It’s been a while since I blogged, and what a nice venue to re-start blogging on – Roka Aldwych newly opened at the beginning of November 2014 right next door to my former University, LSE. My immediate thought was that I could now find a table more easily with another branch of Roka opening. And as per usual I did not read prior write ups on Roka Aldwych, and additionally I was rather late in making a reservation, literary at 11am for a 3pm lunch on the same day! It was meant to be… lunch at Roka Aldwych.
Roka Aldwych did not disappoint, as I walked down Kingsway with that familiar feeling of going to lectures all those years ago, I received a text message from my friend who had already arrived and had seated herself at our table,
“It looks and smells wonderful!”
As with my blogs on Roka Charlotte Street, I’ve worked out that the best way to experience the food at Roka, and this time Roka Aldwych, is to choose their tasting menu. They offer two tasting menus, the seasonal at £55 and the premium at £79 per person with a minimum order for two people. No quibbles with my friend as being seasoned diners ensemble, it was a matter of choosing which of the two tasting menus we prefer more. On this occasion we opted for the seasonal tasting menu. There was only one change to menu we were informed, their salad. As for drinks, we were firmly in the water and green tea category for the day!
Roka Aldwych is divided into the bar and lounge area at the front of the building with large windows facing Aldwych, while the main restaurant is located to the back. I am looking forward to experiencing the bar & lounge section next month as I shall be back for a pre-Christmas reunion of friends, so for this time I will concentrate on the restaurant side, the next I will concentrate on the bar & lounge. So check back for more interior images in the subsequent blog!
Back to the restaurant and the tasting menu. Our lunch time was chosen for the last sitting of the day for the tasting menu, 3pm, as we hoped to have a quiet and leisurely lunch. And we were definitely not disappointed. Attentive waiting staff all round, though at one point my paranoia kicked in to perhaps a slight over attentiveness.
We started off with a salad and a kim chi dish – if I just name the ingredients of each, I’d make it sound so boring! For example, you can see the salad is iceberg lettuce, and perhaps you may wonder why something so “common” is being served especially as part of the tasting menu. Well, I can say that it was the best iceberg lettuce I’ve tasted! 🙂 The seasoning, the sauce, the spring onions, seaweed, sesame seeds – you try it and you will know what I mean!
So officially we started with: baechu kim chi which is a napa cabbage in garlic and hot chilli; and, iceberg salada no wafu which is iceberg lettuce with a caramelised onion dressing.
Our meal was slightly hampered by our need to take photos of the dishes… several photos in fact! So before we could totally tuck in to our salad and kim chi, we were presented with our sashimi platter.
Officially, sashimi moriwase. This consists of: tuna shimo furi with ginger, yellowtail belly sashimi, tiger prawn with nori, and salmon tartar with rice cracker.
Signature grilled asparagus then arrived; yaki asparagus with sweet soy and sesame, so we thought we’d better concentrate on eating and leave the photography aside for a bit.
And before you knew it the most fascinating mushroom and tofu maki was served: kinoko to tamago maki – eryngii and shiitake mushroom with japanese omelette and rayu mayonnaise. As you can see we failed miserably and out came the cameras and mobiles to try to capture this dish from various angles.
Totally distracted, our ebi no tempura arrived – rock shrimp tempura with wasabi pea seasoning and chilli mayonnaise. And at this point I have to confess that I asked Roka Aldwych to send me their menu to get all the names of the dishes! Ever curious we decided to try this individually, as in, the rock shrimp on its own, then with the chilli mayonnaise, then with the fresh lime juice squeezed over. Yes, it is the best with all three flavours together.
Our palettes were next treated to: tai no miso-yaki which is sea bream fillet, ryotei miso and red onion; satsumo ko-zutmi, a sweet potato with chilli and nori butter; and, gyuniku to goma no gyoza – beef, ginger and sesame dumplings. “The best fish I’ve tasted in a long while” was one of the quotes that came out from my friend.
I was more fascinated by the sweet potato dish, both in taste and in presentation, using home made dried bamboo leaves I was proudly informed.
It is difficult to express how animated we were of the taste of the dishes, so I tried to capture my friend’s facial expression. Here it is to give you an idea what to expect!
And finally, hinadori no miso yaki – baby chicken, lemon, miso and garlic soy. This really did melt in your mouth!
I’m glad we had green tea with our meal, the next best thing to sake to help you digest. So the only thing left for us to try was the dessert platter.
I did mention leisurely lunch didn’t I? I’m so glad the staff was accommodating as we only rolled out at 7pm, an hour and a half into the dinner sitting! We felt a little guilty, but the assistant manager, Ben Liberty, who finalised our bill, chattered our concerns away. So I await to see how the Christmas rush will affect the level of service on my next visit in a few weeks time…
In the mean time, if you feel like trying Roka Aldwych, do opt for one of the tasting menus, you won’t be disappointed!
London WC2B 4HN
Mon – Fri: 12-3.30pm
Sat & Sun: 12.30-4pm
Mon – Sat: 5.30-11.30pm
For a taste of what Roka does best, have a look at this video.