“I’m madly dashing up and down the country at the moment – and I’m calling my route ‘Car-Man-Don’,” laughs Simon Rogan, who’s clearly managing to maintain a sense of humour amidst what must be one of the most stressful points of his career. In May, Rogan, who last year expanded his Cumbrian restaurant empire to Manchester – with two restaurants at The Midland Hotel – will take over one of the world’s most sought-after dining rooms, when he replaces Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s.
Rogan’s food – for which he has won two Michelin stars and ten out of ten in the Good Food Guide, at L’Enclume in the small Cumbrian village of Cartmel – is markedly different from Ramsay’s. Relying almost exclusively on British produce – much of which is grown at his own farm in Cumbria – he creates modern, natural, unusual, almost ethereal dishes, often featuring unknown, forgotten or underused parts of ingredients and foraged produce. Recipes are constantly evolving according to said produce and are worked up in his development and research facility Aulis, in Cumbria, where his team of chefs also oversee a ‘fermentation chamber’ for microbial alteration of ingredients like ‘black garlic’.
For Claridge’s, we can expect over two hundred new dishes, including such creations as ‘wood pigeon, parsley root cooked over Scot’s pine with celery leaf and mustard seeds’; or ‘prawns from Gairloch, parsnips and meadowsweet, apple and violet flowers’. Rogan will launch the ninety cover restaurant with Dan Cox – who previously led the development kitchen – as executive chef. “It’s a whole new repertoire, more researched than anything we’ve ever done before,” he says. “It’s the same style of food, same ethos and same DNA as L’Enclume, but the Claridge’s dishes have been dominating things in the development kitchen.