Roma Fenchurch Street - London Restaurant Review

Published . By Luke Sillett.

‘When in Roma Rome, do as the Romans do’.

That’s what they say, isn’t it? Do exactly as the Romans would do. Those impulse-driven Romans. The very same Romans known for their unrelenting, gluttonous and sexually-carnivorous way of life.

With that in my mind, as I headed down to the recently opened Roma – a restaurant promising 2000-year-old flavours and themes inspired by the passions of Ancient Rome – I had some relatively grandiose ideas as to what to expect. Thankfully for everyone involved (and for anyone reading this review), the focus here is on the food and the techniques they employ to prepare it, rather than the more subversive aspects of Roman culture mentioned above.

The Venue and Ambience

Roma is just a stone’s throw from a busy Fenchurch Street Station, in the heart of the work-hard-play-hard City of London. It’s a big space, but its quiet side street and first floor location make it a subtle inclusion to the area, and one you’re not likely to find by chance alone. Once you are inside though, you’ll find a pretty, modern and relatively neutral design, promising indulgent cream and golden tones, luxe booth seating and plenty of romantic candle-lit tables scattered across the rest of the space. Lined with windows across about 2/3 of the restaurant and fronting a bright long bar on the back wall, it’s an open, non-stuffy and non-fuss offering.

Crowd and atmosphere-wise; it was a particularly slow night for Roma on my visit. I think more of that has to do with the date (slap bang in prime Christmas party season) and the fact they've only been open a few months, rather than anything they’re doing wrong; but even with that, the thing that's easy to spot here is that they're well set-up for groups of all sizes. The larger circle tables are ideal for slightly larger parties (no-one likes being stuck on the end of a long rectangular table, let’s face it), there are plenty of quiet tables for couples, and their private hire space has its own bar, its own entrance and capacity for about 200 people.

Aside from a brief interlude where the private party’s playlist was being played into the restaurant (hello, 80s mega-mix classics), the music was good, the service was near-on faultless and the ambience relaxed and ideal for a catch-up.

Roma Restaurant Review

Like the Roman times; just comfier.

The Food and Drink

Just as our Roman ancestors liked to do it way back when, Roma go big with their food menu. Using London’s best locally-sourced ingredients and employing Ancient Rome’s tried and tested cooking techniques, prepare for a meaty session of sticky plates and bolshie flavours.

To start, we opted for the salumi (cured meats and antipasti - £15) and the hay smoked mackerel fillet (sorrel leaves & anchovy relish - £8). Cold meats and bread is - in my opinion - a solid way to start any evening, and Roma’s offering didn’t disappoint. The sharing board was a safe bet when ordering, but I was particularly looking forward to the mackerel, which was to be my first experience of hay-smoked cooking. Dating back to the Roman age, cooking over hay was a technique that was said to add moisture and depth to dishes (rather than extra flavour), and 2000 years on, I can confirm it still works. The mackerel was soft-yet-punchy, and the sorrel leaves really elevated the plate to create an impressive starter dish.

Following on with the theme, for our main, we plumped for the slow cooked leg of lamb (with garlic and rosemary for 2, with sticky lavender and honey sauce - £42), also prepared using the hay method, and a few sides of smoked garlic mash (£4) and triple cooked trips with bacon jam (£4.50). It’s with an equal measure of pride and guilt when I tell you the waitress said we were the ‘first people ever to finish the dish’. It was huge, yes; but it was also sticky, sweet and delicious. The meat was tender and well-seasoned, and the honey and lavender reduction was to die for; every bite melted in the mouth, and even with the two sides and probably-slightly-larger-starter-order-than-was-necessary, there was no way we were leaving a single morsel. Should I regret it? Probably. Do I? Absolutely not. Meat of this standard, at that price, in this area of London, doesn’t come about often; so I say grab, stuff and appreciate it when it does.

Down to the aforementioned greediness enthusiasm in our order, desserts weren’t on the cards for us, but we did toast the evening with a final glass of paired wine courtesy of the in-house sommelier's recommendation. The bar’s drink menu is varied, and they’re known for their hefty wine selection, on top of a boozy cocktail list, too. So if you’re looking for recommendations yourself, certainly don’t be shy.

Roma Fenchurch Street

Think succulent meats and an earthy taste to hay-smoked dishes.

Summary

A massive amount of food, attentive hospitality and fine wine aplenty; being a Roman for the night worked out well for me. Though I’m not convinced on exactly how well I’d have fared in the actual, real life Roman times, I’ll certainly be heading back to Roma to practice my gluttonous prowess nonetheless.