Rochelle Canteen – one of London’s best secrets
19th June 2017
The weekend before last I found my new favourite restaurant in London. It’s always so exciting when you discover a place so uniquely wonderful and usually I’m eager to share everything about it with anyone who’ll listen, but I was in two minds whether to write about this little gem hidden in the secluded grounds of a converted Victorian school in East London. Its privacy is part of its charm, even though it’s open to everyone it almost feels exclusive, like a secret. It’s not one of those places that you can just stumble upon, you have to be somehow ‘in the know’. You ring a bell, they buzz you in and you automatically get the sense you’re somewhere special. But there’s no grandeur here, no dress code or plush interiors, it’s simple, understated and just really really good food.
True to its name, Rochelle Canteen started life as a cafeteria. Out of the old school bike shed Margot Henderson and her business partner Melanie Anderson ran their catering company and served delicious lunches to the creative types renting work spaces in the renovated school building. The pair had already worked together running the French House Dining Room in Soho with their husbands, Fergus and Jon, who went on to establish St. John, a fantastic restaurant famous for ‘head to toe dining’ that happens to be just around the corner from our new St. John’s Square showroom. Now that’s a dinner party I definitely wouldn’t mind an invite to!
Over the years Rochelle’s organically gained a reputation for excellent quality, seasonal dining. They opened their doors to the public and extended their opening hours, yet the humble charm of the place remains the same. It’s still a single room with an open kitchen at one end and a few simple wooden tables at the other, a row of straw hats hang from Shaker pegs and a few ad hoc tables are scattered outside, nothing flashy or pretentious, nothing to distract or dazzle apart from the flavours served up on small white plates.
Only a stone’s throw from Shoreditch High Street yet miles away from its hustle and bustle, we sat in the sunny courtyard on metal garden furniture sipping a wonderful Australian wine that we picked up from Nobel Fine Liquor, another one of my favourite London discoveries. At the time it was BYO but they’ve just been granted a liquor licence which I think is now in full effect. The menu is small, but you can pretty much guarantee you’re going to love everything on it. It’s not super cheap, with starters averaging at around £8 and mains about £17, but the quality far surpasses its moderate price tag. This exciting menu changes daily, so my recommendations are probably wasted, but on the off chance you spot the chocolate cake, I urge you to save some room for pudding!
Rochelle Canteen is open Mon – Sun 9 – 11:30 am and 12 – 4:30 pm as well as 6 – 10 pm Thursday – Saturday.
You can book by calling 020 7729 5677.
Images sourced from www.arnoldandhenderson.com, www.rochelleschool.org and www.cntraveler.com