Rok Islington (CLOSED)
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Upper Street arm of the Scandi-Brit smokehouse.
Please note, Rök Islington has now closed. Time Out Food editors, January 2019.
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.