As it stands, there are only eight three Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK, and while Simon Rogan’s pioneering farm-to-fork tasting menu concept, L’Enclume, is the most recent addition to the concise list, it is arguably the most accomplished of all.
Why? Because his 20-year-old spot has something the other prestigious eateries don’t: the fabled Michelin Green Star award for sustainability. In fact, Rogan is the only restaurateur who has secured two such emerald badges, the other held at Roganic in Hong Kong, which, like Rogan & Co, also holds a traditional star. Elsewhere in London, Hong Kong and Cartmel there are three Aulis kitchens offering diners a chef’s table experience, restaurant Henrock within the Linthwaite House hotel in Windermere, The Baker & The Bottleman Bakery in Hong Kong, Home by Simon Rogan delivery boxes, a hospitality training academy and a high-functioning organic farm that supplies each concept.
Now entering his third decade of feeding the world’s most devoted food enthusiasts with a team of esteemed chefs including Paul Burgalières, Oli Marlow, Charlie Tayler, Tom Reeves, Sam Fry and Cillian Hennessy, Rogan has had a moment to reflect on how far they’ve all come. ‘L’Enclume started with a menu that was very London-centric, a sort of franglais, modern French cuisine. It was only when we got set up that I realised how I wanted to cook. At the centre of that was quality produce, but what was on offer was very poor.’
Rogan’s response to the shortage of good ingredients is how today’s obsession with farm-to-fork cooking was born, after he established an exclusive relationship with a local organic farm before beginning his own, Our Farm, in the Lake District. Though it hasn’t been a clear-cut path, he says. ‘As a young chef… I became quite experimental, quite molecular, trying to change things. But you realise that it’s not about taking a carrot and deconstructing it and reconstructing it seven different ways while thinking, “Look at me, aren’t I clever?”’
Now, Rogan says it’s about paring things back. ‘As our ingredients have become better, the food has become more simplistic. That doesn’t mean it’s not technical but we concentrate on what we are good at. A lot goes into the layering of the flavours and making sure they’re all cohesive and that they work well within a 15-course menu.’
Is he inspired by what other chef’s are doing? ‘In the last three or four years, with this talent that I have beside me, what we do has become really polished and we’re very content. We don’t need to go looking for ideas. We want people to cook like we’re cooking as it’s the best way. Farm to table; nurturing your ingredients; looking after your environment sustainability; we want people to follow that lead. But when they do, it drives us to the next thing, to push forward, to always stay at the forefront.’ And on that note, we look forward to devouring the next 20 years — if we can land a table, that is.