‘Rocket man I think it’s gonna be a long, long time’ belted out Elton John back in the early seventies, well more than 30 years later my craft landed in the cavernous basement of a central London restaurant on a dismal late spring day – but unlike the lyrics in the song I doubt it will be a long, long, time before I return.
So to get to the point my latest review posting was to Rocket situated on the busy Kingsway in Holburn, just a stone’s throw from the West End, and the fourth and latest restaurant the small chain operates in the capital.
On a particularly wet day – the attractive terrace area was definitely out of bounds – the steps down to the large restaurant area which can seat around 180 covers were a warming and welcome sanctuary from the weather.
At first sight it might appear you are entering a giant ballroom with large gold pendant light shades hanging from the low pre-dominantly grey coloured ceiling, dark wood panelling on a number of the walls and rather low level subtle lighting.
However, the design and decor is actually very cool and contemporary from the smart bar area to the main restaurant which is broken up by different seating spaces, some with smart banquettes offering different colour palettes to include shades of brown, burgundy, gold, olive green and burnt orange. These are contrasted by wooden tables and slick chairs, while splashes of vivid pink are provided by plant pots dotted around and brightly coloured blocks adorn some of the walls. I must also not forget the number of dog motifs that appear in the décor – apparently it is the Rocket mascot.
Upbeat music in the background helped to create a good lunchtime vibe, and there was a good crowd in to sample the menu which features bold and different flavours from dishes including combination salads from California, Neapolitan style gourmet pizzas and fusion flavours from Asia.
I kicked off with well-presented and cooked fried squid (£7.40) served with a warming and fiery sauce and sitting on a bed of rocket and peppers with a dressing of sweet chilli and lemon adding a nice fresh tasting contrast to the dish.
My companion Fiona went for a special of crispy sesame seeded duck breast bites (£7.50), which were soft and tender to the bite and sat comfortably with tofu and lime hoy sin sauce on a bed of iceberg lettuce. Her main she was a flavoursome plate of moist grilled lemon and thyme chicken (£17.40) with a well-rounded and tasty roasted peanut, coconut and chilli sauce. It was served with a well- dressed vibrant and interesting salad which included new potatoes, mint, baby gem, quails eggs and green beans making for a decent plate of food and a very generous helping.
My eyes lit up when my well-crafted stone baked pizza of rich and indulgent smoked black pudding, butterfly king prawns and pancetta arrived. It was a monster of a show stopper which did not disappoint with its combination of flavours and textures and generous hits of heat from green chillies. In the end it was only the sheer size that prevented me from finishing every last morsel.
Service was well paced and the staff welcoming and smart and we enjoyed large glasses of Mad Fish Chardonnay from Western Australia (£8.40) with our food from a drinks list which also includes an interesting array of exotic sounding cocktails, perfect for sipping on a long, lazy night out.
Somehow we forced ourselves to look at the dessert menu and decided they were a far more tempting proposition than the dank miserable weather outside.
Fiona’s Key lime pie (£6.20) with fresh strawberries passed the taste test while my Affogato with espresso, vanilla ice cream, amaretti biscuits and the added bonus of a shot of amaretto (£6.90) was a good way to round things off.
We almost stumbled out of our chairs from the sheer weight of food we had consumed – you will have guessed by now they don’t skimp on the portions here – and wondered whether we would need a forklift truck to launch us home rather than a rocket.