Roganic, 19 Blandford Street, London W1U 3DH

One of the questions I'm most often asked, when I tell people I review restaurants, is, 'Where have you been lately that's really special?'. And it's a difficult one to answer. The truth is, there aren't many places out there that really are that special. For every Fat Duck, there's a lot of ugly ducklings.

But now I have an answer to the question: Roganic. It's original, ambitious, artistic and rather bonkers. And it's certainly special.

It's the first London opening from Simon Rogan, the wildly inventive chef/proprietor of L'Enclume in the Lake District. If Heston Blumenthal is the king of avant-garde cooking in this country, Rogan is the prince in exile, with a fabled domain in Cartmel encompassing two restaurants, a hotel and an organic farm.

TV audiences got a glimpse of Rogan's style in The Trip, in which L'Enclume was the setting for Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's exchange about foam. The good news about this new restaurant is that not only are there no foams in evidence, but it's geographically more central than L'Enclume, occupying a short-lease site in Marylebone.

They're calling it a pop-up, though with a potential life span of two years, it's more of a stay-up. The slender, storefront dining room has been tastefully refurbed on a shoestring, with Deco-ish pendant lights, turbulent black abstracts, and moss-green wainscoting which chimes with the foraged, herbivorous theme of the menu.

Never in the field of human dining have so many obscure herbs and sea vegetables laid down their lives in the service of a tasting menu. Chenopodiums and buckthorn, blite and Sweet Cicely – the menu should come with a copy of The Observer's Book of British Plants (not that Roganic offers anything as workaday as a printed menu).

We visited in the opening week, unsure of quite what to expect, but knowing, having visited L'Enclume, that it would be extraordinary. Certainly, the concept is bold. Not many new restaurants, in these straitened economic times, have the hubris to offer a no-choice set menu, at £55 for six courses, £80 for 10.

It's immediately apparent from the friendly welcome of the staff that though the prices might be high-end, the vibe of Roganic is refreshingly unstuffy. "How are you?" our waiter asked us. "How was your day? Been working?" (Yep, right now, I could have said, but didn't.) Some of the staff, along with the furniture and much of the produce, have come down from Cumbria, and their unceremonial directness is a breath of fresh air.

They're good at their jobs, too. Over a three-hour dinner, we were treated to a smooth flow of amazing, original dishes, largely vegetable-led, and garnished with herbs and flowers. The only familiar point came at the start of the meal, with some good, but conventional, bread served with butter whipped with Maldon salt and slathered onto pebbles.

After that, we were in uncharted waters. The combinations offered by Rogan and head chef Ben Spalding aren't just unlikely – they're downright odd. Roasted brill comes garnished with 'chicken salt': chicken skin rubbed with sea salt and thyme, like savoury popping candy. 'Vintage' potatoes are dusted with the ashes of dehydrated onions. The saltiness of seawater-cured mackerel is punctuated by droplets of warm elderflower honey, from nearby Regents Park. Goats' curd under an orb of beetroot jelly gets an aniseed bite from a hyssop purée – like a watercolour sketch of a conventional goats' cheese salad, only with the textures shimmeringly diffused.

It wasn't just the beauty of the dishes that made us keep reaching for metaphors from the visual arts. At their best, they provoke a synaesthetic reaction; a smoked egg yolk, slow cooked in a waterbath and partnered with sea vegetables and a warm breath of wild mustard sauce, stirred up some memory of eating smoky bacon crisps on a windy seaside cliff.

Pretentious as all this may sound, Roganic doesn't feel over-cerebral. I'm not generally a fan of cooking which involves tweezering microscopic ingredients onto weirdly-shaped plates, but here the flavour combinations really do repay the mind-boggling amount of labour that has gone into each dish. Even after three hours and 10-plus courses (plus, gulp, an optional selection of British cheeses) we felt stimulated, rather than overloaded.

Our fellow diners, in the opening week, were mainly foodie early-adopters, and Roganic will obviously appeal to the kind of gastronomic swingers who need to have their jaded palates teased. But it would be a shame if it didn't reach out to a wider clientele. This is the nearest I've come in Britain (outside the Fat Duck and L'Enclume) to the transporting theatricality of a meal at El Bulli. Passion, pride and some kind of obsessive craziness are at work here. So, all in all, pretty special, then.

Roganic, 19 Blandford Street, London W1U 3DH (020-7486 0380)

Food 5 stars
Ambience 3 stars
Service 5 stars

Set menu: Lunch/dinner, 6 courses, £55; dinner, 10 courses, £80

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Pop-up culture

The Underground Restaurant

If you're reading this at Bestival, bag yourself a place at Ms Marmite Lover's romantic, flower-strewn table.

Ticketline.co.uk/kerstin-rodgers-tickets

The Dishoom Chowpatty Beach Bar

The South Bank has been transformed into a beach this summer – just the place to enjoy a samosa or two...

Southbank Centre, London SE1

Squisito

Pizza of the wood-fired, properly Italian variety, every third Wednesday of the month.

Brinklow Community Hall, Brinklow, Warwickshire (01788 833477)

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor