Finding somewhere decent to eat near the Strand has always been a bit like figuring out what to wear on an English summer’s day: trickier than you might think. Despite a profusion of swanky hotels and big-name theatres, there just aren’t that many consistently great restaurants. Happily, this branch of Roka is an exception. Sure, there are aspects that feel formulaic and, of course, there are a fair few tourists, but this restaurant still blows most of the local competition out of the water.
On a recent visit, the food was as good as ever. Highlights included a yellowfin tuna tataki, the slivers of dazzlingly fresh fuchsia-pink fish lightly seared at the edges, then placed in little curls over a canvas of tangy, crunchy apple mustard dressing in caramel-coloured tones. Another delight was the tai no miso-yaki: a miso-marinated, skin-on, robata-grilled fillet of sea bream: an alternative to black cod, but at £15.60, much better value. A classic rock shrimp tempura, here served with a wedge of lime and a sweet-but-fiery chilli mayo, also got a big thumbs-up. The sushi, too, from black cod maki to sweet shrimp nigiri, was consistently good. And if you stay away from ‘luxe’ ingredients, like wagyu, and beef up your meal with a rice hot pot (£16) or some chicken yakitori (£5.90), you can eat well here for quite a bit less than you’d imagine.
Best of all, the service on my visit was superb. Nothing was too much trouble, plates were carefully placed – and replaced – throughout the meal, the table was kept scrupulously clean and everything was done with a smile. As at other branches, interiors are dominated by wood and stone, with a large robata counter giving off smoke and clatter against a soundtrack of funky Latin beats. If you’re in the area for a show, this is the best place to go. And if you’re not in the area for a show, hell, go anyway.