Running the gamut from jellied eels to dover sole, out in prosperous and pleasant South Woodford the Ark’s menu sums up the East End diaspora towards Essex. It’s hugely popular locally, particularly appreciated by a mature clientele, but has something for everyone (including tomato soup and fillet steak for fish-phobes).
From welcome appetisers such as whelks, winkles and cockles through classic starters like dressed crab and prawn cocktail, the seafood is sparklingly fresh. Look for swanky treats such as turbot on the specials board. Whatever the fish, the cooking is kept simple. Stonking portions of faves (cod, haddock) are juicily sealed in a coat of crisp batter, grilled or poached, but for the more adventurous there’s a hugely generous portion of plump seared scallops in garlic butter on perky mixed salad leaves. Chips are absolutely not McCain’s, but fat, hand-cut and just a little leathery.
Only the trifle, more Epping than Black Forest in its ordinariness, was a slight disappointment: great custard but dry sponge and few cherries. Bookings aren’t taken for the conservatory-like dining room, though there’s space to wait at the bar. Very friendly, alert staff manage everything exceptionally well; note that no service charge is added to the bill.