Pre-theatre menus have a reputation for being a bit naff don’t they? Unless you’re an OAP and need to be in bed by 8pm there’s really no need to be eating so early. Unless of course you really are going to the theatre, in which case, needs must. This is how we found ourselves settling in for a whistle-stop feast of some of ROKA’s absolute best bits.
If you’ve never been to this iconic restaurant, it’s still an absolute stunner. ROKA Aldwych opened back in 2014 and was the fourth from the group. It’s a masterclass in elegant Japanese design – stylish, simple and oh-so-desirable. In fact I think I recall pinning it to one of our wholly unrealistic house renovation mood boards. The open plan kitchen is at the heart of the room, which is a great place for couples or solo diners to sit, otherwise larger tables still have a whiff of ‘company credit card’ or ‘milestone birthday’ about them.
Available exclusively at ROKA Aldwych – there are two pre-theatre menus available, priced at £33 and £44 per person respectively. In the name of research we went for one of each, but both get you seven ‘courses’, albeit the more expensive one offers slightly more premium dishes. In reality, to speed things up, all of the starters are bought out first, followed by the mains, so it feels like your more traditional three courses, although it really is quite the feast.
Kick things off with the edamame – both in a bowl (get the spicy sauce!) and in the glass in the form of an Edamame Fizz with Bombay dry gin, edamame cordial, shiso, lime and sparkling wine.
First up from the menu came a warming bowl of miso, followed by a couple of salads – the spinach with sesame dressing being our favourite. Dumplings appear, one big juicy one to fight over from the more expensive menu, stuffed with black cod, crab and crayfish and two smaller ones with beef, ginger and sesame – equally delicious. Dishes kept coming in a steady stream, including the chefs selection of sashimi on ice (you get three pieces on the cheaper menu, five on the other). The red tuna is exquisitely good, fatty tuna being Mr W’s fave with hot wasabi. This was followed by a selection of bitesize maki rolls with salmon and avocado.
Pretty full already, we hadn’t even touched the robata section, where you’ll get a choice of one main each. The miso black cod is THE must-order dish and thank the lord, they’ve included it on the theatre menu. It’s literally the best we’ve had, anywhere, and we will be staging a protest if they ever remove it. We were recommend the baby chicken for our other main, which arrives in four large super tender pieces on a makeshift bbq grill of sorts, coated in lemon, miso, garlic and soy, along with rice. Through some form of magic act we found room (and time!) for a passionfruit sponge with caramel ice-cream which although not included on the set menu, is worth shelling out for.
Dumplings, sushi and black cod all before 8pm – we can get on board with that.
Which gave us just enough time to make it to the Garrick Theatre to see Katherine Ryan’s support act – The London Gay Men’s Chorus – which we wouldn’t have wanted to miss for all the tea in China (or black cod in ROKA).
ROKA’s Pre-Theatre offering is available Monday to Saturday from 5.00pm until 6.30pm and Post-theatre Monday to Saturday from 9.30pm to 10.30pm at £33 per person. www.rokarestaurant.com