"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, July 13, 2008


And don't you scream or make a shout
It's nothing you can do about

Hands up who’s heard of Ark Fish Restaurant ? Ok, Ok you can all put your hands down. Nobody likes a smart arse you know. It’s a new one on me anyway.

What if I said Sea Shell of Lisson Grove or Faulkner’s of Hackney ? We’ve all heard of those. Well, the good people who run the Ark Fish Restaurant previously owned and ran the aforementioned Seashell, selling it in 1987, and also Faulkner’s which they offloaded in 2002, which might explain why those two places disappoint despite their pedigree. Ok. History lesson over.

The Ark is in South Woodford, one of those places that if you’re a hip, young urbanite like myself only exists as a tube stop towards the end of the Central Line. A tidy little suburb (there’s loads of bins) where the main headlines are of the “Nights Are Drawing In” variety. It’s where I think cab drivers live as they always seem to be heading in that direction when I want one.

On an anonymous main road running through a largely residential area the Ark stands out. It’s a big restaurant that, though empty when I arrived soon filled up and was full when I left. It’s obviously a bit of a local favourite. And I can see why, there was some very good fish cooking going on in my meal.

For starters peeled prawns were a little workaday but the arrival of the Skate Knobs made me gasp. Hix Chop House’s version were petite things which is what I expected here. These were Skate Knobs with er…knobs on. These behemoths were covered in a thin crispy batter but the frying was so good they were light and not a chore to eat.

The skill in the frying department was equally evident in an excellent fillet of Haddock. The batter casing was thin and delicate and it parted easily to reveal some firm, perfectly cooked, pearly white flakes of fish. The skin had been left on the so that eventually the underside of the fish became a little oily and limp – not so nice to eat - but this had the advantage of protecting the precious flesh. This was one of the few times with F&C that I was much more interested in eating the fish itself rather than the fish/batter combination. Not because the batter was bad but just that it had done its job so well that eating the Haddock was the greater pleasure.

There were some decent chips and marrowfat peas that had been cooked down with a little mint - an idea that’s worth taking up by other F&C restaurants. They weren’t the real thing, but hey, this is the South. A small Tartare sauce was nicely creamy and studded with a mirepoix of gherkins.

I was hoping to try the Ark’s Puds but what with that starter and the size of my main course I like, totally wimped out.

So then, maybe not worth the schlep from town (although I did it easily enough) but if you’re anywhere near the start of the M11 or stuck on the North Circ it would make a pleasing diversion. Those Taxi Drivers obviously know a thing or two.

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Blogger josordoni said...

I've lived around the corner (pretty much) and never knew this place existed. So having read your review at 5.30 this evening, by 6.45 we were ensconced in the bar waiting for a table. Only about 10 minutes for the two of us, although some larger groups waiting rather longer, and by the time we left about 8.15, the bar was humming.

We had dressed crab to start that was better than our previous Best Marker in North Norfolk - lively, sprightly even, very very fresh. Served nicely plain with lemon and mayo - I had to request the mayo but it came quickly when I did.

Followed up by oven baked Sea Bream from the specials board, a really lovely whole fish. We didn't jolly the plate with any veg just some new potatoes and had a very enjoyable, beautifully cooked and served meal.

I reckon it will be a favourite and a regular haunt now.

But I reckon early dindins will have to be de rigeur...

Friday, July 18, 2008 8:39:00 pm  
Blogger josordoni said...

Got to say thanks yet again for this brilliant restaurant.

I reckon we must have been there some half a dozen times since I read your review, and narey a truly dodgy meal yet. Some things are obviously better than others, but all seem well sourced and nicely cooked. Front of house staff are unfailingly friendly and efficient.

Mussels have been back on the menu since the R went back in the month (even though they are rope grown and as far as I am aware available all year round - but I'm not complaining, it makes them seem seasonal which is never a bad thing.) Slightly too creamy Mariniere (to my taste), but large plump juicy mussels, beautifully cooked.

Last night's main of Sea Bass fillets with tapenado was tasty (although the tapenado was rather odd - light curry flavouring with black olives and crushed potatoes seeming rather at odds with each other.) with the large fillets tender and flaky - no crisp skin though as the fish was fried rather than grilled, so part of the joy of Sea Bass lost for me.

The Beloved had good old Fried Cod and Chips and finished every last speck.

And all his chips .


Friday, October 31, 2008 4:47:00 pm  
Anonymous goodshoeday said...

I've driven past this a zillion times as I take my recycling to the tip (err recycling centre) and never realised it was any good I just thought it was a fancied up old pub in true east London/Essex borders style. But now I shall be giving it a second glance and getting round there for some seafood soon.
A few minor points:
1. its no where near the end of the central line its at least another half an hour to Epping....
2. the taxi drivers live much much further out - Chelmsford mostly - but its handy for those of us wise enough to understand the outer reaches of east London's charms that we can get late taxis home when those elsewhere can't

Sunday, September 27, 2009 11:03:00 pm  

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