Return to ROKA Aldwych with Bookatable

There’s something really special about ROKA restaurants that I can’t quite put my finger on. Every meal there is quite honestly, perfect. The service, the food and the ambiance are all exactly what I love about fine dining in London, so when mum was visiting I could think of no better place to take her for lunch – especially when Bookatable offer a fantastic £41 set menu

After a spot of shopping in Covent Garden on a sunny spring morning, we headed round to the Aldwych branch of ROKA, a branch opened to celebrate ROKA’s 10 year anniversary on Charlotte Street.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, my love of ROKA will come as no surprise, especially after a wonderful bloggers’ brunch at ROKA Aldwych at the end of last year.

The excellent Bookatable star deal offers diners a choice of either a set menu for £31 or £41, the main difference being the different main courses on offer. When I saw that my favourite ROKA dish was on the £41 set menu, that pretty much sealed the deal for us!

Both menus start with a glass of prosecco whilst you peruse the menu, and since we were celebrating mum being in London, bubbles were the order of the day.

One of the things I love most about all of the ROKA branches is that you can see into the kitchen and watch the incredibly talented chefs prepare their masterpieces. Mum hadn’t been to a ROKA restaurant (!) until now, so we were very content to sit and watch them work their magic in between conversations.

The decor throughout the restaurant has been created by Rainer Becker and Silvio Silvestrin with lots of textural highlights, soft leather and timber beams which aims to create a relaxed yet stylish venue.

The set menu works a little like the ROKA Han Setto brunch in that there are a selection of starters to share before choosing main courses. I love menus that work like this as I really enjoy trying a selection of dishes from the menu. 

The first starter to arrive was the 5 piece sashimi selection, which allowed us to try yellow fin tuna, tuna, salmon, octopus and sea bass. It was every bit as good as I had remembered and mum was blown away. There’s something oh-so-nice about being able to treat mum when she comes up to London!

At this point I was able to tell her that last year, when I went to Stylist Live I was lucky enough to see ROKA’s executive chef, Hamish Brown, and one of his most talented chefs work with a whole tuna and take it right down to sashimi size – it was quite something to watch!

We also enjoyed the horenso no goma ae salad: a baby spinach leaf salad with a sesame dressing, which was much better than I had remembered it, though still not my favourite dish.

But when mum’s about you’ve got to eat your greens..!

I would say that the gyoza was a real highlight of our meal, but to be honest, the whole meal was flawless. The gindara to kani no gyoza, or black cod, crab & crayfish dumplings, were incredible…

Full of flavour, impeccably presented and with a soft yet slightly crisp outer.

We could have had a whole plate of these light delights!

The service at ROKA is second to none, as evidenced by what happened next. The manager had heard that it was mum’s first visit to ROKA and insisted that, with compliments of the chef, she couldn’t leave without trying one of their signature dishes: yellowtail sashimi with a yuzu-truffle dressing.

Not only beautifully presented, but a light dish that is sharp in flavour because of the dressing that’s served over the most delicate, fresh fish I’ve had. The manager is so right: you can’t come to ROKA and not order this one!

Having raved the tempura maki rolls before, I was so pleased to see that the fresh eel, avocado and shisho tempura were on the menu.

Again, a really impressive dish that perfectly combined the eel, as well as the soft textured avocado with the eel that had just the right amount of salt.

And even better when dipped in delicious soy sauce, ’cause you can never have too much soy if you ask me.

Main courses were a shared affair for us. I have to admit, I’m not that pleased with my photos of this dish cause I was very excited when I saw the black cod. Our waitress explained that one of the reasons this dish tastes so good is that the fish is marinated for over 72 hours! So you can understand when I say that this is one of my all time favourite dishes in London. 

When you break the cod with chopsticks, thick, meaty chunks of fish fall apart in front of your eyes. I love the dark flavours of this dish combined with the soft fish. It is a slice of perfection on a plate.

Our other main course was teriyaki bison sirloin served with robata grilled aubergine and myoga. Though I have to say the aubergine isn’t the most photogenic part of this dish, it tasted beautiful and was the perfect accompaniment to the delicious, pink bison.

The bison had a gorgeous glaze like finish on top that was slightly sweet from the teriyaki; I really enjoyed the dipping sauce that came with it, too.

The service throughout our meal was a great balance of attentive but not fussy; the staff were always there if we wanted to order another drink, but even though we had been told upon booking that the table was required after two hours, we never felt rushed.

If you haven’t had dessert here, you’re seriously missing out. The dessert platter, large or small, is a real delight and the perfect end to a long, luxurious lunch.

The set menu allows you to choose any of the desserts and we chose (with out waitresses help!) the soft cheesecake with robata grilled pear and the sweet-tooth-star, the signature dark chocolate and green tea fondant.

If you haven’t already seen on my Instagram, the green tea delight looks a little something like this…

And has the perfect finishing touches of being covered with the restaurant’s name both on top of the fondant and on the box it’s served it.

The cheesecake, though enjoyable, didn’t have a patch on the fondant, I have to admit.

I love the little touches to the dessert platter: all the fruit and sorbets are served on ice to make sure that they’re perfect for as long as possible. It’s the little things that go a long way, I think.

 But if there’s one pudding to be ordered, enjoyed, and devoured, it’s the fondant…

With an ooze that is as perfect as its chocolate-y casing.

I know I enjoyed the Bookatable star deal at Hakkasan Hanway, but ROKA just blew that one out the water. 

If there’s one restaurant for a celebration, for me, it’s got to be ROKA ’cause it gets everything right, every time. If you’ve not been before, or don’t want to splash the cash on a full ROKA experience, the Bookatable star deal is an excellent place to start.

We were guests of Booktable, but I can’t be bought for all the yellowfin sashimi, black cod and fondants in the world!

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  • Lesley Pittaway

    My heart wells with pride to read this! Yay!! xxx