Rocket is the ideal cocktail retreat after a day in the City, but you should seize the opportunity for a meal too - the food here is pretty darn good.
Rocket spreads over three rooms: a bar and a dining area on the ground floor, and an additional dining room on the first floor. Inspired by a retro vision of the future, the main dining room might remind you of the Jetsons, minus the garish colours. The open-plan, riveted copper kitchen echoes one of the Sputniks, while the wall covered in ceramic plates adds a homely touch to a space decked out with retro chairs and a palette greens, brown, beige and wood. The other two rooms are more classic, though do make sure you go up the stairs (covered in a giant space invader canvas), and visit the toilets (dotted in colours, a la Damien Hirst). The life-size sculpture of a dog above the entrance is harder to attribute, but no less artistic.
It’s Bishopgate so you should know what to expect: plenty of City folks in suits mixed amongst those in more casual attire. Whomever the crowd is comprised, the main focus (from both staff and clientele) seems to be on letting hair down and relaxing after a long day. Smiley waiters in red dresses ease you into the evening, fulfilling your orders swiftly and accurately.
The Rocket menu dares with recipes which are not the usual safe international favourites. The outcome is certainly successful. Within the starters (£6.25-£6.85), the fried spicy squid comes on a delectable salad, accompanied by a wonderfully fruity chilli sauce. The batter is a touch bland but the dish remains very well prepared.
Within the mains (£12.75-£16.50), expect the unexpected with Rocket's signature salads. The rare beef and chip salad is a tantalisingly huge pyramid of food made of tempura green beans, large beef chunks and chips, all coated in a wonderful black bean dressing and topped with fried garlic. To be a salad, the 'healthy bit' sits right at the bottom and it is unlikely you will get your dose of greens before filling up on the indulgent beef and chips.
The chickpea and herb cakes are large falafel patties served on top of a crushed smoky aubergine salsa which would probably work better puréed, but remains perfectly satisfactory. Other touches hint at the prowess of the kitchen staff, not least a very good watermelon chutney. If you fancy something a little less light, the seasonal grills (£11.50-£16.25) and the pizza made with fresh dough and Italian flour (£8-£13.50) are both well worth delving into.
Desserts (£4-£6.25) are equally experimental. A Limoncello iced parfait is deconstructed into two ice quenelles, a black sesame tuile biscuit, and amarena cherries and syrup. It's spot on.
Cocktails (£7.60-£7.80) are the main attraction on the drink list, with classics, shorts and longs all far too tempting. Within the house signatures, the Spacecraft (rum, lime, gomme, champagne and mint) is certainly one to try. The champagne list is cleverly against trend: when other venues battle for the most expensive bottle, Rocket looks at smaller producers with lower prices, like Baron De Marck and Saint Evremond; both relatively decent value at around the £40 mark. Wine is similarly well priced, with two dozen whites and as many reds (£16.25-£49 - with a few glasses available at £4.20-£8.40), all helpfully described in the menu.
The Last Word
Rocket pulls of unpretentious dining very well indeed. The slick interiors and great menu might generate more attitude and an overly sophisticated crowd, but instead things are wonderfully low key. Recommended.