Although the environs of London’s Brick Lane (Well… I guess it’s actually Shoreditch) are most usually thought of as being home to the city’s most persistent Indian restaurant hawkers (“Two of you eat for five pounds… and a free bottle of wine… TWO free bottles of wine!!!”), it is certainly not an area that comes to my mind immediately when running through the myriad London postcodes and seeking out culinary excellence.
New Zealander Margot Henderson has oft been referred to as British Food’s Best Kept Secret, and after enjoying a thoroughly satisfying luncheon at her establishment Rochelle Canteen I can understand why. Hidden away inside a converted Victorian school in Arnold Circus, it’s certainly not the easiest of places to find, and perhaps this of one of the reasons I found the spot so appealing, feeling that I had been allowed in on some gastronomic secret society or something.
Our host for the afternoon was out great pal Chef Fergus Henderson, forever a source of both the insightful of wisdoms as well as the most hilarious of ribald tales. Upon Fergus’ arrival the pretty flowers in the centre were swiftly and dramatically whisked from the table by Margot without a word, replaced by a beautiful plate of whole radishes and a healthy sprinkle of celery salt… much to our confusion.
“She knows I hate flowers on the table” he explained, crunching away on the delicious platter with abandon whilst shrugging.
And so began our extended lunch at Rochelle Canteen, replete with a smashing couple of esoteric reds courtesy of Fergus (Rochelle Canteen does not have a licence at this point in time)… and a wee splash of Sloe Gin.
Margot’s touch in the kitchen is something that really worked for me, the dishes simple and surely the antithesis of contrived. These days it’s often considered a cliché to talk of “letting the ingredients speak for themselves”, but there is a delicacy and grace to Margot’s cooking that makes the handful of components in each measured dish truly sing.
I think I may have found my new favourite London restaurant.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he looks forward to dining at Margot’s place again soon.