We had a weekend in Shoreditch the other week, and stayed at some achingly hip hotel, the type that has a lobby that people use as an informal shared work space.
I’ve honestly never seen a higher concentration of Macbooks anywhere.
For dinner one night, we ate at Rok, a loosely Scandinavian place on Curtain Road.
Rok ticks all the Shoreditch boxes – exposed brick painted white, open kitchen, big focus on smoked things, industrial type furniture, artisan this and that, and it’s absolutely wonderful. The dining room is stark, entirely white, warmed up with big pendant lights and bare wooden tables, bar and shelves. It’s understated and business-like, and most of the business happens in a tiny open kitchen tucked into the back of the space, a streak of smoke staining the wall over what’s evidently a ferocious grill.
The menu is broadly divided up into starters, mains and sides, not that these things seem to matter anymore in a world of small plates, and we started with a couple of pickles, a small dish of pickled carrot and a similar dish of beetroot. Each was light and fresh, barely fermented. Good.
Starters proper involved a rich and flavoursome pâté on a stereotypically Scandi crisp bread, and a croquette of halibut, with a pea purée, which was crisp and delicious. Mains were equally Scandinavian – a huge piece of duck breast, cooked rare as it should be and served with a loose jam made from lingonberries and bacon, and a dish of guinea fowl so tender and perfectly cooked it was almost a shame to actually eat it, charred in all the right places, and served in a light broth with pickled mushrooms. It was excellent, and the only thing that equalled it – and I promise, this is the absolute truth – was a side dish of sweet potato that had been in contact with a slow fire for a very long time indeed, served sliced open with a generous dollop of crème fraîche spiked with horseradish. Such a simple thing, such an easy, straightforward dish, but just magnificent.
We had a very memorable meal, full of flavour and prepared with skill, a joyous mix of Scandinavian tradition and modern presentation. I’m struggling to find anything negative at all to say, so I’m not going to.
I read today that this particular branch (there are two) has closed down. We must have been some of the last to eat there. That’s a shame, but it isn’t a disaster, for the sister restaurant in Islington is born of the same stock with a similar menu, look and feel.
It’s worth a visit.