Chef Neil Rankin is a bit of a legend when it comes to BBQs in London. I had heard all about him and his meats and thus I had just assumed that his restaurant in Islington, Smokehouse, would be very much of a "guy" restaurant with meats of big, bold flavors. To my surprise, it was all incredibly delicate and complex.
My two best eats this week were the mains at his restaurant -
Cornish hake, smoked mussels & bacon chowder.
Smokiness is a very dominant flavor - it takes skill to pair it with
other ingredients so that it doesn't overpower, so that the other
ingredients aren't redundant and so that it all balances out to be a
With the lamb - a piece of slow cooked lamb that falls apart at the pressure of your fork, it's rich and it's just lightly smoked. The polenta is creamy and delicate, the raclette lightly drapes over the lamb, adding another texture and a lovely umami element. Then the sambal - just enough to cut through and add that punch. It was one of those additions to a dish that made it from good to excellent. All the components work wonderfully together, and instead of having that smokiness as the main act with other flavors supporting it, all the different flavors sort of just take equal importance and just all complement each other.
The hake - it's got that crispy skin and moist flesh. Both the mussels and bacon are smoked, and again, it's subtle, it doesn't overpower anything. And that chowder - smooth, light, coating the sweet vegetables. My only complaint is that it came more as a sauce and I would've loved a big ladle of it.
Smokehouse has lots of exciting things to offer - the two starters we had were also very nice and it's all reasonably priced too.