Nick Buglione finds something fishy going on at Roe
It’s entirely appropriate that I am “sardine-d” into a sea container. For I am at Roe, latest arrival to the upper echelons of Pop, and to the upper echelons of creative oceanographic cookery.
Along with Pop predecessors Will Bowlby at Kricket, Zoe Adjonah and the guys at Smoke & Salt, I’m adding Simon Whiteside to the list of excellent, “proper” restaurant chefs coming out of a restrictive tin can. With stripped back interiors, reclaimed wooden tables and stools and vintage lighting. What’s way more interesting are the interesting things Whiteside is doing with fish and seafood.
Born and raised in the coastal town of Dun Laoghaire near Dublin, Whiteside grew up with fish, honed his skills in the kitchens of Raymond Blanc (and his three stars), Don Alfonso in Naples (cue mafia joke) and Robin Gill, before launching Camden pop-up Hook.
Roe’s menu is, on the face of it, simple as … but the detail is in the backstage preparation (as well as a practical response to a kitchen that makes a phone box spacious). Precise simplicity isn’t simple.
It is not often one can have a borderline faultless supper without demolishing next month’s mortgage payment or being bombarded by a thesaurus-full of on-trend foodie explanation/gibberish (delete as appropriate).
We started with dark, robust Ink and Guinness soda bread with seaweed butter and whipped smoked Cod’s roe. The Nori butter, so simple (you could do it) is a little revelation. Even more simple, fresh oysters with classic shallot red wine vinegar. Shucks. A small wine list has a lovely fish-friendly Riesling among others.
The stripped down Roe menu fuses starter and main size mixing plates (roughly £8 and £15 respectively). Grey mullet poitin ceviche is sparklingly fresh mullet “cooked” in sharp citrus with cucumber, lime and herbs. Hugely refreshing.
Our favourite was the Monkfish carpaccio. Almost translucent slices of fish dotted with a creamy roast cauliflower puree, scatterings of pickled shitake mushroom to give it a sharp bite and soda bread crisps. Impressive stuff.
Mr Whiteside himself is in the teensy kitchen (as well as cheerfully serving tables) and such are sea container dimensions, it’s like chef’s table at somewhere swankier. So we see our ray wing coming together.
Our only “main course” tonight (although I like the sound of confit trout in oyster emulsion), ray wing is a new one on me. Lovely flaky fish falling off the bone with Jerusalem artichoke and wild mushrooms.
Once the dreaded inevitable Instagram buzz dies down, and the 20-somethings with permanent phone addictions find something new to get over-excited about, what will be left? The answer is a genuinely enthused chef delivering interesting, stimulating seafood without bells and whistles.
Forget the glitzy overpriced, snapped by the paparazzi, fifty shades of Sexy Fish, this is sexy fish and I imagine as the seas and seasons fluctuate, more can be expected from Simon Whiteside.
To ever so slightly misquote Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire: “You had me at Nori butter”.
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