With the opening of Zuma in 2002, chef-restaurateur Rainer Becker brought high-end, contemporary Japanese fare to the capital with resounding success. Luckily for greedy gourmands, the restaurant’s ratings and popularity proved so triumphant that it was quickly followed up by the introduction of a younger sibling, Roka, just two years later. The result? A gastronomic haven that serves, sizzles and grills up dishes that pay homage to the Land of The Rising Sun’s culinary forte.
Today, there are four Roka branches dotted around London, but it’s the original location on Fitzrovia’s restaurant-heavy Charlotte Street that still stands tallest.
The ambience is...
Roka, unlike many high-rolling eateries, is packed to the rafters every evening without fail. Not only is the food refined and made with the highest quality control, but the ambience is always vibrant and welcoming, thanks mainly to the hustle that goes on around the central robata (a type of Japanese barbecue). Here, staff whizz at pace, carrying steaming hot places of grilled goods, cocktails and cold plates, while guests chat and dine under the hazy glow of the eatery’s warm umber lights.
And for those who don’t wish to sit near this hub of activity, then the seating near the windows offer a more intimate setting.
“Sashimi and nigiri selection” – to kick-off an evening of gluttony, make sure to opt for this. Cool and incredibly fresh, the moriawase selection comes complete with several delicate slices of salmon, tuna and yellowtail, all of which are layered on top of a mini iceberg. Clean and delicate, it’s a dish that not only looks good, but tastes sublime as well.
“Vebi no tempura” – if you book into a high-end Japanese restaurant, you can’t skip out on the tempura; the red shrimp option at Roka not only gets the appetite rolling, but it’s also a glandular masterpiece. Served with wasabi pea seasoning and chilli mayonnaise, it’s a perfectly-balanced offering that’s crisp, salty and sweet all at the same time.
“Kampachi sashimi no salada” – drizzled in truffle yuzu dressing, the beautifully-fanned-out yellowtail sashimi slices are rich in umami and slide easily into the mouth, perfect for those wanting to order more than one round.
“Yaki Hotate” – often billed as the finest thing to eat in London, these scallop skewers are buttery yet light, small yet powerful and are complemented by the creamy wasabi and herby shiso.
“Black Cod” – not only is the black cod the best cut of fish at Roka, but it’s perhaps the best cut of fish anywhere in London. It’s meaty, juicy and flakes beautifully, and once it gets dipped into the splatter of yuzu miso, it’s elevated to a new gastronomical height.
“Donuts” – if you’re committed to a new fitness regime, all abstinence will be thrown out the window when this dessert arrives at your table. Complete with three piping hot bite-size donuts, toasted walnuts and a scoop of sweet potato ice cream, this menu newbie is a sure-fire future favourite.
If you come to this sleek and slick restaurant, you want to dress the part. The solution? A selvedge denim jacket by Japanese cult brand orSlow and some timeless, round toecap boots by Paul Smith.
Visit Roka at 37 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1RR
Need somewhere else to go in London? Check out our latest review of Bob Bob Ricard.