Rök Smokehouse & Bar, Shoreditch
The season’s on the turn and chimneys are starting to fill the London air with smoke and ghosts just as the gluts of late summer are offering themselves up to the gods of pickling and jam making. Enter Rök Smokehouse & Bar. Here, the Nordics meet East London, so basically off the Richter levels of cool. Gorgeous staff who are bright eyed and enthusiastic weave their way through the teeny, sparsely decorated room – all white walls, bare wooden tables, stripped back lighting and wooden shelving laden with myriad jars of bepickled produce. Candles bring the ‘hygge’, the menu is exciting, thanks to chef consultant Matt Young formerly of BarnYard and there is a veritable buzz around the whole place. It’s unmissable for so many reasons not least of which is it’s romance.
Sharing plates. It’s ideal here as you’ll want to try a bit of everything yet not lose all sight of the fact that you’re here to romance and be romanced. We shared some pickles; cucumber pickled in gin was floral and moreish, a pickled slaw was crunchy, sweet and sour in all the right places. There’s charcuterie on the menu supplied by Cobble Lane Cured in Islington: we tried the Beer Sticks (Polish kabanos) washed down with an Icelandic pale ale. Duck leg with bacon and lingonberry jam, Scallop with ‘Nduja and Pork Belly slow cooked for 20 hours with Granny Smith’s were smoky, melt in the mouth delicious: the stuff of dreams. Ask for bread to mop up the ‘Nduja juice. Don’t miss the cauliflower cheese topped with beef dust and almonds.
Sharing ensures you have room for more to drink and to share the sexiest dessert I’ve come across in a while – wood roasted peach, served with Laphroaig honey, crème fraiche and some nutty dust. The mix of cream, booze and fleshy fruit is so wanton that if this doesn’t stir something in you, then you’re probably dead inside. Espresso Martinis sponsor your sweeping first kiss just a street away as your date offers to walk you to the tube with his jacket over your shoulders.
We know that sharing isn’t everyone’s bag but you know what, turns out it’s a great way to find out rather a lot about your date as a person and can serve as an early indicator of whether or not they are right for you. How comfortable was your date with the concept of sharing plates and did they see it as fun? Did you find it easy to move the plates around and get a mix of everything you ordered? Did your date hog all the best bits or did he or she offer you the last morsel of your favourite dish?
The low lighting and candlelight here adds another layer of romance so try to arrive just before the sun sets, take your seats and order a round of smoke-inspired cocktails, such as the Rökrita (Cointreau, home made orange sherbet, Tequila and smoked salt). Then, boom, when the light starts to fade fast, the candles are lit and you look like the date master. Perhaps order some charcuterie to nibble on while you have the first drink and get the small talk out of the way. Move on to a bottle of red, and hunker down for the evening with good food and (hopefully) good conversation all brought together by the pulsating ambience and the bright glow from the candles.
Few and far between.
4. There’s something life affirming about this place.