Review: Smoke and Liquor, Rochester

Rochester's epic castle

Rochester’s epic castle

I love Rochester, it’s loaded with character and history, I just wish it attracted more hipsters. Purely for their tendency to cause delicious food and drink venues to appear, you understand. Although I can report that Rochester has at least one decent place for a bite.

I can’t help but think they might have named Smoke and Liquor better. I get it, smoke relates to the barbecue that drives a good bit of the menu. But… well, unless we’re now completely in the post-cigarette age, “smoke and liquor” just sounds a bit like a seedy dive bar.

Smoke n Liquor - no dive

Smoke n Liquor – no dive

It’s not, it’s lovely inside. They’ve looked after the interior of what is a bloody old building, maybe 17th century or sommat, but given it a modern hipster/barbecue vibe. The staff need more tattoos, but apart from that minor point it was great. We stopped for a lunch of small plates, so we didn’t really give the BBQ a proper try.

And the food was way better than I expected from Rochester. Slow cooked oxtail on cornbread worked well with a warm chilli heat. Goat cheese croquettes were really satisfyingly goatsome, with a blob of sriracha mayo on the side for warmth. Tempura asparagus with gin-cured salmon had a great combination of texture going on, with a thick slice of toothsome salmon, al dente

Asparagus and salmon

Asparagus and salmon

asparagus and the crunch of batter. Nice salsa verde as well, to give it some welly. Smoked haddock dashi. Interesting idea, and very pleasantly smoky haddock. The dashi was gently flavoursome, with herbs and bamboo shoot, and fragments of samphire. The samphire was brilliant – like a salty little POP whenever you got a bit in your mouthful of soothing broth.

Maybe £20 each would make a good meal out of small plates, before drinks, and that’s perfectly good value for the quality. They’ve got a ridiculous number of gins available, along with a wide collection of other booze. I wouldn’t expect great things from the wine list, but the beer selection is solidly crafty. Nice one, Rochester.

Ox cheek small plate

Ox cheek small plate

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