Margot Henderson’s Rochelle Canteen Seduces
New Zealand-born Margot Henderson’s London café Rochelle Canteen “wears its fabulousness lightly.” It is “nourishing for body and soul, and huge fun”, according to Guardian reviewer Marina O’Loughlin.
“This canteen may come on like a shack, but scratch the surface, and tables are Alvar Aalto, chairs Ercol,” O’Loughlin writes. “There are deckchairs. It’s studied-urban-bucolic enough to turn the most liberal-minded bolshie.
“But, so help me, I’m seduced right in. I want everything on the succinct menu that whispers of the past – devilled crab, gull’s egg with celery salt, posset – while being resolutely contemporary. There’s an air of effortlessness that’s contrarily hard to achieve: salad of roast lamb sounds like a dreary Monday lunch of leftovers, but is wonderfully tender, rosemary-fragranced meat and perky leaves slicked with the umami hum of green herbs and anchovy. Even hefty stuff is delivered with a light touch: that mince and tatties delivers fine beef, all dark, resonant savouriness (is there a touch of clove?), and tiny, fabulously earthy jersey royals, just shrugging off their papery skins.
“Henderson worked in many of the kitchens that shaped today’s culinary landscape – 192, The Eagle, The French House, the original Quality Chop House. She and business partner Melanie Arnold were ahead of the game going east, too: Rochelle Canteen is nearly 12 years old. How on earth had I never been? Too busy, like all the other food-tossers, chasing the new. I’m regretting the wasted years as I type.
“So, my bad. I love it. I love the informality of the cooking, its absolute confidence to be itself: a little messy, entirely unfussy, wholly enjoyable. Rochelle Canteen’s food is nourishing for body and soul, and the breakfast- and lunch-only restaurant is enormous fun. I find myself browsing the estate – a three bed flat ‘in need of modernisation’ is on offer for nearly a million, cueing a hollow laugh – with fantasies of being a neighbour. I always think that, in the event of a zombie apocalypse I’ll head for John Lewis, where nothing bad ever happens. But, actually, come the revolution, I’m holing up here. Apart from anything else, they’ll never find me.”
Original article by Marina O’Loughlin, The Guardian, July 22, 2016.
Photo by Karen Robinson.