You wouldn’t even know Rochelle Canteen was there. It’s hidden behind lanky walls a few muted backstreets off Shoreditch High Street. There’s no signage and you have to be buzzed in, which could make you feel like it’s undiscovered, though the restaurant comes recommended by several prominent reviewers, has a reputation as a haunt for creative types, and like Brat recently featured in an episode of Netflix’s Somebody Feed Phil.
The door eventually clicks and you’re in a lovely garden with wooden benches and shrubs that climb and hang and decorate, and down a short path you can hear canteen sounds: the mid-pitched chorus of conversation and pan clatter.
The restaurant is set in the converted bike shed of an old school, but most of the tables are in conservatory extensions with leafy ceilings, stringed light bulbs and wobbly perspex walls. It’s a bohemian vibe: the furniture makes a show of being mismatched and shabby, the service is informal, and the people in charge hugged several arriving customers as we ate. Even the cutlery looks like an old school remnant, though a look on their Instagram page tells you it was designed by a Danish architect.
The menu is ever changing, which could explain why the descriptions are so coy, with only two or three central ingredients listed for each dish. I suspect instead the brevity is an ethos thing. The dishes themselves represent “brutish English minimalism”, as one of the aforementioned reviewers Jimi Famurewa wrote. I had cockle and crab broth to start, followed by roast chicken with aioli and a side order of jersey royals. The food was tasty but the brutish minimalism left me with not that much to say. Maybe that was whoever wrote out the menu’s problem.
It didn’t come cheap for what is served up and for that reason we probably wouldn’t go back, but it was nice to see what all the artsy, deliberate unfussiness was about. 7/10