My first and only experience of Simon Rogan’s food thus far has been a lucky trip to his London restaurant Roganic. A 2 year “popup”, it was a revelatory night of fiercely English sourced ingredients. On the whole delicious and never dull, it did veer towards a challenging bitter palate. Home proper for Rogan is Cartmel, the small Cumbrian village making a big culinary impact and being spearheaded by a trio of Rogan restaurants. The flagship 2 Michelin starred L’Enclume is flanked by the more casual Rogan&Co, and then just down the road is the “fine little boozer” we were heading to. The village also has a fantastic cheese shop, coffee shop, brewery and several other pubs. Special mention must go to the excellent fine wine and spirits shop Red Pepper where I had a quick pre-dinner gin tasting.
The most casual of the lot, this pub has been deliberately kept as a pub should be at the front. The main bar area is a tight squeeze and we had a couple of drinks whilst waiting for our table, it was lively and has maintained a “locals” atmosphere. A decent couple of local ales were on tap. We were then ushered round the back to the dining room, past the men’s toilets in fact. The dining room is small and low-key, with a few couples at different tables and one group of 4. This made the room a bit quiet at first, people warmed up as the night (and wine) progressed though.
Some sinfully delicious marmite and cheese swirl bread plus a sourdough were brought round shortly, along with butter on a small slab. Excellent bread although the butter was too cold (and seemed at odds with the prestige given to the dramatic swoosh of butter on a Rogan “foraged” stone we had at Roganic). I started with the pressed ham terrine and piccalilli, which arrived as a generous slab of pork meat wrapped in bacon. The meat was nicely seasoned and had a good firm close texture, but only had a couple of slivers of pistachio for interest. Whilst understandably not layered or as interesting as a game terrine for example, I was hoping for a bit more. The piccalilli was chunky and cut through the meat well, a solid dish. The wife had the onion tart which was a sweet layer of onions in an admirably delicate piece of pastry sitting on a beetroot puree. Simple, earthy and well balanced.
I’ll mention the wine list at this point, it’s pretty short with around 6-7 bottles per colour and around 3 by the glass. Since only I was drinking (driving duties for the wife) it did slightly sway my food choices, all the wine by the glass was under £15 a bottle (most at the £12 mark) which either means the markup is non-existent, the wines are impeccably sourced for the budget, or more likely they are a bit cheap. Nothing wrong with that and I understand this is appealing to a different market but something slightly nicer by the glass might be good (or perhaps I’m just a snob). Anyway I solved the problem with a crisp bottle of Saint Veran and chose my food roughly around that.
You don’t tend to see hake that often in restaurants, perhaps it has an image problem being associated with frozen blocks of fish and parsley sauce (that’s my memory of it anyway). But this sounded very appealing, served with parsley potatoes, brown shrimps, spinach and topped with granola. The fish was moist and firm with a good flake, excellently cooked. The shrimps added some more sweet seafood depth and the parsley potatoes were smooth and rich. The granola was puffed grains (rice perhaps) and added some crunch and savoury notes. The leaves at the very top were maybe a step far, but I finished it all happily.
The wife opted for slow cooked beef with salt baked celeriac, beetroot and potato rosti. We were told the beef had been cooked sous-vide which isn’t quite what I imagined by slow-cooked, we were both expecting a shin of beef or something meltingly tender. It looked like a blade steak to me actually, and was understandably a but chewy, especially around the connective tissue in the middle. Barring that, the meat was beefy and full flavoured with a rich ale gravy. The wife really liked the giant rosti (I thought it was a tad dry) and the salt baked celeriac was tender but still too salty.
We managed to resist temptation (just about) and shared a dessert. Pear and almond crumble with marigold sorbet. It came very attractively presented in its own little pot, with a scoop of sorbet. The sorbet was very interesting, reminding me of a sherbet-y elderflower flavour. It was also very sweet though and didn’t help cut through the sweetness of the pear and almond. The crumble topping was thick and had a crunchy top, it also had a cakey texture though. The pears were sweet and juicy although quite wet and un-skinned.
All-in for a total of five courses and a nice bottle of wine plus service was £95. Service was very good, friendly and knowledgable. I liked the place and the meal and think for the money they are charging they are doing well. But I wish a couple of dishes were slightly elevated and a few little mistakes corrected, then it would be a strong recommendation. As it is I enjoyed it but wouldn’t make it a must-visit.