Simon Rogan on the return of Roganic

Simon Rogan on the return of Roganic

by Tom Shingler 21 November 2017

After leaving Fera at Claridges in May and opening the exclusive eight-seater Aulis in Soho, Simon Rogan is set to open his next London-based restaurant: a permanent version of his hugely successful pop-up Roganic. Tom Shingler finds out more.

Tom Shingler is the editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler is the editor at Great British Chefs. After studying journalism and working on national food magazines, he joined Great British Chefs in 2015 and has travelled the length and breadth of the UK to interview chefs and photograph their beautiful plates of food ever since. Tom is responsible for all the editorial output of the website and, of course, is obsessed with everything to do with food and drink.

It was a sad day when Simon Rogan’s hugely influential pop-up restaurant Roganic closed in 2013, just two years after it opened. Offering the same sort of food found in his two-starred L’Enclume in Cumbria, it gave travel-averse southerners a chance to taste the produce-led dishes that secured the chef’s reputation as one of the UK’s culinary greats. So when Simon announced he’d be bringing back Roganic as a permanent venture as his contract ended at Fera at Claridges, it was met with great enthusiasm. He’s already opened Aulis, a tiny restaurant with just eight seats hidden away in a secret location in Soho that costs £250 a head. Roganic 2.0 will be a bit bigger, more affordable and similar in feel to its previous incarnation, and will be based at the old L’Autre Pied site in Marylebone.

‘Obviously this restaurant is there to replace the Roganic pop-up we had from 2011–2013,’ says Simon. ‘We left Fera at Claridges in May with the intention of opening both Roganic and Aulis, which we did in October, but Roganic took a little longer than we expected to get going. We really enjoyed our time in Marylebone last time around as we think it’s a great place to work, has a lovely village feel to it and is the right area for what we’re offering. Me and my wife Penny have always admired the building L’Autre Pied was in, so when we saw it was up for sale we jumped at the chance. We’re very happy to be back there.’

The restaurant will share much more than just the name of Simon’s pop-up; the goal is to capture that same feel and ethos that made it such a success in the past. Luckily, many of the key members that made the pop-up such a hit are returning to work at the permanent Roganic, including Ollie Marlow as head chef and Harry Guy, who is head of development and operations for both of Simon’s London restaurants. But don’t expect the exact same experience.

‘Obviously the main thing is the food and the message behind it – we want to offer a little bit of L’Enclume in the centre of London, with lots of produce from our farm on offer,’ explains Simon. ‘But the other part of the whole experience at Roganic was how it was delivered and the service, so we’re working hard on that too. One thing that will be a little bit different this time will be the surroundings; it’s a permanent site so we need to make it a little plusher than the old one, which was a temporary set-up. We don’t want to lose that Roganic feel however, so I’m careful not to make it too luxurious! It’s going to have quite a modern look but there will be a few surprises thrown in there too which people won’t necessarily associate with my normal way of doing things. It’s really exciting.’

Simon’s farm – called Our Farm – will be playing an important part in supplying Roganic with plenty of fantastic produce, but it won’t be the sole provider. ‘Because London is a capital city we’re looking to give the whole of the UK a piece of the action, a bit like we did at Fera,’ says Simon. ‘While a nice chunk of stuff will be coming down from the farm – it’s been expanded so it can supply all our restaurants – we’ll still be looking for the best stuff from everywhere else. It’s not as strict as L’Enclume, where everything we use is from the local area.’ When it comes to the development of the dishes, most will probably be fine-tuned at Aulis before making their way onto the menu at Roganic. Head chef Ollie will work closely with Rafael Cagali, the head chef at Aulis, along with Simon who will help in any way he can – although he is the first to admit his main focus is still at L’Enclume, as he still has things he wants to achieve there.

Another difference between the two Roganics is the move away from foraged produce. ‘Foraging is still a part of what we do but the farm is what we really focus on,’ says Simon. ‘The foraging thing was copied and mimicked quite a lot and some people do it quite badly, and we didn’t want to be part of that group! We do use foraged goods but only specific things that we know work and actually taste nice. We’d never use an ingredient just to look clever – we focus on natural organic farm produce instead.’

Roganic is set to open on 9 January, with around forty covers. There won’t be any à la carte – only tasting menus, just like L’Enclume – and it’s guaranteed to be thrust into the culinary spotlight from the minute it opens. We for one can’t wait to see how it differs to the pop-up.

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