ARK FISH RESTAURANT
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.