In typical Shoreditch fashion, the restaurant Rök is too cool to even have their name displayed on the restaurant front. Then again, this isn’t a restaurant that needs to sell itself considering the endless stream of customers we saw hungry for a slice of Scandinavia in the heart of Shoreditch.
Simplicity is the key here from the decor down to the food. White-washed walls, bare furniture and a giant custom-built barbecue at the back gives it a clean, no-nonsense Northern European feel, although their high stools and benches are unlikely to win any awards for comfort and design.
What they specialise in here is old cooking techniques from Scandinavia: smoking, pickling, fermenting and preserving. To whet your appetite, we recommend starting off with their pickled selection; the cucumber and carrots were best, they had a sweet, vinegary taste that prepared you for the main act.
The mussels were small in size but packed a bunch as they were cooked in wheat beer sauce and thankfully they offered some sourdough bread to soak up the magic. Their signature starter is their scallop in the shell with ndjua & british seaweed. Instead of using chunks of chorizo like other restaurants, their spicy sausage is turn into a puree, so it feels less meaty, yet the intense salty flavours still soaks into the scallops. The scallop is well-sourced with its perky texture and beautifully presented with strands of samphire.
Their beef with creamed cows curd and wild garlic vinegar is like most of their other dishes here, comfortingly enjoyable yet has the odd touches of unfamiliarity that diners yearn for. The beef has that touch of smokiness you can’t taste in standard steak restaurants. The duck with lingoberry bacon jam is beautifully pink and tender and gently spiced up with the healthy Swedish superfood, lingoberries. The meat was moist and lean.
Their sides are not just an afterthought: burnt sweet potatoes with horseradish crème fraîche might look a touch over-blackened, but the taste is sweet, the potato is almost as soft as mash and given a welcoming kick from the horseradish. The real highlight might be their blackened cabbage with nori rice, macadamia and västerbotten; the cabbage is intensely fresh and crisp and the mixture of nuts, cheese and rice makes it appetising enough to turn any meatlover into a vegetarian.
If you want bread in your pudding, forget about bread and butter pudding, you need to beg, copy, steal their recipe for lost bread with white chocolate ice cream and rhubarb jam. It is the perfect sweet ending to any meal.
Along with the recent launch of their hip basement bar, they have revamped their cocktail lists to offer more summery options. The pistachio sour we tried had a rich creamy pistachio froth at the top along with nutty notes from the amaretto liqueur, which combined winningly with the bourbon and sour.
With such a likeable food and beverage menu, it was hardly surprising on the night we visited, they managed to win over the city types from Liverpool Street and the hip Shoreditch crowd.