Fresh from the sun-drenched shores of Hawaii arrives London’s latest food craze, poke, marinated raw fish - traditionally tuna - on a bed of sticky rice. And who better to bring the dish to city slickers than Mayfair’s Black Roe, a seafood restaurant offering fresh fish and grilled meat in a Pacific Rim style.
Don’t be put off by its proximity to Regent Street and the Oxford Circus war zone, Black Roe - tucked down a sidestreet in Mayfair - is a haven from frenzied shoppers. Rather than gazing in on diners, the front window is taken up by what could pass for an exotic fish monger, with whole fish on display and a black-clad poke chef toiling away behind.
With a lack of much natural light, the restaurant has embraced flickering candles and dark walls, creating more of a secret-sake-den-in-Tokyo vibe than breezy-Hawaiian-beach-shack. Stretched, royal blue, leather seats line the black walls and the lighting is bright enough just to pool each table in a soft glow. On the walls, monochrome portraits of suppliers gaze down - dutifully watching guests enjoy their produce.
Food & Drink
Black Roe is a seafood restaurant specialising in poke - a Hawaiian appetiser that involves marinating raw fish in wasabi or soy sauce and serving with rice and vegetables. Raw chunks of fish might not be everyone’s bag, but then you clearly haven’t tried poke. We started with yellowtail (£8.95), which was so tender and not even slightly fishy that any reticence about the lack of cooking disappeared straight away.
Aside from the poke, standout dishes include the Prawns Tempura (£13.50) - fat juicy prawns baked in a parmesan-like crust with truffle aioli - and Octopus Aioli (£10.50) - meaty octopus with lemony mash that had a sweet flavour from the Kiawe grill which uses a particular type of wood to achieve a different taste. The Kalua Pork Belly (£12.90) - six chunks that were so soft they almost dissolved in our mouths, and were topped with a crunchy layer of fat - was also excellent.
Portions are huge, we tried one from each of the three sections - poke, appetisers and mains - it was so much food, so much sweet delicious seafood, that I was in a comatose state for the rest of the evening, barely able to string together a coherent sentence. Two dishes are more than enough, unless you’re literally famished or chasing them gains.
The house cocktail menu is short and sweet with seven choices. I started with Monsieur de Bon (£9.50), which remained my favourite - a Champagne flute of prosecco, black pepper and lemon - and was syrupy and citrusy. The Riviera Spritz (£8.50) was ice-cold, light and refreshing with a subtle taste of rosemary and the Hang Ten (£9.50), served in a tiki-inspired glass, had aniseed and passion fruit flavours.
This is Mayfair so the clientele is inevitably going to be statuesque and beautiful or wearing a tailored suit, but Black Roe was also, dare I say it, unpretentious. Waiters, who looked like they’d just left a Next Top Model casting, were beyond friendly and approachable, making recommendations and discussing their favourite dishes. While the restaurant is open plan, the lighting has been designed to only focus on individual tables, meaning there’s a sense of privacy.
Unlike other Mayfair establishments, the atmosphere was young and chilled; deep house played, young couples snuggled in booths and gorgeous girls blew out giant sparkler candles.
Food arrived quickly, meaning it’s more of a eat-and-go place than somewhere to while away the whole evening.
Black Roe is an impress-a-date kind-of place, with moody interiors and a decidedly cool clientele, not somewhere to go when you’re feeling anything less than glamorous. Plus poke is delicious, and surely completely healthy (my hair already feels shinier), meaning you can absolutely justify eating vast quantities of seafood washed down with cocktails.