Roka Mayfair: Doesn’t rock for me (October 2017)

I first reviewed this branch of Roka not long after it opened in summer 2014. Since then, I have been back probably half-a-dozen times both for lunch and dinner, but on each occasion – and despite being willing to give the place the benefit of the doubt (again) – I have been disappointed. A recent weekday lunch did nothing to change my impression. At this stage, an explanatory note is probably required: readers would be entitled to ask why, if I find Roka so disappointing, do I keep returning? The simple answer is that I don’t choose to. Herein, lies the fundamental problem of Roka: people like to go here and be seen, not because it is fundamentally good – it is a place of style over substance. The clientele comprises diners on corporate expense accounts and ladies who lunch. I get irritated with the place the minute I arrive – not just the people, but the excessively heavy door which one is forced to push to enter, forbidding rather than welcoming. It’s hard to fault the food – and I loved the octopus skewers and black cod in particular – but we were forced to choose from a limited range of options since quite a few were simply ‘not available.’ This was the blunt message received from the person serving us, no apology offered or alternative solution suggested. I’ll come back to service in a second, but while on food, two other bugbears: Roka has a largely incomprehensible menu (it being not at all clear what might be an appropriate quantity to consume, or in which order); and, one that is inconstant (several dishes which my comrade had enjoyed at Roka last time were no longer made at this branch – again no explanation proffered). On service, we had almost to beg for attention from the ‘too cool to be here’ servers. There was a very long wait even for our order to be taken and getting replacement plates for our sushi course became much more of a chore than it needed to be. Finally, on price, and all I’ll say is I’m glad someone else was paying: £180 for two with only water to drink and no coffee at the end of the meal is eye-watering to say the least. Conclusion – money can be spent better elsewhere.