And because that Rocket doesn’t look or feel like a restaurant, I assumed that the food would be an afterthought. So when I was invited to review the new Rocket in Bishopsgate, I was skeptical. I mean, from the outside it looks like a typical City bar. By which I mean a happening place where a DJ bangs out cheesy tunes as suited boys and girls get very drunk and flirtatious. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it didn’t bode well for a reviewer and a Northerner looking for a decent meal.
The first surprise was that, next to the flirty/cheesy-tunes bar, was the restaurant, which despite a bookcase-like dividing wall (complete with gaps), still felt private, but let you enjoy some of the atmosphere from the bar. And I say that without a hint of sarcasm.
The second surprise was that our European waiter was charm personified, happy to recommend dishes without trying to upsell, and a pleasure by which to be served.
The third surprise was the quality of the food. We started with the buffalo mozzarella salad with cherry tomatoes, and the caramelized chicken, green mango and lime salad with sugar salted peanuts. Both dishes worked by using very good, simple ingredients and preparing and cooking them very well. Obvious, I know, but often overlooked. The mains are split between main course salads, and pizzas. We weren’t in a bread mood, so, at our waiter's recommendation, we went for the rare beef and chip salad, which comes with rocket, deep fried green beans, radishes, gingered black bean dressing, and a ginger-mustard. Our other main was the baked salmon fillet on a green papaya and vegetable salad with a honey-soy-ginger dressing. The salmon again was cooked well, and combined brilliantly with the sweet acidity of the papaya and soy-ginger dressing. The steak and chip 'salad' was a misnomer – more a tower of chips and strips of steak with a some greenery dispersed throughout the dish. The steak was cooked medium-rare-perfect, nicely seasoned, and the chips were superb. Apparently it’s the best selling dish, and with its well cooked, American-like sizings, you can see why.
We rounded off a meal with the chocolate parfait which was bitter-sweet and unctuous, and the now standard extra glass of wine of the delicious Californian Zinfandel, Painter Bridge, J Lohr (2009).
The balance of good food and drink, ambiance and excellent service will always be a winning combination, and Rocket Bishopsgate has that nailed. So much so that it I got the Northener to be highly complimentary of a very typical City bar. Which most definitely was another surprise.