A culinary odyssey at Roketsu Mayfair: unparalleled and brilliant
London’s Roketsu restaurant brings authentic Japanese kaiseki cuisine to the fore
Finding authentic kaiseki cuisine outside of Japan is a big achievement; finding it in the heart of London might seem almost impossible. If you’re not familiar with kaiseki, let me explain: it is the peak of Japanese culinary art — a multi-course meal that values seasonality, simplicity, and above all, skilled craftsmanship. This is where Roketsu Mayfair excels — a stylish fine dining London restaurant that stands out for its quality even in the city’s vibrant food scene. For an introduction to the essence of Japanese culinary tradition, Roketsu delivers with flawless execution.
Dining at Roketsu is like attending a cooking class led by chef Daisuke Hayashi. Trained under Yoshihiro Murata –– from the famous Kikunoi ryotei in Kyoto –– chef Daisuke’s impressive background includes creating VIP menus for the G8 Summit and hosting educational workshops as vice chairman of the Japanese Culinary Academy UK. His list of awards includes the Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador in 2020 and the Minister’s Award for Overseas Promotion of Japanese Food in 2022. It’s fair to say that you’re in safe and skilled hands at Roketsu.
As we entered the restaurant on a rainy Autumn evening, we were immediately struck by the seamless blend of tradition and luxury. Designed by the globally acclaimed Sukiya-style architect Nakamura Sotoji Komuten in Kyoto, the custom interior offers an atmospheric trip to Japan without leaving the UK. Carefully chosen and prepared materials from Kyoto are assembled in the UK by expert carpenters. From the antique Japanese cypress counter to the walls decorated with the hikizuri technique, each feature adds a unique sense of calm. Even the Oribe ceramic tiles at the entrance, carefully placed by expert potter Toshihiko Hirono, contribute to this serene atmosphere. Simplicity truly is the ultimate sophistication.
It quickly becomes clear that dashi here is more than just a stock; it’s a craft on its own. Roketsu stands out for its use of Kuragakoi kombu from Rishiri and Rebun islands in Hokkaido. This kombu, aged for two years in climate-controlled storage, reveals a complex flavour profile. The bonito flakes are added only when the kombu is at its best, creating a remarkable base for the upcoming nine-course feast, accompanied by Kikunoi Junmai-Daiginjo sake from Kyoto.
We had the good fortune to dine on the thoughtfully selected seasonal menu, updated each month to take full advantage of fresh ingredients. Among the courses, several stood out for their creativity and expertise. The opening sakizuke course featured a refreshing blend of fig saikyo-ni, accented by the tangy fig mustard and savoury bonito flakes. This was followed by the mukozuke course, a selection of sea bream, squid, and horse mackerel enhanced by a truffle kimi-jyoyu sauce, refined yet balanced in its taste. This particular dish might well have been the highlight for me, and it’s worth noting that the sauce is one of the few constants on their ever-changing menu — clearly, its popularity is well-deserved.
The meal reached new levels with the futamono course: Iberico pork, cooked slowly for three days, arrived at our table tender and lean, covered in a mildly sweet marinade. Next, the yakimono course introduced Cornish blue lobster and young ginger rice, creating a nuanced seafood experience that left us delighted.
And what journey is complete without a great ending? The mizumono course provided just that—a wonderful mix of peach compote, mint ice cream, and peach jelly, serving as an excellent palate cleanser filled with interesting flavours.
Of course, the talent in the kitchen would not shine as brightly without the excellent front-of-house team. Sommelier Ryosuke Mashio and general manager Kenichi Kakuta extend the hospitality for which Japan is famous, ensuring that every aspect of your experience is expertly managed. Smart, knowledgeable, and attentive to detail, their service does more than complement the culinary offerings—it enhances them.
BEYOND THE WORDS, INTO THE ESSENCE
What’s in a name? Roketsu transcends mere labelling; it embodies a philosophy inspired by 16th-century tea master Kobori Enshu: “Once you catch the fish, the net does not matter. Once you catch the rabbit, the snare does not matter.”
Roketsu asserts that language can only express so much; it’s the actual experience that resonates most profoundly.
As the seasons turn, and the restaurant briefly closes to rejuvenate its menu, I am left with an indelible impression of a journey well-travelled but never completed. For Roketsu is not merely a meal; it’s a timeless, sensory adventure through the heart and soul of kaiseki cuisine—a journey you simply must embark upon at least once in your lifetime.
Is Roketsu worth it? The question isn’t whether you can afford to experience it, but rather, can you afford not to?