Rochelle Canteen is one of our favourite restaurants in London. It’s a place that we only associate with good things. Things like free-flowing glasses of crémant, slabs of terrine, and three hour meals in the converted bike shed of an old school. In fact, our associations with Rochelle Canteen are so good that it’s always been our #1, many-pints-deep answer to where HQ will be when the undead rise against us. And that’s not just because you have to be buzzed in.
Although we didn’t have to put it all of this down to three specific reasons, we have done anyway, and they’re as follows:
We have never, ever, had a bad meal at Rochelle Canteen. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Parents, friends, exes. Eggs, cod’s roe, pie, or poached pear. Summer, winter, and all the rest.
Importantly, maybe most importantly, Rochelle Canteen is a restaurant that takes you out of London. Whilst keeping you in London. That escapism is something everyone needs once in a while.
Nobody at Rochelle Canteen has (yet) issued a restraining order against us. This in spite of a few panicked phone calls, and several heartfelt emails about an extremely limited wild garlic chicken kiev.
Even though it’s in the heart of Shoreditch, and home to the world’s most seasonally elusive bit of breaded chicken, a meal at Rochelle Canteen always manages to feel restful. You make your reservation and then you enter a walled garden filled with cabernet sauvignon, buttery new potatoes, and stylish strangers. All of this, along with its former school setting, is a sum that adds up to happiness. And also nicotine cravings you may never have had before. That’s probably down to the old bike shed. Or the bottle of pinot and grilled quail you put away inside of it.
There’s a reassuring straightforwardness to Rochelle Canteen. The daily changing menu is black and white. Times New Roman. Plain and simple classics. From bread, through to braised squid with aioli, down to a perfect jam doughnut. The staff aren’t all singing and all dancing. They’re the perfect mix of cheery helpfulness and innate nonchalance. Graduates of the hypothetical Central St. Martins foundation course in hospitality who are destined to end up at one of two institutions: Rochelle Canteen or St. John. Which makes sense, as Margot Henderson (who co-runs this joint) is married to Fergus Henderson (who co-runs that joint).
It doesn’t feel like concerns get much bigger than a brown shrimp being dropped onto a Shrimps jacket here. Rochelle Canteen is London’s little Garden of Eden that’s a few minutes away from Shoreditch High Street station. You’ll come for lunch or dinner and walk out 50-odd-quid lighter and about 100 times happier. And breakfast will have a similar effect for much less. Come to think of it, you, like us, should only have two concerns. 1) What time the next available reservation is, and 2) When that chicken kiev will next be on the menu.
The menu at Rochelle Canteen changes every day, though there are some things that stick around. By and large you can expect something along these lines.
The soups here change all the time and every one we’ve had has been a hit. This pumpkin one with sage butter is particularly wholesome and soothing, like a Saturday morning when you stayed in the night before.
A certified Rochelle Canteen classic. This silky smooth cod’s roe is a must order if on. Dip, wipe it clean off the plate, and definitely eat those peppery radish leaves as well.
Think endive. Think puntarella. Think anchovy. Or shrimp. And an oily, salty dressing that will have you pining for a regrettable Ryanair flight to somewhere in Italy.
Be it perfectly soft beef shin or melt in your mouth cuttlefish, Rochelle Canteen is an essential place if you’re looking for a hearty and deliciously juicy plate of meat or fish.
You know you’re in the right kind of restaurant when you’re getting an ice cream scoop of aioli. There will be absolutely none of that smeary nonsense here. This plate, whether it’s squid or cuttlefish, is another essential if on. It’s rich and moreish, and will definitely KO you to the sofa later on.
Butter. New potatoes. Salt. Pepper. More butter. Perfect.
If the Famous Five were about now, this is what they’d call their podcast. But at Rochelle Canteen it’s just a beautiful reality of their desserts. One day you might have chilled poached pear with vanilla custard, and the next you may have rhubarb. Either way, you’re happy.
A good ice cream is like a good relationship: sweet, sometimes a little bitter, potentially sickening if overindulged, but ultimately missed when it’s gone. Rochelle Canteen makes excellent ice cream. The brownie, shortbread, or whatever that comes alongside isn’t unwelcome either.