaurants such as Pétrus (under Marcus Wareing) and at the Michelin-starred Lea Linster in Luxembourg. With his classic French training, the food at Texture is Modern European with an Icelandic influence. The look of the restaurant is also Icelandic cool, sleek and stylish. Texture also boasts of an impressive 88 bottle champagne collection, the day to day running of which is now maintained by sommelier, Erica, who was runner up in the Young Sommelier of the Year Competition. Xavier is still co-owner of Texture, but now spends more time at his other venture, 28-50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen.

We selected the tasting menu for £68 (although on Texture’s website this is stated as £59). An appetiser of assorted diced vegetables with celery infusion and olive oil was stunning. The flavour of the celery was delicate and light, and the tiny diced vegetables were perfectly cooked. Who knew an infusion made from celery could be so naturally sweet and tasty?

Diced vegetables with celery infusion

Diced vegetables with celery infusion

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Roux at The Landau

The Roux family are the closest thing we have to cooking royalty here in the UK. So the opening of Roux at The Landau, a collaborative effort between father and son Albert and Michel Jnr, was always going to be newsworthy. Housed in the Langham Hotel on Regent Street, the dining room has been elegantly and stylishly refurbished by interior designer David Collins. His client list includes such notable restaurants as J Sheeky, Locanda Locatelli, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Bob Bob Ricard (ok I didn’t like the food at Bob Bob Ricard, but I did like the clever décor). The most memorable aspect about the design was the vaulted passageway that guides you through the restaurant’s treasured wine collection before leading you into the dining room.

Chef de Cuisine is Chris King, Michel’s young protégée who spent five years at Le Gavroche before working at Per Se in New York and then at Roux at Parliament Square as the sous chef.

I dined as a guest of Roux at The Landau. Amuse bouches included a creamy remoulade topped with a soft quail’s egg, spicy chorizo spring rolls and a fragrant beef tartare finished with truffle. These were very tasty.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

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Vinoteca Marylebone

Vinoteca Marylebone is the sister restaurant of the original Vinoteca wine bar and restaurant in Farringdon. It opened in November last year, but unlike Brawn, the sister restaurant of that other well known wine bar, Terroirs, it has barely registered on the Richter Scale of restaurant openings. I found out about it purely by chance. Thinking I would go to the branch in Farringdon, I stumbled across the details of the Marylebone branch when I went onto the Vinoteca website. Despite the lack of PR fanfare, the restaurant is already doing a thumping trade. It was packed during our visit and justifiable so. Its concept is simple – good, seasonal food, in an ever changing menu, matched with one of the 25 wines that are available by the glass. There are also 280 reasonably priced bottles to choose from.

Vinoteca Marylebone is cosy and intimate. It does not take reservations, but there’s a bar area to drink at while you wait. Due to the lack of carpeting and rugs on the floor, its only drawback was that it was incredibly noisy which made conversation a little difficult. But this can also be construed as fantastically atmospheric.

We started with a heavenly smoked eel with celeriac and apple remoulade and wheaten toast (£8). The eel was delicate, succulent and lightly smoked, and the creaminess of the deftly made remoulade was a perfect match. There was a hint of sweetness in the well-made, flavoursome bread which made this dish all the more appetising. The suggested wine, an Austrian 2009 Kamptal Gruner Veltliner ‘Kies’, Kurt Angerer (£4.50 for 125ml) was a great accompaniment.

Smoked eel

Smoked eel

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Discover the Origin at La Cucina Caldesi

Discover the Origin

A couple of weeks I went to a ‘Discover the Origin’ event at La Cucina Caldesi Italian Cookery School. Discover the Origin is a campaign representing Italy, France and Portugal in support of five key products from those countries which bear protected origin designations such as Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). Protected origin designations provides assurance to the consumer about the provenance, quality and the authenticity of the origin of the product. With a trend towards ethical sourcing and seasonal produce, etc, greater awareness in this area only seems fitting.

The five key products supported by Discover the Origin are Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)), Burgundy wine (AOC) and Port and Douro Valley wines (Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC)). As a case in point, Parmigiano-Reggiano is not to be confused with any ordinary parmesan cheese. Under Italian law, only versions of this hard granular cheese produced in the Italian areas of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Bologna and Mantova may be called Parmigiano-Reggiano – hence the PDO designation. Similar cheeses produced elsewhere are instead to be called parmesan.

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Trishna Restaurant

I am convinced that eating bad food is what makes one fat. My logic goes something like this: when you eat bad food, you are left feeling unsatisfied. So if you’re anything like me, you will want to eat something good, something a little comforting to make you feel better. This is why eating bad food is what makes you fat, because you just end up eating more. Take a look at the French for example. Despite all the wonderful trappings of lots of good food, they are generally not very hefty.

So, as I sit here about to write about my dining experience at Trishna Restaurant, I find myself tucking into a newly opened tub of ice-cream (Green & Black’s organic vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce). I feel in need of some comfort food and I am going to assume that my present disposition is enough to tell you that I found Trishna particularly unsatisfying.

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