Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roganic: A little bit about Ben

Roganic, Marylebone

It seems like an eternity ago that I tasted some of Ben Spaldings food for the first time. I have been rather slack all things considered in the blog department, whilst the eating has not abated (not without good reason, but all will be revealed soon enough). In that time, I have sampled menus which had been cooked by Ben twice, totalling about 23 different courses from this man. Ben is a mere 24 years old and has already had experience in some of the country’s finest restaurants, including Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, L’Autre Pied, Gary Rhodes W1 and of course L’Enclume. Now he is heading up the chefs at Roganic, Londons L’Enclume in residence, and man with skills in the kitchen belying his age.

Roganic, Marylebone

Roganic is technically a “popup”, although this is mainly down to the 2 year lease. It’s small, cosy and comfortable. Even though some had accused the room of lacking a bit of atmosphere, the staff are so on it, that every minute under their care is a pleasure. Courses after course comes out, never rushed and you never feel like you’re waiting. Led by the wonderful Sandia Chang and Jon Cannon, the team is polite, efficient, knowledgeable and eager to share what they know about the food and wines on offer. My kind of service and never a dull moment.

Roganic, Marylebone

The food itself was equally good. From the first few bites of chickpea fritter with cheese and herbs amuse bouche, to the opinion splitting spiced bread and smoked clotted cream dessert, your palate is assaulted with new flavours and new ingredients. In all fairness, “assaulted” would be an inappropriate description, more like caressed as each plate is exceptionally balanced.

Roganic, Marylebone

I may be coming across like some kind of fan boy, but I guess that is exactly what I appear to have become. Take the much lauded dish of seawater cured Kentish mackerel, orache, broccoli and warm elderflower honey. Firstly, it’s beautiful. The attention to detail is astounding, from the wavy unbroken patterns of the broccoli puree, to the little broccoli “trees. Even the little broccoli shavings dotting the honey like tiny emeralds, just so colourful. As we all know, the proof is in the tasting, and the combination of the honey, broccoli and the mackerel, albeit a seemingly strange one, just works.

Roganic, Marylebone

Another dish which had “wow” factor written all over it was the deep fried mayo. Yep, DEEP FRIED MAYO (sorry for the caps, it just felt appropriate). Adorned with cobnuts and apple, the little croquettes of mayo were rich and smooth, and most importantly, not weird at all. It was another combination of strange ingredients which ended up finely balanced, and more importantly, really goddamn delicious.

I left Roganic comfortable without feeling absolutely stuffed, and was already looking forward to eating Ben's food again. Thankfully I didn't have to wait long as I had been invited along to one of the Critical Couples chef dinners in their own home, with that man again in the kitchen. Supporting Action against Hunger, I was invited along as a guest, but donated to charity as "payment". Instead of the standard Roganic menu, Ben had devised a whole new 13 course adventure, with a bit more free reign to experiment. What we got were laughs, invention but mainly, lots and lots of great food.

Ben Spalding at the Critical Couple

First “nibbles” which set the tone for the rest of the day. Think self cured salmon “from a jar”, served with loganberries, mini spoonfuls of beef tartare doused with shavings of bitter chocolate and duck sweetbreads served with oxtail ragu and orange marmalade. Somewhat interesting combinations, all packing punch and tasting fantastic, and those were just to start.

Ben Spalding at the Critical Couple

There were flashes of invention and intrigue dotted throughout the evening. For example, take the massive decanter set in the middle of the table, covered in a red slush which slowly dripped down into the main receptacle (this was to become our tenth course "cleanser", comprising of what seemed to be grape juice). The tweeted picture of a strange looking puff ball a few days in advance of the evening, teasing us with what it actually was (turns out to be a mushroom called a pom pom). The chicken liver parfait served on a caramelised brick, or the "make it yourself" cookies and cream deserted served in a shovel. Style counts for nothing without substance, but yet again, each dish failed to disappoint.

Ben Spalding at the Critical Couple

The final meat dish of veal was probably the most normal, even though it was presented to us as a huge chunk of meat before slicing and serving. Even without all the theatrics, what we got was a delicate, perfectly cooked piece of meat with some greens and some gravy. Who could ever turn that down?

Ben Spalding at the Critical Couple

Ben Spalding is a serious chef. He's a man packed full of clever combinations and knowledge of so many ingredients that I have never heard of before, let alone eaten. The clincher is that he doesn’t mess about with all these ingredients for the sake of it, but for the taste of it. Each of his myriad of dishes is well composed and uncluttered. I love this approach. Some might say that these dishes are Noma-esque, with focus on regional products, incorporating natures larder wherever possible. I'm sure it won’t be long before dishes such as these will be likened as Spalding-esque.

Roganic on Urbanspoon


Miss G said...

who's that chick in the red dress? ;-)

tehbus said...

I am assuming you already know the answer to that question!

Becs@Lay the table said...

Wow, the food looks absolutely stunning! It makes me so jealous when I see people younger than me with that much talent.

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