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30 North Audley Street
020 7305 5644
Roka’s brand of high-gloss contemporary Japanese food continues to wow the crowds on Charlotte Street and Canary Wharf, and owner Arjun Waney has now launched a further outlet – in the one-time
bank premises formerly occupied by short-lived Italian restaurant, Banca. Once again, the robata grill takes centre stage and many favourite items from Roka’s back catalogue are on show – from lamb
cutlets with Korean spices or black cod marinated in yuzu miso to soft-shell crab with roasted chilli dressing or rice hotpot with king crab and wasabi tobiko, plus a galaxy of sushi and sashimi
recast for glamorous big-city appetites. There are also a cluster of new dishes, and drinkers can enjoy the usual high-end list of sakés, global wines and sexy shochu-based cocktails.
Best chef's counters
30 North Audley Street
020 7305 5644
Bond Street Tube Station 326m
Marble Arch Tube Station 426m
Marks & Spencer (Marble Arch) 158m
Mon-Fri 12N-3:30pm Sat-Sun 12:30-4pm Mon-Sat 5:30-11:30pm Sun 5:30-10:30pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
I first reviewed this branch of Roka not long after it opened in summer 2014. Since then, I have been back probably half-a-dozen times both for lunch and dinner, but on each occasion – and despite being willing to give the place the benefit of the doubt (again) – I have been disappointed. A recent weekday lunch did nothing to change my impression. At this stage, an explanatory note is probably required: readers would be entitled to ask why, if I find Roka so disappointing, do I keep returning? The simple answer is that I don’t choose to. Herein, lies the fundamental problem of Roka: people like to go here and be seen, not because it is fundamentally good – it is a place of style over substance. The clientele comprises diners on corporate expense accounts and ladies who lunch. I get irritated with the place the minute I arrive – not just the people, but the excessively heavy door which one is forced to push to enter, forbidding rather than welcoming. It’s hard to fault the food – and I loved the octopus skewers and black cod in particular – but we were forced to choose from a limited range of options since quite a few were simply ‘not available.’ This was the blunt message received from the person serving us, no apology offered or alternative solution suggested. I’ll come back to service in a second, but while on food, two other bugbears: Roka has a largely incomprehensible menu (it being not at all clear what might be an appropriate quantity to consume, or in which order); and, one that is inconstant (several dishes which my comrade had enjoyed at Roka last time were no longer made at this branch – again no explanation proffered). On service, we had almost to beg for attention from the ‘too cool to be here’ servers. There was a very long wait even for our order to be taken and getting replacement plates for our sushi course became much more of a chore than it needed to be. Finally, on price, and all I’ll say is I’m glad someone else was paying: £180 for two with only water to drink and no coffee at the end of the meal is eye-watering to say the least. Conclusion – money can be spent better elsewhere.
Roka has justly built its reputation for modern and innovative Japanese-style dining based on its original Charlotte Street outpost. The empire now extends to four restaurants in London and a further one in Hong Kong. Their most recent London offering is located on North Audley Street in Mayfair, on the site of the now-deceased Banca. Perhaps opening on the site of a notable recent failure is an inauspicious strategy and indeed our recent lunch visit was broadly disappointing both on an absolute basis and also relative to other previous dining occasions at different Roka locations. The experience began poorly. First, our group of four was shown to a table right at the back of the restaurant, and with my line-of-sight facing directly towards the toilets, despite the place being almost empty when we arrived (at 12.45pm too). We also were forced to complain twice about the loudness of the music, which seemed utterly inappropriate for a weekday lunchtime where the clientele comprised primarily business-people as opposed to party-goers. On the plus side, it remains – as ever – hard to fault the food, presented and executed seamlessly. For those with non-toilet views, it is also possible to see the chefs at work. That said, both the salmon and avocado sushi and the black cod were far from stand-out. Maybe the chefs were having an off-day, but recent examples of similar dishes sampled at both Nobu and Sushisamba certainly impressed more. In addition, while we all understood the concept of food being brought to the table when ready (as opposed to in a traditional starter-main format), there was an inordinately long wait for the king prawn ordered by one of our party. Admittedly when it came some 15 minutes after everything else, it both looked and tasted impressive, but we could easily have been forgiven for believing that the waiter had forgotten to inform the chefs about the order. The service in general was far from enthusiastic and could do with working on: surely any high-end restaurant (and especially one that was not that busy) would not have one staff member clearing main dishes off the table while another was simultaneously placing coffees on the table? Conclusion: Roka Mayfair has a lot to do if it is to emulate the standards of its sister restaurants and other comparable peers. If it doesn’t, it may face the same fate as Banca…
Roka Mayfair is the newest of the Roka chain and, in my opinion, the best…in fact I'd say, all things considered that this is the best of all the Asian fusion restaurants in London. The food is excellent and yellowtail sashimi, followed by rock shrimp tempura and blackened cod should keep anyone happy. Also, I am often dubious about wagyu beef which can be pricey and prone to disappoint but not here. The restaurant itself is not very big and both the bar and kitchen are incorporated so, if you don't like being visible or hate bustle, ask for a table in the back. Wherever you sit though, please go and try it.
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