London E2 7ES
Background: One of the inevitable consequences of moving to a new city, or country even, is that your existing friends and family try to set you up on friend dates. On one such occasion, when my mother and her friend connected their daughters ‘who were looking for friends in London’, I met up with a girl who had been living in London for no less than 8 years, thinking she was helping out a newcomer (3 years deep). That relationship was not meant to be and I believe our respective relationships with our mothers suffered as well. It does happen every so often that you are connected by someone else and it just works. In London it has happen three times, this particular time it was my step-brother Lopo who put me in touch with Rachel, a foodie, setting up her own catering business who is a super cool East London chick and we ate a great, simply meal together and just chatted and chatted forever. The plan was to meet in Shoreditch, no small task in the snow (this post is about as current as the January snow storms), at a place called Rochelle Canteen. I took the Hammersmith and City line, which means it’s a miracle I made it all, and even found the restaurant which is located in a schoolyard behind a wall with no sign (further indication that I am a genius).
The Meal: The menu is simple and to the point. The ambience is no different. No nonsense. We were there for lunch, ordered starter and a main (see why I like this girl), we split the Oxtail Soup and the Roast Sirloin & Horseradish. Oxtail soup is one of those menu items that I cannot get enough of.Though how I try, I cannot not order it. The most popular way of serving it is usually in a consommé type broth, though usually more robust in flavour than a typical broth, with a dumpling or something with some of the meat. This was not that. It was Osso bucco in a soup; hearty and soulful, truly not what I was expecting but really delicious. The roast beef, was well roast beef. But perfectly cooked, the way you wish most of the roast beef you will ever have would be cooked.
For the main course, Rachel chose the Braised Faggot & Peas and I went with the Black Bream, Leek and Green Sauce. Being a prudish American I could never order a meal called Faggot but it was very good and not at all what I was expecting. I have always been under the impression that the non-pejorative term meant a bundle of sticks, therefore I was, perhaps foolishly, expecting a bundle of something rather than basically one big meatball. At New Year’s I resolved to eat more fish, this was one of my inaugural meals and I was not to be disappointed. The skin was perfectly crispy while the flesh was tender and moist. As for the sides, well you might comment on a sort of lacklustre colour profile going on, they were the best that the dead of winter will lend to a restaurant trying to source local and in season food.
For desert (yep, it was that type of meal) we split the Prune & Almond Tart. Since childhood, I have avoided the prune like the plague associating it with regulating one’s tummy. My views have now shifted. For a dried fruit it still holds onto a bit of the succulence of the original fruit and the combination with the almond was great.
Closing Thoughts: Rochelle Canteen, tucked away in a school yard, serves good solid fare. It was a pleasant excursion from West London and a great casual place to meet a new friend. Also its BYOB with a £5 corkage fee.
Silverware: Fittingly school canteen like
Damage: Don’t she paid, but I am guessing pretty reasonable