Roka Mayfair


Very few restaurants in London last five years, let alone two decades. And so, when they manage to extend their longevity far beyond what you would expect, it’s something truly impressive. But in the case of the Roka group, they’ve been battling against competition, and very specific competition, since their inception. Nobu, Umu, Zuma – there aren’t very many places that do what they do in terms of high-end Japanese cuisine with a European twist, and the fact that they’re still going strong after twenty years is a remarkable achievement, unparalleled by many other such establishments.

If you stroll into Roka Mayfair, one of their four London spots – the other are Aldwych, Canary Wharf and Charlotte Street, all of which cumulatively span the most moneyed parts of town – then the first thing that you note is that it’s all incredibly civilised. You enter a lavishly appointed room full of light wood, discreet lighting and the kind of hushed, considerate atmosphere that you seldom find somewhere of this nature. If the food wasn’t up to scratch, then it would all be so much window dressing, but thankfully, it’s every bit as sensational as everything else you would find in the streets around it.

Visiting Roka in its twentieth year is something of a celebration all round, and so we are pleasantly surprised to find the meal kicking off with a couple of unbidden but hugely welcome complimentary glasses of champagne, which we sip along with some edamame beans. Then it’s time to peruse the menu, which we decide must be tackled in a suitably comprehensive fashion; rather than trying to pick our way through the sushi, sashimi and robata grill options, we simply opt for the grandiloquently named ‘premium tasting menu’, which offers a canter through everything from the sashimi and sushi to gyoza, tempura and, blessedly, the black cod and beef fillet for which the restaurant is famous. (There’s also a premium wagyu option, at a princely £20 supplement per person.)

Highlights are almost too many to list; a testament to how superlative the cooking is here, even if, in many cases, it’s a simple matter of presenting the very best and freshest ingredients and letting them speak for themselves. A yellowtail sashimi with truffle and yuzu dressing is exemplary, just as wagyu sushi feels like something out of the last days of Rome (in a good way) and the crab, black cod and prawn dumplings represent the very finest example of the gyoza-maker’s art.

It’s also a cleverly constructed menu. By the time that the main courses of (perfectly spiced and presented) lamb cutlets, the sainted black cod (better than Nobu) and the beef fillet arrive, you’re giddily aware that you’ve been in excellent hands the entire meal and the whole shebang – which, it must be said, is surprisingly fairly priced for Mayfair – is one of the best choreographed meals of its kind.

The drinks list is also exemplary, too. We kicked off with a couple of cocktails, the Sakura 75 – a deliciously light gin and champagne concoction – and the rather more robust mori fashioned, a variant on an old fashioned that had every aspect of moreishness about it. Then we’re guided through the comprehensive wine list and directed towards an excellent, exceptionally fine bottle of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, which is robust enough to go with many of the complex flavours that we try, but also light enough not to be remotely overwhelming. The excellent sommelier also gives us a small taste of a fine Barolo to complement the main courses, and it’s a suitably vigorous accompaniment.

Had we but world enough and time, we’d have sunk into it, but lunch lasts quite long enough already, and one does not want to overstay a welcome. Yet we had the best time imaginable at Roka Mayfair, a whirl of fine food, wonderful wine and splendid service. Only an idiot would bet against on its remaining at the top of this particular tree for another two decades, and beyond.

Roka, 30 N Audley St, London W1K 6ZF. For more information, and for bookings, please visit