ROKA’s launched its signature Japanese robatayaki cuisine in London’s Northbank with Roka Aldwych, the largest of its venues in the city. Once again, the robata grill food dominates the menu complimented by a selection of expertly prepared sushi and sashimi. Ultra Vie interviews ROKA Group Executive Chef, Hamish Brown on his inspirations for becoming a chef, Roka’s western-friendly Japanese cuisine and his personal favourites from Roka Aldwych.
Can you give us an insight into your background and why you decided to become a chef?
I grew up in kitchens with my dad and always enjoyed the atmosphere. The energy and passion in kitchens always got me and obviously I love food. Once I got into the kitchen as a teenager, it was clear that this is what I wanted to do.
You grew up in Canterbury, NZ, why did you decide to leave New Zealand for England?
Europe has a really exciting culinary scene, and I wanted to experience that. I had a very strong desire to learn and I got sick of reading about it all in magazines, I wanted to experience it for myself.
Every step of the way during my entire experience has provided new challenges. Rainer Becker is a very forward thinking individual, and this sets the precedent. We constantly have new goals, and are looking to what we can do next. Every day, week, month we are doing something different, or looking towards it.
What do you think makes Roka so special?
We are always looking for ways to evolve. We look to what our guests expect from Roka, and we try to exceed those expectations every time they dine with us. Ultimately, it’s the team as a whole that makes Roka special, everyone that works with us has a very strong vision, drive and passion for what we do.
What is a robata grill, can you tell me a bit about it and the type of cuisine you get from it?
The robata grill is the heart of Roka; it’s where the energy of Roka originates. Essentially a robata is a layered BBQ, which provides extreme heat. The Japanese flavours we use work really well with the smokiness from the flame. The grill adds beautiful aromas and depth to the dishes. It’s a unique way of cooking which allows for versatility in our methods.
The langoustine and cod cheek skewers are one of my favourites from the Aldwych menu. I really enjoy both of these ingredients individually and when brought together they create a completely different flavour and the textures really compliment each other.
What is new and different about the Aldwych location?
One of the main differences is the design of the space, a collaboration between Rainer Becker and Claudio Silvestrin. This will be the largest of the Roka restaurants in London, all on one level, we wanted to create a unique experience with the way our guests enjoy the space. We want to cater to whatever mood they might be in, whether that be sat at the low tables or at the Kazoku (family) table in the Yaeyama inspired cocktail bar, around the stone robata counter, or in heart of the restaurant.
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