What do we need to know about Roka?
It's one of the big restaurant brands managed by Rainer Becker, who's also behind Zuma and Obelix in The Shard. Simply put, it's high-end Japanese dining, with a dual focus on raw fish (sushi/sashimi) and the grill.
Where can we meet for drinks beforehand?
Aldwych hasn't been best known for being Bar Central, but there are a few decent options that have opened in the area in recent years. There are the bars at the nearby ME by Melia hotel which includes the rooftop Radio bar, the bar at STK and the Restaurant Design Awards-winning Atrium bar. Alternatively you can grab a quick glass of wine in the Delaunay cafe or go old school at Daly's Bar.
There's a long separate bar in the front of the restaurant too - and while the tables were laid out for eating when we visited (which is a shame as it's prime bar real estate) it should be fairly straightforward to grab a seat at the bar if you're eating early. We'd really recommend trying the Micronesian cocktails at the bar - we had a very impressive "Bakana Banana" for £11.60 (white rum, banana, mango, pineapple, passion fruit & lime).
Where should we sit?
There are lots of big round tables in the main section, so it's ideal for groups (each one was full when we visited barely a week after opening). Pretty much anywhere in the main restaurant looks good. We sat facing the open kitchen and it's worth noting that the kitchen is surrounded by counter dining so that's a good option if you're eating solo. You can also opt to eat at the main bar outside too - handy if you just fancy a few dishes in a rush.
What should we order?
The fairly huge menu is slightly daunting at first - split into maki rolls, sushi, sashimi, salads, tempura, snacks & soups and lots of robata fish, veg and meat. We soon realised that - as first time visitors to Roka - that the tasting menu was going to be our the best introductory option. Next time we'd be more adventurous - particularly in the robata and tempura sections.
There are two, fairly extensive, tasting menus to choose from - the seasonal menu at £55 per person or the premium tasting menu at £79. We specifically went for the high-end one as we wanted to try the Japanese wagyu steak - more on that in a minute.
If you choose the tasting approach - you'll get dishes either brought out individually or, for the bulk of the "starters" and the dessert, as a couple of huge and highly impressive platters (see below). All of the food was of excellent quality, which is what is to expected from Roka by all accounts. Of what we ate on the night, particular highlights were:
- Anything with the Japanese wagyu - perhaps to be expected. This is the first time Roka have served it (restrictions having only recently been lifted into the UK) and both the wagyu tartar and the wagyu steak were as meltingly delicious as we'd been led to expect. The latter doesn't come cheap, though, at an £18 supplement per person (and £69.60 on the á la carte). If you CAN afford that, it's absolutely worth ordering.
- The cheesecake on the dessert platter - another new addition to the Aldwych menu - was also a big winner (cotton soft cheesecake, robata grilled pear, cream cheese ice cream - £8.30 on the á la carte). Much lighter than any other cheesecake we've tried, it capped off the meal well. Even if you're not going for the tasting menu, you should order this.
But pretty much everything we had - from sashimi to sushi - was excellent. All beautifully prepared and there wasn't a dud note on the night. For the full menu, see the gallery below.
Try the Micronesian cocktails as they're brand new. Otherwise, wines start at £26 (with a good few options between that and £40) and we had a wonderful Assyrtiko “Wild Ferment” Gaia Wines 2013 from Santorini, Greece (£52).
Roka has been one of those restaurants that we just haven't managed to visit until now, despite its clearly huge reputation. It lived up to expectation, delivering a note-perfect high-end Japanese meal with excellent service throughout. All that comes at a price, of course, but with the restaurant packed after being opened just over a week, they're clearly onto a winner here.
Roka Aldwych Hackney is at 71 Aldwych, London WC2B 4HN. Find out more.
Hot Dinners were invited to Roka. Prices were correct at the time of writing.