It seems that the only restaurant trend that London has stuck to over the last few years is that in whichever way is demanded of us, we are willing to put effort into eating out. We’ll book the best restaurants months in advance, or stand for hours outside the no-bookings places, or eat our dinner standing up in the rain to get a taste of the latest street food. Rochelle Canteen is even more effort than any of those options. It’s only open weekday lunchtimes (and not on Bank Holidays) so visiting it actually requires you to use annual leave. But crack out that leave planner or pretend you’re going to the dentist, because this place is as refreshing as a weekend break in Shangri-La.
Their menu is full of whichever fine ingredients they’ve got their hands on that day, so you can guarantee it will be tempting, weather-appropriate and absolutely delicious. Our starter was a light tangle of dressed crab and monk’s beard, a soft seaweed which leant the meaty crab an almost sweet flavour next to its own salty, nutritious, tang of green. A little roast pigeon turned out to be more trouble than it was worth as I completely embarrassed myself by taking to tearing the meat off with my fingers, getting so carried away that a tiny piece flicked onto the white wall behind me and stuck (Dear RC: I’m so sorry!). It was juicy though, and a good rich pink in the middle. The potato, pancetta and radicchio bake it came alongside was packed with salt and sage and smelt like butter even from the other side of the table. It tasted so, so good. My mouth is watering just looking at the photo.
And the food was only just the best bit of a visit to Rochelle Canteen. The service is efficient and professional with a natural, subtle warmth. The venue is just as lovely as the staff; a converted bike shed with one glass side that opens into the sunshine of a grassy walled garden. With a sprinkler glistening on the lawn. And a Jack Russell called Arnold hoovering up lost morsels of lunch from around your feet. It was like having lunch in an Enid Blyton novel. The only thing for it is to quit my job so that I can become a regular.
Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, E2 7ES, 020 7729 5677