Rochelle School, Greater Arnold Circus E2 7ES
0207 729 5677
AKA: The one that's East London's best kept lunch secret
The deal: Is this the best ever school canteen? Yes, yes it is. Now less of a Victorian school and more of a home for Shoreditch's creatives, finding the Rochelle Canteen is all part of the charm of this place. It's all very Secret Garden-y, hidden behind a old-school (literally) door off Arnold Circus marked "Boys" that you have to buzz in to be allowed entry. Once inside, it's obvious why this small restaurant (which once used to be bike sheds, BTW) is so well-loved by locals. Charming staff, a menu that doesn't baffle you with choices and a peaceful space to relax and have a good feed - hats off to owner, Margot Henderson. The British summer had finally kicked in on our visit, so we sat outside, eating under vine leaves, surrounded by flowers and watching deck chairs be put up on the lawn. We almost considered pitching a tent and never leaving, but then that might have been a bit weird. So we settled for lunch instead.
The food: The menu changes on a daily basis, but it's always a masterclass in simple, tasty British cuisine. Once we'd nipped up the street to buy a bottle of wine from the Italian deli (it's strictly BYOB here) we picked on some deliciously salty and almost buttery olives (£2.5). Starters included the impressive whole head of artichoke with vinaigrette (£6.5) or devilled crab and herb fritters (£8), but we got stuck straight in to the fish. The steamed sea trout (£16.5) came with a pleasing only-just-cooked wobble and was served everyone's favourite coastal green, samphire, and a butter lemon sauce that had us mopping it up with bread afterwards. The huge, pan-fried Lemon Sole (£16) was every-so-slightly nicely crunchy, set off well with the accompanying tarragon mayonnaise and a good sized bowl of spring greens (£3.5). Dessert was a moreish nostalgia trip of peach jelly, sweet vanilla ice-cream and a gingernut biscuit.
The signature dish: We keep hearing good things about their tarts - plum and almond, in this case (£5.5).
The chef: Anna Tobias
When to dine: This is a strictly lunch place, so is only open for lunching Mon-Fri, midday until 3pm. Or stop by for cake from 3-4.30pm.
Damage to pocket: While it's a little more expensive than an average lunch deal, a main is generally around £16 and three courses would cash in at about £30.
File under: Mid-week munches, Pay-day blow out, Celebrate good times, Great with mates, Chomping Ground favourite