At least not yet anyway. The brand new Mayfair hot spot has a lot of kinks to work out before making it in The London Checklist’s must-do category. Let me take you through my night at Black Roe.
My first impression of the place was that it was stunning. The design is modern and fresh and they get a gold star for having perfect dinner lighting. Lighting is one of the most important elements in achieving the right ambiance, yet this is where so many restaurants slip up. An over-lit dining room is enough to ruin an entire dinner experience in my opinion.
I loved the decor at Black Roe. The walls and ceilings are painted a dark charcoal and brought to life with black and white poster photography, an old-school letter board menu, and a neon sign. While the neon sign looked really cool, I don’t know when it became mandatory for every hip, new restaurant to have one. Filament bulbs are also a little played out, but the glass bowls that held their pendant lights saved them from being another cliche. The bright bar at the back of the restaurant was beautifully illuminated and looked like a light at the end of a charcoal-painted tunnel. I really do not have any complaints about the restaurant’s interior.
We entered the restaurant and were brought to our corner booth. The way they placed the four of us was a little odd–three of us crammed into the booth, and one person opposite us in a chair. It felt like we were a panel of judges interviewing our friend, so we immediately asked for an additional chair to rectify the odd placements.
Once officially seated, I took stock of the restaurant and its patrons. Black Roe is a very sceney place, so do think twice before bringing your parents that are in town or anyone that’s hard of hearing (the acoustics were horrible). It’s more the type of place where finance guys can take their ladies or where ladies can hope to meet finance guys. Take from that what you would like…
So, once seated, we all found the service very slow. The food came in a timely fashion with nice spaces between courses, but my drinks were always empty. Keeping cocktails and waters full is Serving 101. To fail at that means your staff is lacking major training or you need to add a couple bodies.
The food was good, though. They call themselves a Hawaiian Poke restaurant. Poke is any type of a chopped up, raw fish salad. We tried several for our starters, including a couple that were on the house after the kitchen sent out the wrong ones. They were all good, but my favorite by far was the ahi poke. We then enjoyed the lobster mac and cheese. That dish gets an A+ for presentation (the entree is baked inside of a lobster shell) and also gets kudos for the hefty portions of lobster it included. The actual taste, though, was good, but not great. Then we shared a delicious beef tataki entree and some of the chicken and sole.
Dessert was not so great. The doughnuts were so-so, not very springy and served with weak sauces. A creme anglaise or custard would have better suited the doughnuts than the tart lemon dipping sauce it was served with. The real dessert fail was the Shake and Bake. A type of a milkshake topped with baked meringue, it was really bizarre. The inside tasted like melted ice cream whipped with egg whites that you could slurp up through the meringue with large straws. This is meant to be a fun dessert to share, but to me it was very contrived. After you slurped up the strange, syrupy milk, you could crack the meringue layer with a spoon. Then at the bottom of the oversized goblet, was a hodgepodge of ice cream toppings like chocolate and coconut chunks. I was not a huge fan, but gobbled it right up, because after 14 dishes between the four of us, I was still hungry! I guess there was not a lot to the small raw fish and rice bowls.
After the meals, the service proved to be a challenge once again. We were constantly fighting for the attention of the servers, still for drinks, and then eventually for the bill. The server ended up running our cards for the wrong amount and then had to recharge us for £20 each couple, which added another level of confusion to everything. These small issues add up and make the answer to the question I ask myself each time I categorize a new experience a no-brainer. Would I dine here again? The answer is simply no. Maybe next year when they’ve gone through their growing pains. But right now, for £100 a head, I wouldn’t want to chance having a so-so experience again.
4 Mill Street
London W1S 2AX