Thursday, 17 March 2011


37 Charlotte Street, London, £65 pp excluding wine.

The combination of St. Patrick's Day and TOD's Irish ancestry had apparently lent him power of veto when it came to my choice of headwear for the evening. I am a serious man, and do not take sartorial decisions lightly, so was not about to pander to any bandana related bigotry that he may have cultivated.

We were due at a restaurant called Roka, whose clientele possess more money than sense, class and style combined, which made my compadre worried he may know someone there, and worse... they would see him with me.

This unfortunate alignment led to a minor hissy fit and him catching a cab for home around twenty minutes before our booking.

Not one to let solitude come between me and the possibility of a cocktail, I made for the joint, scowled at the bouncer (really?) and ordered an unimpressive Mojito. Realising his early folly TOD gave ground on the bandana front, appeared sometime later, and we found our table.

Food was in his hands, as I had got to that stage in an evening when my Japanese becomes a little rusty. And what came, via some friendly, speedy, don't-bat-an-eyelid service was pretty damn spectacular. Light as air prawn tempura, belly tuna sushi so slickly unctuous that it required the waitress to assure TOD it wasn't Foie Gras, and a couple of dishes from their centrepiece Robata grill; some lovely lamb cutlets on the bone, and a bit of small bird, pigeon or partridge or some such.

It was all very, very good... far too good for the clientele. But what really got me was the consistency. It wasn't genius teetering on the brink of insanity, just a long, fine sustained brilliance. Which for restaurant with a grillion covers, almost as many chefs, and probably onto its third sitting of the evening by 10.30 is staggering.

Topping all this was a wine list that oozed an unfocused dandy-ish class. Leaning heavily on Rieslings, Gewurztraminers and other Franco-German joys, it spoke of someone who cared about food and wine and fun. Better still TOD had very generously offered to pay for the wine, though this meant I could feel the power/responsibility combo weighing down on me a little.

10 minutes in however I was no closer to divining any rhyme or reason, and I was close to a hissy fit of my own when I came across it: Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile 2004. £92 is not cheap, but the food deserved it, and good god it was good. Kerosene, and minerals, tight citrus acidity backing expansive tropical fruit. It had everything, and in sublime balance.

The best things in life are emphatically not free: we must all make concessions, be they monetary, moral, or personal.

Unless of course you're me.

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