LONDON | Rök Smokehouse (edit 15/07/18 – now known simply as Rök Shoreditch) is a Nordic bar that’s just opened up right in the heart of Shoreditch, a short walk from the boundaries of the City of London itself. We visited Rök during their soft launch to get a sample of what they will be bringing to the people of London. Upon entry the first thing that was apparent was what a cozy little space it is. There is a short wood paneled bar with a few bar stools running down the right hand side of the front of the space, opposite it there are a few tables down the other side. Towards the back is a small looking kitchen. It feels like we were in what was once someone’s terraced house, with an old fire place completing the homely atmosphere.
It’s a bit of a tight fit if you are sat with your back to another table, and table space itself can prove to be at a premium if you do start ordering with sharing in mind (as is encouraged).
Rök means “smoke” in Swedish and the food on the menu consists of British ingredients that have had traditional Swedish techniques like brining, pickling and smoking applied to them. The menu has been designed by head chef Matt Young (formerly of Barnyard and Aveqia) and meats are supplied exclusively by Islington’s Cobble Lane Cured, who do all of the smoking before sending them to Rök to be finished on the custom made charcoal BBQ.
Charcuterie Board (£4.50/£9.00)
The starters made an immediate great impression. The charcuterie board comes in two size options, so without even a second thought of course we went large. We’ve yet to see a more generously portioned charcuterie board in London and couldn’t fault the quality of the ingredients, with the intended smokiness really coming through in the meats.
Cobble Lane Beer Sticks (£3.00)
The Cobble Lane Beer Sticks give nothing away in their name. We asked the waitress what they were and it wasn’t until she reached the bit about them “being kind of like Peperami” that we knew what we were getting. The beer sticks are indeed kind of like Peperami, but they are many times better than their mass produced cousins.
Nduja Scotch Quail Eggs (£3.50)
The Nduja Scotch Quail Eggs were very good. The hint of nduja gives enough spice to liven up the taste buds, while the quails egg offers a small concentrated egg flavour. The accompanying slice of pickled cucumber offsets things nicely. You should note there are many pickled snacks to order on the menu, such as the cucumber, mushrooms and beetroot, and that these will rotate seasonally. Based on our brief sample, I imagine they’d all go down pretty well.
Charred Broccoli Salad (£4.50/£9.00)
The sides were a hit. The large Charred Broccoli Salad could almost have been a meal itself. The bits of Broccoli had a wonderful smokiness to them, and just the right amount of charring from the grill permeating the pumpkin seeds, toasted almonds, sesame seeds and quinoa.
Cauliflower Cheese with Beef Dust and Almonds (£5.00)
The Cauliflower Cheese was good but not great. We weren’t quite sure what the “beef dust” was on top. Was it crumbled Oxo stock cube? We imagine it wasn’t, but it certainly got us talking. As a whole, it just didn’t quite work as well as the other dishes but, being a soft opening, the dishes are still subject to tweaking.
Burnt Sweet Potato with Creme Fraiche (£4.00)
The third side arrived a bit later than the others so wasn’t really fighting on a level playing field, but even so, the Burnt Sweet Potato with Creme Fraiche was tasty and very tender with a surprisingly, almost glaze-like finish to it.
Moving onto the mains and we had to remind ourselves this was a soft launch. We admire places that do offer soft launches. Things aren’t going to be perfect. The restaurant provides discounts with the trade off being you are helping them get it right before the full paying customers enter through the door. We do hope that Rök manage to sort out their stock for each night. Out of 4 main dishes on offer on the menu, 2, the pork belly and the lamb chop, were unavailable. Of the 2 mains that were available, the duck breast was substituted for duck leg while the guinea fowl leg looked suspiciously like guinea fowl breast. What we’re guessing happened is that the duck leg/guinea fowl breast mix-up was simply a typo on the menu – this sort of thing can happen during a soft launch and is completely understandable.
Duck Leg (£18.00)
The duck leg came looking very much the way it should in a smokehouse with a dark charring coating the entire leg. It hadn’t dried out, which is always a risk with grilling and was quite tender. In a classic Scandinavian twist, lingonberry jam added a sweet counterbalance to the dish.
Guinea Fowl Breast (£15.00)
We really wanted to try the pork belly however we filled this void by ordering the guinea fowl, which was very good. It was succulent, tasty and nicely charred. Nduja made another appearance here, for which you won’t get any complaints from me.
Lamb Ribs (£16.00)
The lamb chop might not have been available but we were informed that there were some “great” lamb ribs to offer in their place. Why we weren’t told this at the outset was somewhat puzzling but again, soft launch – these things happen. We’ve not seen much in the way of lamb ribs on menus in London and based on what we tried here we can see why. Lamb ribs are quite fatty and need to be cooked slow and low in order to turn that fat into succulent, melt in your mouth goodness, much the same as pork belly. On one of the lamb ribs we had a good balance between meat and fat, although the fat was not very edible. The second was almost completely fat which didn’t leave us with much to eat on that rib at all. The sauce that came with the ribs, the fennel puree that normally accompanies the lamb chops, was very nice.
To help wash down the food are some great beers by Einstöck, an Icelandic brewery shiveringly close to the Arctic circle. We went for the Pale Ale, which had a darker amber look than those you normally associate with Pale Ales. It was very good though and one worth checking out if you see it on the shelf at your local. The wines also were well received, there is a good selection, with my companions pleased with their choices (among which was a punchy Australian Shiraz).
The waitress informed us there is a cocktail bar opening soon downstairs. If Rök manage to pull that off well, it will be a great addition to the area. It might provide some competition to the nearby speakeasy Nightjar over at Old Street.
Rök’s Nordic take on the BBQ smoke-house is a welcome variation to the much more prevalent American BBQ in this part of town and we left the venue smelling of BBQ smoke, making the hungry hordes of Shoreditch drool as we walked past them. Yes there were some issues with the menu but at a soft launch that’s to be expected. Based on our overall experience, we’re sure that if Rök irons out these issues, they’ll do very well.
26 Curtain Road
London EC2A 3NY
Sun – Thu: 12:00pm to 10:00pm
Fri – Sat 12:00pm to 1:30am