Good old fashioned English cuisine is hard to beat. There’s nothing more comforting than sitting down to a hearty shepherd’s pie or tucking into a warm apple crumble. Unfortunately, in London, this can be hard to find, when there are so many twists on dishes and artistic slithers of ingredients – all a little too pretentious.
But fear not, dear Londoners, because Rowley’s is here to save the day, and I can say, having met head chef Justin Saunders over dinner, this truly is a no-nonsense, wholesome British restaurant.
Walking into Rowley’s one immediately gets a sense of the heritage of the restaurant. Mirrored walls give even the narrowest parts of the restaurant a wide-open feeling and an ornate, high ceiling makes the space light and comfortable.
Upon sitting down we were greeted by sommelier, Rok, aside from being an expert in wine pairing, Rok also specialises in beer pairings, claiming to be able to pair beer, wine and food together in complete harmony. We put him to the test. He passed.
The first thing we were presented with was battered haddock. Simple and understated in all the right ways, the fish was served on a stick with the intention of being “eaten like a lollipop”. Perhaps a little gimmicky, but all without compromising the taste of the food at all. Following this we were brought out a plate of various cured meats including venison salami and British-bred wagyu beef. Each meat was prepared wonderfully, melting in the mouth and full of flavour.
It is at this point I must recognise the amount of care Justin puts into sourcing all of his ingredients. It was clear in the way he was discussing his produce with us how passionate he is about what he does, and it comes across in the food. Although cured meats are typically associated with Spain or Italy, Justin’s meats are all British. Beef from Hertfordshire, venison from Scotland, and even Culatello from Hackney!
Each of the mains, again, was simple British food cooked to perfection. Shepherd’s pie, poached haddock curry and beef and ale casserole. Each dish was exactly what it said on the tin, no pretence or nitrogen-frozen surprises. A very refreshing and honest way to eat out in London.
Finally came dessert. It’s hard not to sound like a broken record here but both the black forest gateau and blood orange posset were well prepared and delicious, although Justin does have some fun deconstructing the gateau and playing around with the plate – one of the only chances he really gets on his mission for non-pretentiousness.
In summary there is little to say other than if you’re looking for truly home-grown, home-style cooking with some fantastic ales and wines paired to perfection then look no further than Rowley’s.