Lahpet, Shoreditch

Like many of London’s most exciting restaurants, Lahpet started life as a marketplace pop-up. The team received great reviews and hungry hoards queued up for the comforting Burmese food. Dan Anton, who is part Burmese, wanted to introduce Londoners to his authentic cuisine with regional specialities and Myanmar staples. After a brief stint in a reclaimed warehouse in Hackney, Lahpet has recently found a permanent home in the heart of Shoreditch, on Bethnal Green Road.

Lahpet

The new restaurant is spacious and attractive, with warm lighting, leafy decoration and a lively soundtrack. We sat at a comfy banquette and within minutes were sipping green tea and awaiting a feast of recommended dishes.

Lahpet

Before visiting Lahpet I was a complete novice of Burmese food, unsure but excited about what to expect. The spread arrived smelling delicious, an array of salads and small plates, main plates and quirky sides.

Immediately I noticed the variety of recipes, textures and tastes. ‘Lahpet’ means ‘Tea Leaf’, and this ingredient features a couple of times in various dishes. The signature dish is the Lahpet salad, a mix of slightly bitter fermented tea leaves with tangy tomatoes and herbs – it is light, balanced and surprisingly tasty. Continuing with the tea leaf theme, you can also order the Lamb and Lahpet, a more substantial main dish.

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Most memorable for me were the Sweetcorn and Shan Tofu fritters, satisfyingly crisp little fritters with a soft and indulgent centre. I also enjoyed the Yellow Pea Paratha, a traditional soft bread filled with fragrant spiced peas.

Of the larger dishes, the Pork & Mustard Green Curry is a wholesome dish, the fatty and delicious pork meat was melt-in-the-mouth wonderful and the thick aromatic sauce was moreish and rich. For a lighter option, order the Coconut noodles with chicken, I found this steaming bowl irresistible, soft noodles take on the flavour of the lightly spiced coconut sauce, with a hint of lime and coriander.

Lahpet

After trying most of the savoury dishes I thought it was only polite to taste the solo dessert offering. The pudding description was initially a little baffling – Banana & Semolina cake with ice-cream, chocolate & caramelised peanut. The semolina cake was moist flavoured intensely with sesame. The refreshing ice-cream was dairy-free, it was pleasant in flavour and topped with peanut brittle. All in all though, this sweet dish pales in comparison to the vibrant savoury plates.

You can try Lahpet’s brilliant Burmese food at the Shoreditch restaurant or at their stall in Old Spitalfields food market. More information and book a table at Lahpet here.

Roganic, Marylebone

A few years ago I made the pilgrimage up to the Lake District to experience Simon Rogan’s flagship eatery. L’Enclume is a very special destination restaurant that champions seasonal garden produce and presents diners with a thoughtful multi-course meal. Needless to say, it was one of my most memorable food adventures ever.

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And so, when it was announced that Roganic would be returning to London (it had a 2 year residency as a pop-up a couple of years ago), I was extremely excited. Simon Rogan’s cooking style is inventive, sustainable and utterly delicious… his presentation and innovation stands out amongst London’s other fine dining establishments.

Roganic is found on Blandford Street in the heart of Marylebone. The dining room is dinky with white linen-covered tables, burnt orange leather banquettes and arty Tom Raffield light shades. Considering the space on offer, they’ve made the most of it, although it is quite treacherous getting down the tight spiral staircase to the toilets after multiple courses and a lengthy wine flight.

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There is an 18 course full tasting menu, a shorter 10 course option, or if you want a brief lunch experience, 3 courses for £40 (with a few extras). I’ve now visited Roganic three times, the lunch menu is perfectly light and illustrates the essence of the tasting menu, but Rogan’s full talent is truly on show in the full tasting menu.

Magenta pink preserved raspberry tart and fermented beetroot and apple provided a punchy start to the meal, earthy in tone, bright in colour and light in texture.

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After a few more immaculate mouthfuls we moved on to the slightly larger plates. I adored the onion broth with westcombe cheddar, soft and pillowy cheese dumplings floating in a comforting warm onion water, it was delicate and exquisite. Also brilliant was the asparagus cooked in bone marrow with leek ash and creamy hollandaise sauce. Although simple in appearance, I was aware that a lot of care and attention had gone into these tiny morsels.

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I have tried the Salt baked celeriac with enoki and lovage three times now, as it is one of the few dishes that has remained on the menu since opening. This unusual recipe still thrills, a sweet and malty assortment of flavours, with contrast of textures of tastes.

21 day dry aged cumbrian pork is a reminder of L’Enclume. Using premium Lake District produce, Rogan elevates the pork with an intense carrot puree and a rich and glossy jus.

Before each course arrived the sommelier visited us with an expert wine suggestion. I could only manage a sip of each wine, but was continually amazed by the clever pairings and interesting stories we were told about each wine’s vintage, vineyard and grape variety.

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Save space for the desserts on the tasting menu… the pastry section of the kitchen flourish at Roganic, producing desserts that are full of flair and new ideas. A small wooden bowl of creamy ice crumbs revealed a bright pink rhubarb sweet stew, which combined perfectly with the icy buttermilk.

Then we moved on to Burnt milk with chamomile and whey. The burnt milk crisp has a caramelised taste, while the ice cream has a herbaceous depth and a touch of sweetness… it is a match made in heaven.

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At Roganic the best is left till last, when a jolly chef presents a caramelised apple & douglas fir ice-cream. The taste is similar to a tarte tatin with a woodland flavoured ice-cream that you’d expect to find in a Scandi restaurant. The apple has been peeled with a mandolin and reconstructed again to look like an apple; each of the wafer thin apple slices is divinely sticky and sweet. We marvelled at the artistry in silence whilst gobbling up every last mouthful.

Roganic

Roganic truly excels at every part of the dining experience, the service is friendly and professional, the atmosphere is hushed but has a definite warmth. You feel lucky sitting in the restaurant, and I got the impression that, unlike many of Marylebone’s plain posh restaurants, everyone sitting in Roganic really, really wanted to be here.

After our epic 18 course lunch we left Roganic full and inspired, with a goodie bag of scones and jam, in case we needed a snack that evening. The team at Roganic have thought of everything.

More information and book a table at Roganic here.

Freak Scene, Soho

I am not a big fan of the name ‘Freak Scene’ for a restaurant. This new eclectic Soho eatery claims, on its website, to be offering ‘Curious Asian Plates’. Initially the concept reminded me of ‘Flavour Bastard’, a restaurant just up the road which throws flavour, spice and sugar at a plate and hopes for success. Freak Scene is similar in idea, but the realisation is so much more thought-through and, well, tasty.

Freak Scene

The small restaurant is centred around an open kitchen with bar seats, the same layout as many of the area’s best tapas and small plate venues. It is ideal for enthused Soho diners who want a bite to eat before or after a night out in town or at the theatre, but is less suitable for a long leisurely lunch or a relaxed family dinner.

Scott Hallsworth is the chef brains behind Freak Scene, a pan-Asian enterprise that initially started life as a pop-up. The restaurant is found tucked on Frith Street and takes inspiration from exciting Singaporean hawker centres with a live projection of the Japanese game show Takeshi’s Castle projected onto one wall.

Freak Scene

Before this venture, Scott was cooking in the kitchens of Nobu as Head Chef, and also founded Kurobuta izakaya on King’s Road. The menu here is short with small plates (costing between £4.50 and £11.50) and all intended for sharing. They recommend 2-3 per person. I quickly spotted intriguing items like Jerusalem Artichoke ‘Chopsticks’ with Truffle-Ponzu Dip and Salmon Sashimi Pizza!

The drinks menu is equally wacky… after chatting through the options we chose to try the Monkey Gone to Heaven (a combination of whiskey, fresh green apple and ginger) and the Green Bastard (Gin, Midori, Cucumber and Lime)… both drinks arrived in a radioactive shade of lime green but tasted delicious, balanced and refreshing.

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The menu changes regularly but a few favourites are likely to remain. Flavour is clearly a priority with every dish, and Scott concocts some deliciously inventive recipes. I particularly loved the Beef Fillet Tatki Salad with Onion Ponzu and Garlic Crisps, a vibrant and fresh salad with indulgent mouthfuls of meat, a wonderfully tangy dressing and a variety of exciting textures. Nasu Cengaku – Miso Grilled Aubergine with Candied walnuts was a comforting plate of succulent chunks of caramelised aubergine and Miso Grilled Black Cod Tacos were as delicious as they looked (already a winner with diners who have visited in the first week since opening).

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There is only one dessert and it feels like a slight afterthought. Hot chocolate Mousse with Passion Fruit Parfait and Caramelised Pecans was a messy glass of hot and cold mousses. The sharp and sweet flavours paired well together but it wasn’t great aside from that. I feel confident that the restaurant will improve theor sweet offering as they come out of the initial opening period.

London’s Soho district is full of life and colour, and Freak Scene fits perfectly into this eccentric cacophony of cuisines and ideas. I hope foodies in the area will give this new concept a chance, as it certainly delivers on flavour and taste.

More information and book a table at Freak Scene here.