Rok Islington

Restaurants, Barbecue Barnsbury
4 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(6user reviews)
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Upper Street arm of the Scandi-Brit smokehouse.

On chilly days, thank God for places like Rök to hole up in. This second outpost is entered via a narrow frontage you have to step down into, like a passage into Narnia. With low ceilings, dark wood and ivory walls, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to find Mr Tumnus ensconced before the open kitchen fire at the back (as everyone should be – it’s more intimate than the echoey front section).

So interesting are the ingredients here that a scan of the menu had me in a pickle, and that before the pickles themeselves – in tiny pots – arrived. Although the decor whispers Nordic, the menu is smattered with wider Northern European influences. See the ‘La Sagesse’, a smoky take on a Kir Royale. Or cockle-warming mussels, cooked in a herby hefeweisse beer. The fieriness of a sizeable scallop served with ’nduja and seaweed built gradually: keep this glossy little number to yourself.

All Rök’s meat is cooked over fire, resulting in rich, but not heavy, dishes. Pigeon came tender and perfectly pink, the blackberry and hazelnut compote alongside tasting uncannily (though not unpleasantly) like a Ferrero Rocher. But who knew the pièce de résistance would be a side? Smoky blackened cabbage with earthy grains of nori rice, cut through with the satin crunch of macadamia nuts and västerbottensost (a Swedish cheese) might be one of the best dishes I’ve had all year. And it’s not attractive in the slightest – soz Instagram! The two puds were yin and yang: a 40ft Pale Ale peanut butter ice cream with dark chocolate; and a refreshing, musky loveage posset with fennel sorbet. With a menu so full of wonders, Rök might just be the ideal hibernation spot.

By: Megan Carnegie Brown

Posted:

Venue name: Rok Islington
Contact:
Address: 149 Upper Street
London
N1 1RA
Opening hours: Mon-Sun midday-midnight
Transport: Rail: Essex Road
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £90.
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Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|6
2 people listening
tastemakerTastemaker

I had a gig to attend a few months ago at the Islington Assembly Hall, and was really early so I thought I'd have a drink somewhere. I was walking around Upper Street and noticed this place, which looked super cosy and perfect so a quiet glass of wine. When I sat down and had a peek at the menu, I wished I hadn't had dinner - the food looked incredible. The waiter did try to get me to order some food with my... large... glass of white, but I just wanted to sit there and enjoy that with my book. I enjoyed it so much I ordered a second glass ;) The atmosphere was really great, low-key with room for a chat, and I really hope to return sometime to try out that Swedish menu!

tastemaker

When you are both massive foodies, each with your own list, the biggest problem can be agreeing on where to go. Luckily, Big J and I were in immediate agreement when he suggested Rok, the Scandinavian smoke house. Rok is all about smoking and pickling and seasonal British produce.

Rok is small but perfectly formed, all white brick walls and stripped back timber. Very scandi, and so it should be, all of your attention should be on the plates in front of you. Seated, me in a tiny nook in the wall that truly would have been impossible for Big J to squeeze his 6' 4' frame into, we poured over the short, concise menu. Split into pickles, starters, mains and sides, we picked a selection that threatened to overwhelm the very tiny table, at one point we ended up with the wine on the floor to make space.

We started with the Kohlrabi and cucumber and gin pickles with knackebrod. The latter was like a giant ryvita.I don't know what maked it so good but it was and it worked perfectly with the sweet, sharp pickles.

Staters, we struggled with and ended up with three of the four. First up, scallop with spicy nduja and seaweed. I could, happily, have eaten nothing but this all night. The sweet scallop, bathed in the warm and gentle, paprika-spiced oil from the sausage, the slight salty tang from the seaweed. We,literally, licked the shells clean.

Nduja Scotch quails egg did not disappoint, the juicy, fatty sausage meat enveloping the still running egg. Dijon mayonnaise provided a creamy bed.

More knackerbrod, this time adorned with a rich,chicken liver pate,so smooth and intense, it could charm even my own mother into inappropriate behaviour.(yeah, like that would be a hard thing!)Fermented cloudberries cut through the creaminess.

Starters are well priced at £4 for the pate, £5 for the Scotch, but £8 for the scallop which I can forgive because it was divine.

For our mains, we both chose the duck with bacon lingonberry jam. Perfectly pink and juicy. I'm not sure I tasted the bacon but it didn't matter.

Pork with pickled Granny Smiths and saurerkraut, what a delight. The pork fell off the bone, tender and melting, with a soft whisper of smoke. The Granny Smiths were tart, fresh and the perfect thing to contrast the soft, sweet pork.

And don't let me forget the sides, the blackened cabbage with macadamia nuts and vasterbottensost, a hard Swedish cheese was the dish of the day. Jesus, what sweet wonder is this? I can best describe it like a cabbage Mac and cheese but nutty and smokey, like cabbage on crack,I imagine, I've never done crack myself. At just £6, this was an absolute winner, if you go, you must have this.

The potato gratin with fermented anchovies was one of the best potato dishes I think I have ever eaten. Rich and creamy, with a crispy,burnt top, the flavour just punches you in the face.

As greedy people do, we ordered the 40ft pale ale, peanut butter ice cream and dark chocolate mousse. If you like indulgent, rich desserts, you'll love this. Heavy, intense and malty it's almost didn't taste like ice cream. One of these alone would have been enough, we only managed a couple of spoonfuls each, before calling it quits.

Service was warm, friendly and faultless.

tastemaker

Everything sounded, and looked amazing. We were spoilt for choices, and decided to go for the brunch platter. Somehow was slightly disappointed by the food following the high expectations.


Service and atmosphere was lovely, coffee was fine. It's a shame the food didn't deliver the punch!

Tastemaker

This restaurant is a wonderful addition to the Upper Street restaurant scene. In fact, I think it surpasses almost all of its neighbours in terms of quality of food and service. We visited here on a Saturday night and were able to get a booking the day before, although all of the other tables were full for most of the time we were there. In terms of drinks, the "Sophie's neck" cocktail was so delicious I had to have two, and the staff appeared to thoroughly enjoy telling us the story of how it was named (we even got to meet Sophie herself). Food is designed to share and the menu is really interesting. It was recommended that we share 3 starters, 3 mains and 3 sides between the 3 of us, but we were all stuffed at the end and probably could have had less in hindsight. However it was all absolutely delicious and I can't think what I would have passed up. Real highlights were the smoked mackerel starter, the pigeon main, and the potato gratin side dish, but I would eat anything from the menu again. Service was prompt, casual and friendly throughout. I actually couldn't have asked for anything more from a Saturday night dinner. The bill came to around £150 for 3 of us, so it's not cheap, but it's totally worth it.


Amazing food in an informal settings but don't be fool by the look, they know all about great service. Wonderful addition to the London scene.

Tastemaker

Rök has been on my Instagram feed for a while now. Ever a fan of booking, I snapped up a spot in the Islington branch. We opted for the duck with lingonberries and wild mushrooms, alongside the double carb option of charred sweet potatoes and potato and anchovy(?!) gratin. The duck arrive pink and juicy, and the potatoes were delicious- with the melt-in-the-mouth gratin a particular highlight. Service is friendly, and means this is on my list as a great neighbourhood option. Stick with the main courses though= puddings were ok- peanut ice cream was good, but the chocolate mousse accompanying it was very thick, but not in a good way. Overall a lovely addition to the Islington high street- north Londoners are already spoilt for choice, and this is a great addition.