Where does one take a pescetarian for a celebratory meal? The celebration being their recent wedding, the meal being the present. I racked my brains. Oysters and champagne? Too flashy (my pockets arent lined with gold). Fish and chips? Definitely not flashy enough. Then I had a lightbulb moment: Japanese. And where do you find the best Japanese in town? Why, at Roka, of course; sister restaurant of Zuma, brainchild of German restauranter Rainer Becker (no relation to Boris, sadly).
In London, diners are not short of a Japanese eatery or two, but Roka does Asian dining with a twist. And its a twist that works: it is one of the few high-end restaurants that is packed with customers night in, night out. Its not hard to see why. From the moment we arrived, we were treated like royalty. Jackets effortlessly taken from shivering shoulders, party led downstairs to the subterranean shochu lounge for a warming aperitif.
Cocktails finished (I had the Elegante: a vodka, prosecco and sorbet concoction that was like a coke float for grown-ups) and table ready, we made our way back upstairs for the main event. Wed plumped for the tasting menu, so we could try a little bit of everything.
It was a wise move. Delicious dish after delicious dish landed before us. We started with chilli edamame, followed by a beautifully delicate sea bream sashimi with pickled cucumber and plum, a sushi platter, then a tuna tartare with quails egg and caviar on the side to stir in. Opulence on a plate, indeed.
Raw fish over, we moved onto skewered scallops with wasabi and shisho (I was gutted there was only one each, they were cooked to perfection and absolutely delicious); black cod crayfish and crab dumplings; miso-marinated black cod; and Korean spiced lamb cutlets (not for the pescetarian obviously, which meant more for the rest of us). My tastebuds thought they had died and gone to heaven.
Just when we thought we could eat no more, a giant dessert platter came out. And I mean GIANT. Coconut parfait, sorbet, fruit, chocolate you name it, it was on there. It was polished off in seconds, like everything else wed been brought. They say a clean plate is the sign of a happy diner, and I couldnt agree more. Roka is bustling enough to have a sense of occasion, to feel like a destination restaurant for Londons hip twenty and thirtysomethings on a Saturday night, but it has the cooking credentials to back it up. Id eat there every night if I could. But back to saving up for that flat deposit
The ELLEuk Score
Style of food: Contemporary Japanese
Good for: Special occasion, romantic meal
Prices and Other Details at Roka
Address: Roka, 37 Charlotte St, London W1T 1RR
Opening times: Lunch: Mon-Fri 12 noon 3.30pm. Saturday-Sunday: 12.30pm-4pm. Dinner: Monday to Saturday: 5.30pm-11.30pm. Sundays and Bank Holidays: 5.30pm-10.30pm
Average price per person for tasting menu without wine: £79, but dishes start at £4.50
Price per bottle of house wine
House red: Domaine Gigondan Syrah, Rhone, 2011 - £5.90 glass/£24 bottle
House white: le Bosq Blanc, Sud ouest 2012 - £5.90 glass/ £24 bottle
Price of bottle of house champagne: Renard - Barnier Brut, NV £10.90/ £52 a bottle
Set menu: Yes, and a la carte
Private dining: No
Garden/al fresco dining? Yes
Best table? The tables surrounding the central cooking hub, on the in corner at the back. Avoid the tables at near the side entrance, you will have your head bashed by passing customers/waiters all night
Bar? Yes, theres a schochu lounge downstairs for drinks and a light supper
Who goes? Soho media types, couples, groups of SATC-esque women on a night out
Nearest tube: Warren St