If you’re in the neighbourhood for breakfast or lunch, do pop into this charming little eatery
The Spear’s office has recently moved back to West London, and I must admit it is an area I’m not hugely familiar with despite starting my Spear’s days in Notting Hill Gate. Gastronomically, I was a little miffed as we were leaving Clerkenwell and all of its wonderful eateries behind. No more St John, Sushi Tetsu or Workshop for me. I have, however, found a new bolthole courtesy of an old connection.
Natasha Abraham was the year below me at college in Oxford, also studying German but with Russian as an added bonus, if I remember correctly. Towards the end of her first year, though, she left college to work as a chef at the River Café. That was the last I’d heard until last month when she got back in touch. Natasha has now branched out on her own and opened up a little café just off Portobello called The Orchard Canteen.
What a beautiful little place it is; a few small tables and stools, beautiful cottage flowers dotted around the room and fantastic looking produce on the simple wooden counter top. Yes, I know Natasha from six years ago, but I am not writing any of this to do her a favour. The place is genuinely gorgeous and so is the food. You can ask my colleague Sophie for a second opinion if you don’t believe me.
Every day there is a small selection of homemade bagels, stews, soups and sweet treats. On the day we popped in for lunch we tried a lamb tagine with more lamb in then I’ve had anywhere — meltingly tender in a rich, perfumed sauce peppered with dates and chickpeas and drizzled with yoghurt and a generous amount of chopped coriander. It was delicious and hugely hearty, especially for the price tag, which came around £7.
We also had an asparagus, pea and broad bean soup, silky smooth and creamy with proper pieces of the lovely spring veg throughout, all with a little bite and their vibrant green intact. If that wasn’t enough we also tried the lentil and bread stew, which was heady with good, peppery olive oil and Mediterranean flavours. The fresh bread comes in a lovely little box and the water in vintage cut glass jugs.
We also had a little homemade ice-cream – a fresh, clean yoghurt ice cream and a pleasingly unadulterated and tart blood orange sorbet — sprinkled with pomegranate seeds soaked in a delicate rosewater syrup. I’ve never seen Sophie happier at pudding time.
The café is full of regulars, almost everyone was on first name terms with Natasha, who not only runs the café but cooks and serves her customers on a daily basis. She has pulled together a real treat of a place and despite her reluctance to be in the limelight (turning down television work) she has been offered a book deal with Ebury Press and will be a published author come summer 2014.
If you’re in the neighbourhood for breakfast or lunch do go as The Orchard Canteen is utterly charming and Natasha is surely a name to watch out for in the culinary world.