Ben Spalding has puzzle pieces tattooed on his arms. Eating at Roganic did feel like putting all those bits together. One at a time.
We sat at the table, with rescued wine bottles as water glasses. A foam – straight from the siphon – turned into a deep-red liquid. Better than biting into a cherry.
And then, it started. Six courses, although I now wish we went for the ten-course menu.
To say it was magic would be both an understatement and an overstatement. Magical, it felt. Genius, it was.
Millet and pearl barley made a pudding. Of the savoury kind. With bone-marrow in a bone-like caramelised pear and Stichelton.
A piece of just-cured crisp-skinned Kentish mackerel was flirting with wild honey, in a way that tastes better than kissing. And broccoli came around for a threesome.
A slice of Jersey Royale disguised itself into kidney. Making you forget that offal is your favourite thing in the world. After chicken skin, that is. Much to my own pleasure, both were here. In one way or another.
Skate belly was served with a charred baby leek, and tiny scallops; something so rare in London, it makes the lunch worth it with no explanations needed. Oh and some caramelised cauliflower puree.
A cut of veal, cooked in buttermilk, melted in our mouth, while the cobnuts were doing their job with flair. Crunch and nuttiness included.
For dessert, it felt right to order one from each menu.
And after a pre-dessert made of a small quenelle of gin and tonic sorbet that made me wish I could eat it straight from the ice-cream machine – yes, two litres of it – we knew we were right.
A white chocolate sorbet stood on top of rapeseed biscuit crumbs, with plums and meadowsweet. It looked simple, in an effortless kind of way. But it is one of the most complex desserts I’ve ever had. The flavours are indescribable. Like holding your breath for so long that the things you’ve missed start to make sense.
Cicely ice-cream melted over a couple of just-halved strawberries in a verbana nage. All brought together by buttermilk curd. My version of what early summer should taste like.
A cube of toasted brioche was rolled in a spice sugar. Some salt almonds and a small quenelle of smoked clotted cream later, I could feel autumn. Its golden avenues and crisp winds. With a smudge of buckthorn curd balancing the deep smokiness with a hint of acidity.
At this point, three hours and four glasses of very-well matched wine had gone by; in what felt a second. And we sipped a Douglas Fir milkshake which tasted surprisingly floral. And I really couldn’t stop wishing for more. Yes, more; and the recipe for the pastry chef’s mother’s soda bread.