In a nutshell
A cosy, Nordic-inspired smokehouse on Curtain Road. The menu at Rök (Swedish for ‘smoke’) is made for sharing and is focused around its wood fire, giving quality British ingredients the Scandi treatment.
The menu was devised by the Rök team alongside consultant chef Matt Young, previously of Ollie Dabbous’ Barnyard. When we visited, there was only one chef in the open kitchen, manning the wood fire in the tiny open kitchen, cool as his pickled cucumbers.
The menu is made up of a variety of house pickles (jars of which you’ll see dotted around the venue), snacks, meat, salads and sides. They recommend that you order some snacks to start, then each order a meat dish and three or four sides to share between the table. The daily-changing cuts of British meat are all supplied by Cobble Lane Cured in Islington, where they’re smoked before being sent to Rök to be finished off on the BBQ. There are no obvious veggie mains and no fish on the menu, which surprised us (especially considering the Scandi influence)… but all salads can be ordered as a main.
Kick off with a plate of Cobble Lane charcuterie, super-thin shavings of cured meat, including a fantastic fennel and garlic salami, served with charred sourdough and vibrant, vinegary pickled beetroot. The ‘nduja scotch egg was also excellent, with fresh, light breadcrumbs and just the right level of spice. Be sure to order a few house pickles as well – the cucumber pickle changes daily, and cauliflower spiked with cinnamon kept us coming back for more.
For main, smoked, charred duck breast, still pink inside, served with lingonberry bacon jam was the star, and one of the most obviously Scandi dishes. Perhaps we were unlucky with the cut but, for us, steak with birch sap didn’t reflect its high price point. There’s a great selection of on-trend salads and sides, such as charcoal beet salad, where the beetroot is charred overnight to enhance the already earthy flavour before being served, skin-on, with creamy goat’s cheese and peppery leaves. Deeply charred sweet potato with horseradish crème fraîche; and bone marrow and garlic mash are also worth ordering. Although we’re sure it will be an Instagram star, cauliflower cheese with beef dust and almonds was a little lacking.
There’s only one pudding option – wood-roasted peach with crème fraîche, Laphroaig honey and almond – but it was plenty satisfying. The char of the wood and peaty smoke of Laphroaig worked well together, though it may be a little too much for some. We’d also like to see it done with a softer, sweeter bourbon.
What we’re going back for
We’d definitely try more of the house pickles. There’s a short cocktail list, too, that we’d like to sample, particularly the pistachio sour.
What’s the room like?
Scandi cool meets Shoreditch chic. It’s in a not-so-nice part of town opposite some 70s offices – face the kitchen if you can – but once inside you can forget about that. The room is small but bright, with white-washed brick walls and bare tables and stools. There’s a long table in the window for a larger group, and seating at the bar if you’re just after a snack. We loved the open kitchen and beautiful wall of brightly-coloured pickles.
What we liked
The staff were friendly and incredibly knowledgeable, explaining the process and suppliers behind each dish.
Pickles £2.5, snacks from £3.5, meat from £13 and sides/salads £3-5.
Written August 2015
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