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Shochu Lounge

Critics' choice
© Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
Fitzrovia

Beneath landmark Japanese Roka, this buzzing, chic bar specialises in drinks built around the vodka-like spirit from which it takes its name.

NOTE: Since this review was published, Roka has begun using the Shochu Lounge basement as the Shochu Kanteen from noon-3.30pm Monday to Friday. The menu has a couple of ramen dishes, a few small plates and a few salads. The Time Out Food and Drink Team. 

 

Beneath landmark Japanese restaurant Roka, the buzzing, chic Shochu Lounge deals chiefly in drinks built around the vodka-like distilled spirit from which it takes its name. Often overlooked in favour of saké, its more widespread counterpart, shochu is here used in healthy tonics and cocktails.

The former include ki lazubeli shu (‘helps improve memory’) and jasmine flower shu (‘for coughs and sore eyes’); among the latter are the Nightingale (shisho shu, lime, elderflower and orange bitters) and the Hallo Kitty house punch (shochu, raspberry, rose, lemon and sparkling water).

There’s more: 15 vodkas (Kauffmann, Slwucha, Uluvka, Potocki), for instance, served alone or in cocktails. All drinks are expertly mixed at the rustic bar counter, and served with style. Food? The full Roka menu is available.

Venue name: Shochu Lounge
Contact:
Address: Basement, Roka
London
W1T 1RR
Cross street: 37 Charlotte Street
Opening hours: Open 5.30pm-midnight Mon-Sat; 5.30-11pm Sun. Food served 5.30-11.30pm Mon-Sat; 5.30-10.30pm Sun
Transport: Tube: Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road tube

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Paul

I like drinking shochu, but it's hard to find in the UK. A bottle which is typically a couple of pounds in Japan can go for as much as thirty pounds in an asian supermarket. I've been to this bar and the upstairs restaurant a few times. Roka, the restaraunt is nothing special and hideously overpriced. The Shochu lounge is quite atmospheric and if you just want a couple of plates of yakitori and a beer, it's overpriced but bearable. However, I went there last night just to have a glass of shochu. When I asked for this the waitress said "Which flavour?" Now the drink shochu is made from either barley, sweet potato or rice, each with its own distinct flavour. My surprise came when the waitress said "Rasberry or jasmine?" Er, just straight on the rocks please, I asked...To which the waitress said "We just have rasberry and jasmine." followed by "Shochu doesn't have any taste so you have to flavour it." My companion went for the jasmine, at £7 a glass! Tasted horrid. This is like going into a wine bar and being offered 'banana or avocado' wine as 'wine has no taste.' I mean, of course you can mix it, but why not be able to just drink it straight? Snooty staff who don't know what they're on about, and a bar called shochu that doesn't sell it. Decor's quite nice, but otherwise pretty naff all round.