Claridges found themselves in a somewhat tricky situation a few years back. The quintessentially English aristocratic hotel had lost its single Michelin star whilst Gordon Ramsay was at the helm (along with his multitude of other restaurants around the world). At renewal in 2013, Gordon was declined the contract and this left a perfect space to bring in new blood. Surprisingly that was filled by Simon Rogan. Admittedly Rogan has no London base after his popup Roganic had closed as planned after 2 years. And he has impeccable previous with the much lauded L’Enclume. Still, an unusual pairing in my mind, could a destination restaurant in a small Cumbrian village work as well in the heart of swanky Mayfair.
The food was met with much praise at launch, however a lot was said about the prices too. Nobody expected it to be cheap, but it certainly felt slightly over the odds even compared to its glamorous established neighbours. It seems to me they have been tweaking the menus and pricing, I’ve variously seen the weekday set lunch priced at anywhere between £55 and £30. By the time I finally went however, it was at the very reasonable £30, which for 3 courses of Rogan food in Mayfair seems damn cheap to me.
The first surprise was even at that price the little extras weren’t neglected, an ethereal blue cheese foam and berry gel cracker was presented as an amuse, made even more Rogan-esque with a topping of petals. Strong flavours paired with the lightness of aerogel, clever stuff. My starter was smoked egg yolk, kohlrabi, Isle of Mull cheese and cavalo nero. Artfully plated, it was a very light starter but just about enough for a 3 course lunch. The egg was lightly smoked and soft, pairing well with the generous rich truffle, cheese sauce and ribbons of kohlrabi. I expected actual cheese but presume it was in the sauce instead. My dining partner’s beetroot and cheese starter was equally well received, again very light but plenty of flavour. We’d had a good chat to the sommelier, I will remark that the wine selection by the glass is good and just about broad enough to cover most options, but it is also seriously priced. I opted for an “Aged Under Flor” Savagnin sherry at £11.50 for 100ml. Perhaps a more unusual choice but the sweetness cut through the yolk, cheese and truffle perfectly. Also noticeable were the beautiful Mark Thomas (previously of Zalto) glasses, handblown and unbelievably light.
As is quite typical of my previous Rogan experiences, the mains were slightly less exotic, not necessarily a bad thing. A decent portion of plaice, paired with potatoes, broccoli and a lovely green sauce. The surprise addition was lobster, with two meaty chunks, a bonus on a set menu for sure. If I was nitpicking, the seasoning was borderline heavy-handed and the fish ever so slightly overcooked, very minor points though. Otherwise a good classic paring of fish, veg and potato. An amazing Cotes De Jura chardonnay (£21 for 175ml!) paired well with the fish, as it bloody should for that price.
Desserts brought us back to more unusual ingredients. A chocolate cream was married with apple marigold and some type of crumbs for crunch. Rich chocolate was kept light with the partnership, it worked very well. The black saison ice cream with fennel was more disappointing, the advertised flavours not working their way through to prominence and it had more of a berry dominated taste. Not unpleasant but it felt unbalanced. And we even had petit-fours, a pumpkin bourbon chocolate alongside a meringue / marshmallow bite. A light Gaillic dessert wine went very well with both.
A very well measured lunch, we left perfectly sated with plenty of memorable dishes. Value wise I thought the food was very well priced, although with wine the £30 is the least of it. The bill came to a slightly more realistic £86 a head with 3 glasses of wine. Still worth it although not exactly a bargain, I will be interested to re-visit for dinner soon.