It had to happen; Londoners, jaded by years of access to every cuisine from Azerbaijani to Zimbabwean, have finally started mining historical civilisations for their culinary kicks. So we end up with an idea as interesting as Roma – a restaurant that serves dishes inpired by ancient Rome or, in their own words, ’2,000-year-old flavours’. In practice that means it’s an Italian restaurant that doesn’t use pasta, or pizza dough or even tomatoes. So they end up working all the harder with the ingredients they do have, and using techniques, like cooking over hay, that have fallen out of favour. Both our starters – a hay-smoked mackerel fillet with sorrel leaves and anchovy relish and a grilled courgette, fennel and chicory salad – were subtle and flavourful, and all the better for not being classic Italian dishes. For the mains a tuna steak wrapped in vine leaves was good but the star of the show was a slow-cooked leg of lamb in lavender and honey sauce. And Roma’s gone to great lengths with its wine list too, with a knowledgeable, chatty staff recommending different glasses for each dish, and some great central European reds. It’s a shame it’s located in city-boy central because it feels like a concept that would thrill the Hackney food bloggerati, but it’s a short trip if you want to dine like an emperor for one night at least.
Where: 14 New London Street, EC3R 7NA
Travel: Fenchurch Street Station