A restaurant that started as a hymn to rotisserie chicken has evolved into a Provençal-inspired sharing menu celebrating the simplicity of French country cooking. Katherine Price digs in.
Royale started out delivering corn-fed Anjou rotisserie chicken, potatoes and salad to east London residents when Michelin-starred Leroy restaurant in Shoreditch was forced to close during lockdown. Due to its success, the concept was revived as a residency at East London Liquor Company's Bow Wharf premises, and the reins handed over to chef Lucy Timm, who has kept the rotisserie element but evolved Royale into a rustic, Provençal-style sharing menu.
Like many, Timm fell into cheffing. After completing a master's at the Royal College of Art in digital communications, she worked for a London production company, but after a year she applied for a commis chef role at Sager & Wilde in Bethnal Green, having previously worked in catering between university terms. She got the job and fell in love with the kitchen.
She went on to work as a chef de partie at Sager & Wilde's sister site in Old Street, Fare Bar & Canteen, before taking on the same role at Leroy. She took over as head chef of Royale in April. "When Royale reopened they wanted someone to come in with a fresh pair of eyes and Sam [Kamienko, former head chef at Leroy] put my name forward," says Timm.
"It's a big step up, but I'm loving it. It's been great to have that kind of creative freedom, to be able to do what I like and for someone to trust me to be able to do that, even though I've only been in kitchens for about four years."
The concept has moved away from delivery and snacks towards a small sharing menu, guided by Lulu's Provençal Table by Richard Olney. The book, a record of recipes cooked by Lulu Peyraud, the former proprietor of vineyard Domaine Tempier in southern France, is "the bible for what we're doing", says Timm. "There are no big frills; it's all about the flavour, and the heart and the soul that you put into each dish," she adds. She says she always asks herself the question, "Would Lulu do that?" to avoid overthinking dishes or becoming too obsessed with what they look like.
Timm and her sous chef are catering for around 50-60 covers on a busy night – the restaurant has just 10 covers inside with up to 30 alfresco. Dishes can be as simple as St Marcellin cheese warmed in the oven and served with grapes and sourdough baguette from Pavillion, which has a stand a short walk away in Victoria Park. Bermondsey-based Ham & Cheese Company provides the restaurant's cheeses and cured meats, with other suppliers including Bethnal Green Fish, vegetables from Natoora and Oui Chef, and oils from Belazu.
The main event, the chicken, comes from HG Walter and is brined for three hours before being rubbed with a mixture of herbs de Provençe, cayenne pepper, paprika, white pepper, salt, garlic and onion powder. It is roasted on a vintage Rotisol rotisserie oven for 45-50 minutes and rested for 15-20. The resting juices are topped up with a bit of beef stock to make a rich jus – if they haven't already been absorbed by the potatoes cooked beneath the chicken. Timm is also looking into using the rotisserie for duck and other poultry.
"I didn't realise how much I loved French food until I started working on the menu. You can do so much. With Provençe-style cooking there's a lot more leeway; you've got the influences of all these other coastlines like Spain and Italy, so you have a lot more to work with."
Her favourite dessert on the Royale menu is a chocolate ganache with roasted white chocolate crème anglaise, made by roasting white chocolate in the oven to caramelise it and slowly whisking that through a crème anglaise to infuse the custard. This is served with a hazelnut tuile and finished with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt flakes.
The drinks list is, of course, French-based, curated by Leroy owners and sommeliers Ed Thaw and Jack Lewens and Royale's bar manager Harry East. Wines from Domaine Tempier are served by both the bottle and the glass. Cocktails have been designed by the East London Liquor Company using its own-brand gins, whiskies, vodkas and rums.
At the time of writing, the number of covers had tripled following a glowing review from Grace Dent in The Guardian, and the concept had extended its residency into 2022.
From the menu
- ‘Panisses': chickpea fries, sage and aïoli £8
- Provençal flatbread with caramelised onions, anchovies and black olives £13
- Sautéed greens with mustard vinaigrette and pine nuts £7.50
- Chicory, walnut, Roquefort and red grape salad £12
- Braised chickpeas, chard, butternut squash and pistachio pistou £13
- Baked fennel and celeriac with Parmesan and nutmeg cream £14
- Rotisserie Anjou chicken in herbes de Provence whole, £30; half, £19
- Chocolate ganache, crème anglaise and hazelnut tuile £8.50
- Apple and almond tart with Calvados chantilly cream £9.50
- Tomme de Savoie with fig and grape confiture and baguette £9
Royale @ East London Liquor Company, Bow Wharf, Unit GF1, 221 Grove Road, London E3 5SN www.royalelondon.com
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