Neatly tucked away in the grounds of an old Victorian school, that’s just around the corner from me, is Rochelle Canteen. I sussed it out for breakfast earlier this week, but lunch is when it’s really happening. Simple, seasonal, Modern European meets British food. It’s a canteen that comes from good breading, set up in 2006 by Fergus Henderson’s (of St John restaurant fame) wife, Margot.
Today, the sun is out (again) and behind a small bricked wall – I did do a turn of the lovely rotunda in Arnold Circus, thinking I was lost the first time I came in search – is a buzz of happy lunchtime diners.
There’s no sign, just a name on the buzzer by the old ‘Boys’ school gate. So I can be forgiven for being completely unaware. I’m so pleased a fellow foodie in Sydney and Time Out London alerted me to its existence.
The small bright space, that was once the school bike shed, flows out of the open doors in to the school grounds. Long share tables are set up inside and little tables sit between buckets of herbs and bicycles outside. I’ve scored a table underneath the grapevine, half-sun half-shade. There are even a few deck brightly coloured deck chairs scattered on the grass as people wait for tables, shoes off and chilled bottles of wine in tow.
The crowd is locals, creatives and fashion types (the old school now houses a clothing design company) – it must be torture walking past this all day, just looking at all the yummy things on offer, wishing you hadn’t just packed a sandwich.
I sit on half-a-jug of Elderflower (2.50) and order 3 courses… Which I admit, I absolutely don’t need as I’m dining at The Fat Duck tonight!! I blame my over-excitement for the over-ordering of Octopus vinaigrette (7.50) and Sweetbreads, broad beans, peas and bacon (13.50).
The Plaice, samphire and cucumber (16.50) and the Lamb leg, runner beans and anchovy (16.00) are delivered to the table next to me. And I’m hoping I don’t have food envy. The perils of dining alone, not as many dishes to try.
The octopus salad is so bright and refreshing. Chunky tender tentacles that have been slightly pickled, juicy tomatoes that taste so red and crunchy green capsicum are dressed in a sharp vinaigrette. It’s so light and delicious.
The Sweetbreads look amazing and after the first mouthful I order some bread (again, I really don’t need this stomach filler) but the juices are so delicious, it would be rude not to mop it all up. The sweetbreads are soft, crunchy-fried on the outside and full of flavour. And the beans are lovely and still a little tender.
Is ice cream really considered a course? Not really – you can eat ice cream anywhere, anytime. I couldn’t go past the Gooseberry ripple ice cream (4.00) on this hot sunny day. Sweet and creamy ice cream with tart swirls and jammy lumps. Yum. They’ve given me 3 spoons, I don’t know who they think I’m going to be sharing this with, or maybe they just think I should be…
Rochelle Canteen – Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, E2 7ES London – 020 7729 5677