Please note, Rök has now closed. Time Out Food editors, August 2019.
You know when the weather’s so dire that before leaving the house you mutter ‘This had better be worth it’? Well, our review of Rök fell on just such an evening and we squelched into this Shoreditch smokehouse with a murderous need for a cocktail. Less than five minutes in, the weather outside was forgotten.
The narrow, low-lit dining room was filled with pristinely groomed thirtysomethings, not a beard hair out of place. The design nods to Nordic chic, with white walls, dark-wood tables, a small open kitchen with a custom-made charcoal grill, and jars of homemade pickles adorning the bar.
There are just three cocktails – all special. An amaretto sour turbocharged with bourbon and pistachio liqueur was a smooth, creamy treat, while a coupette of herbal Chartreuse and tart rhubarb was perfectly balanced.
The food, with its powerfully flavoured meat cures, pickles and jams, is also vaguely Nordic in style, but centres on British produce, with the odd wild-card southern European ingredient. A single scallop, sizzling in the chilli-hot oil from Italian ’nduja sausage was bursting with fiery, sense-sharpening flavours – we could have gobbled up another 20. A pot of juicy mussels steamed in east-London wheat beer (‘It’s cockney marinière,’ joked our waiter) showed masterly layering of flavour. Although we expected the meat – including two huge fennel-cured lamb chops, cooked sous-vide then finished over the coals – to be the star of the main courses, sides were equally impressive, especially a salad of smoky charred broccoli with nuts, seeds and quinoa in a perky citrus dressing.
Rök had only been operating for a week on our visit, but staff had mastered the knack of communicating dish details in a non-robotic way. Our only bugbear was the teeny size of the tables for two – but even they’re likely to be hot tickets soon. Rök? Totally worth it, rain or shine.