Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
London’s Kingsway is a wide thoroughfare which serves mostly to join two other places, Holborn and Aldwych. The street is lined with offices, and the same kind of restaurants you’d find in clustered together throughout the south east of England: Belgo, Leon, Starbucks, Subway, Eat, Paul… we find it all a bit depressing, the homogenisation of the high street. But one of the restaurants trying to make Kingsway a place of its own is Rocket. This is a chain of five – four in London and one in Nottingham – trying to serve the same crowd-pleasing food, but at a higher quality. Sadly, this comes with corresponding higher prices.
‘Pizza like nobody else!’ they cry from their website. They say only it’s on Italian dough, which doesn’t sound unique to us. Maybe they mean the toppings? Do they do lentil and Bovril granules? Perhaps cornflake and grape? No, but they do 14 different types, ranging from £9 for the plain old Margherita, to the pastrami & pepperoni, with jalapeños, red onion & basil at almost £14. Maybe they reckon no-one’s ever thought of spicy sausage and peppers on a pizza before? We took a deep breath and hoped that they would taste as exciting as the promise.
The restaurant itself is through a posh doorway and down some stairs, and we were greeted by someone who, while friendly, was clearly having issues with his computer, since he couldn’t find our booking, even though we could see our name on the screen and were one of only three bookings that evening.
We were sat down anyway, in a section of the restaurant which we imagine is usually reserved for parties – a glass dividing wall, hidden behind thin curtains; the area was busy, but not packed – but we could see that we’d been put in there so we didn’t feel lonely, for the rest of the place was pretty quiet.
Service was friendly and efficient, and they were happy to give us a jug of tap water. For starters, we got crab cakes, spicy deep fried baby squid, and halloumi chorizo kebabs. All of which were nice, but nothing special, and priced a little steeply at around £7.20 each.
Main courses sounded great – one side shows their pizzas, while on the other side, they have salads and grills, and a second section for grills and salads. In among there was a barbecued pulled pork shoulder pizza, soy sauce, chilli & ginger salmon fillet and a ‘famous rare beef & chip salad’, which intrigued us. Who is it famous with? Has it ever been on Celebrity Big Brother? And do we only get one chip? Let’s just say that we were baffled by some of the descriptions.
Luckily, the beef & chip salad was more than single chip, and it even came with penis-shaped tempura vegetables (we don’t think the penis shape was deliberate, though). It came as a giant tower of food – far more than we could eat, even sharing.
The salmon fillet needed crispy skin and better cooked vegetables – they were slightly over cooked and slightly drooping and the pizza wasn’t all that special. The toppings were good, with tender pulled pork and large splats of coleslaw, but overall it needed more flavour. A generous drizzle of chilli oil helped, but didn’t fix it completely; and the base was far too soft and thick – more bread-y than dough-y.
Dessert also failed to satisfy, with the chocolate brownie more like a dry cake; instead of having tasty gooey bits inside, we had to mash it up with the ice cream that came with. After a few mouthfuls, we gave up and sent it back, something we rarely do – normally we’d just push it to one side and pretend it’s not there.
‘Lunch or dinner. Business or pleasure. Party or chill,’ says the website. We agree – we wouldn’t say don’t go, as it fits a gap in the market. Sadly, it’s the same gap that’s been filled by many other chains (and they must be doing something right, otherwise they wouldn’t still be there). This makes it perfect for office parties and for getting together with a group of friends: you get food which tries to please all the people all the time.
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