Black Roe: Hawaii – the next big thing? (May 2016)

Food fashions in London seem almost to change like the seasons. In the last few years, we’ve seen love affairs form both for South American-influenced restaurants (think Coya, Lima, Cerviche) and Asian street food (Bao, Hoppers etc.) among others. Now everyone seems to be talking about poke. Maybe it’s because it’s got a funny name that also seems a little rude. Or, maybe, it really is the next big thing. For those not in the know, poke (pronounced ‘po-kay’) is a raw fish salad served as an appetiser in Hawaiian cuisine. It’s definitely on-trend in the sense that it’s healthy and the portion sizes are small. Into the fray comes Black Roe in Mayfair, a new arrival in March, which seems perfectly to capture the current zeitgeist. The place ticks pretty much all the boxes of what a good and ‘cool’ contemporary London restaurant should be doing. Décor-wise, there are comfy banquettes as well as more conventional tables accompanied by low-lighting, artistic black & white photos and neon signs. A good (and not too obtrusive) soundtrack adds to the vibe. Staff seem knowledgeable and enthusiastic, if a little gauche in their service. In terms of the food, my comrade and I were impressed both by the range and the pricing. Small poke dishes are available at around £8 each and mains are priced from a competitive £10 up to a more challenging £34. We went for the set lunch menu, which at £23.50 for three courses, constituted a clear bargain. I opted for the salmon poke with yellow chilli salsa, while my comrade selected the beef fillet tataki. Both were presented beautifully, but the experience was much more than just visual. The taste sensation was amazing, melt-in-the-mouth lightness and a subtly harmonious mingling of flavours. Onto the mains and we both took the ‘Pacific Rim lunch plate’, a wonderful concept and executed well. Diners receive what I would guess to be the Hawaiian equivalent of a Japanese bento-box; in other words, a selection of Black Roe’s dishes (from raw tuna to blackened sea bass) in different sections on one plate, all again presented with perfection. The meal was topped off with a sublime glass of German Riesling, a good pairing chosen from an inventive and well-priced list. Full marks to Black Roe. And my guess would be that the poke revolution is only just beginning.