I was joined by my brother Dan and two friends for a Saturday afternoon treat and Roka didn’t disappoint.
I wondered if the vibe would be a little stilted on a Saturday at Canary Wharf, but it was buzzy and the clientele was a mix of groups of friends like us, couples and even families with children.
The decor is super modern and slick with the central theme being around the robata grill, which is open plan in the centre of the restaurant, so diners can view and engage with the cooking process.
On arrival we had the option of a bellini or a bloody Mary, both divine, whilst we mulled over the menu for our mains.
For the remainder of the meal, we had the ‘bottomless’ wine which in our case was the white, Le Anfore, dry and crisp and fruity with notes of elder flower, but very drinkable. I noticed an entire wall of wine, so if I returned I’d be interested to delve into that a little more and see what wines would be paired with the various dishes.
Once mains were selected we were invited to try the selection of appetisers from the counter, an Aladdin’s cave of treasure, that you could re-visit as you wish.
|The buffet at Roka|
|Soba, cold noodles, Roka|
Standout dishes for me from the vast array available, included the sashimi salmon and tuna, super fresh and tender, the padron pepper tempura, which were a complete revelation and insanely good and the katsu pork (thinly sliced pork fried in panko breadcrumbs. The sticky and sweet glazed chicken wings and the tomato salad were also fantastic, and the rest of the group were raving about some sliced lamb which had been cooked in an aromatic, sticky marinade.
Just as we were nicely sated after the buffet, a very welcome surprise dish of pork gyoza arrived at the table. These were fantastic, soft in the main but with one crispy fried edge and with tender, flavourful, herby pork inside. They inspired me to cook dumplings myself on Sunday, Potstickers and some wontons, of which I’ll share the recipe soon.
|Gyoza at Roka|
For the mains, three of us chose the same meal, the grilled rib eye with spring onions. In fact, Dan and I shared one of these and one of the tiger prawn and vegetable tempura dishes, a kind of Japanese surf & turf.
We all opted for ‘rare’ for the steak and it was absolutely delicious and so well cooked, to the point it just melted in the mouth. It had been marinated in the most intoxicating combination of flavours and was pretty damn near perfection.
|Rib eye from the robata grill at Roka|
The tempura was also fantastic, succulent, juicy and fresh prawns, just cooked and in a light as a feather, but packed full of flavour batter. So good.
|Prawn tempura at Roka|
The waiter was very prompt at refilling our glasses as soon as they were even a little empty, so by the time we were through with the mains, we were beginning to feel a little tipsy.
The finale at Roka’s brunch, is the dessert platter which arrives in a stone bowl filled with crushed ice and was absolutely beautiful to behold.
|Fantastic dessert platter, Roka|
Alongside the watermelon, grapes and pineapple,was a sensational chocolate, milky pudding which somehow managed to be both rich and light. This was topped with an amazing nut brittle, drizzled with a caramel sauce and with a little banana ice cream on the side. Literally to die for.
Also on the platter were a couple of green tea panna cottas dusted with matcha, which looked fantastic, and went down well around the table.
We opted for the cheaper brunch of a selection of three, which at £49.00 per person, offers good value.
If I had any complaint, it would be that some of the ‘hot’ food on the buffet was slightly lacking in warmth, but that is being pernickety.
We all enjoyed and I’m keen to return to Roka soon, especially to try their tasting menu, which sounds divine. In the meantime I’m going to be on the hunt for my next bottomless brunch.
For more reviews of Japanese restaurants in London please see below: