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Chez Rowley at Laylow review: Don’t miss this nostalgic pop-up in Notting Hill

Rowley Leigh returns to the capital’s restaurant scene with a new residency at the Notting Hill member’s club

Rowley Leigh is one of the founding fathers of modern British cooking, the man behind such well-loved (and missed) restaurants as Le Café Anglais and, of course, Kensington Place, where Princess Diana was a regular. Now, aged 73, he’s back, with Chez Rowley at Laylow, a pop-up bistro at the Notting Hill members’ club. Be quick –  the simple, joyful dishes with an Italian accent are in the club until 22 December.

Chez Rowley At Laylow Review: The Must Visit Pop-Up 2023Pin
Rowley Leigh and Taz Fustok

Pop-ups are not the preserve of the hip young pan-rattler. Veteran chef Rowley Leigh, 73, is at the helm of the season’s most talked about residency: Chez Rowley at Laylow on Golborne Road in west London. Consultancies aside, Leigh hasn’t done a restaurant in a while. I last ate his parmesan custard and anchovy toast at his residency at Parabola (now the Design Kitchen) at the Design Museum; prior to that, it would have been Le Café Anglais in Bayswater (which he sold in 2014) where I could never resist the pike boudin. Casting minds further to the 1980s and 1990s, Leigh was regarded as “one of the founding fathers of modern British cooking” during his time at Kensington Place, one of the late Princess Diana’s favoured haunts.

Chez Rowley At Laylow Review: The Must Visit Pop-Up 2023Pin

The reason for the regular FT columnist’s return to active service? He was “bored” apparently. His residency at Laylow, Taz Fustok’s restaurant and club in an old pub beneath Trellick Tower, is his chance to test his mettle at an unprecedentedly difficult time for London restaurants. It’s a fun place to enjoy a long Sunday lunch, cocktails, or supper with friends. The Bella Freud design is cheeky and boho, with pink velvet for days and covetable woven chandeliers hung with monkeys. Leigh can’t possibly get bored here. 

Chez Rowley At Laylow Review: The Must Visit Pop-Up 2023Pin

In his open kitchen at Chez Rowley at Laylow, Leigh cooks bistro food that speaks with a pronounced Italian accent. The septuagenarian’s seasonal menu couldn’t be more on trend. Old school Italian is back in style; you’ll see ‘forgotten’ dishes on the menu at Dalla in Hackney and Polentina in Bow, both in east London. Leigh leads the charge for them in the west.

Chez Rowley At Laylow Review: The Must Visit Pop-Up 2023Pin

So as wonderful as it is to reacquaint oneself with Leigh’s signature salsify fritters and his parmesan custard and anchovy toast, it’s even more pleasing to read a menu full of old-fashioned dishes so seasonal that if you don’t eat them this year, you’ll have to wait until next year to get another chance. Cotechino sausage with lentils, salsa verde and mustard fruits, a dish from Emilia-Romagna is one such. The only time I usually eat it is when I cook it myself (it’s a traditional Italian New Year’s Eve dish) so it’s a treat to try a chef’s version, that so cleverly balances the understated lentils with punchy salsa and the sweetness of the jewel-like candied fruits. Rustic cod brandade with a white cabbage and shrimp salad, is a little underpowered by comparison.

The menu is centred around sharing dishes including bone-in sirloin, steamed Dover sole, and an Elizabeth David dish that has become a hero at Laylow, the poulet antiboise, roasted with onions, black olives and anchovies. Wanting to try as much as possible, however, we order the individual plates. Steak is a bistro essential; Leigh chooses featherblade, an undersung cut that’s full of flavour; toast and dripping, your granny’s favourite, on the side is an inspired garnish. Another main course of celeriac and truffle lasagne, with thin alternating sheets of pasta and celeriac, is vegetarian cuisine at its richest and most festive. A whole lettuce on the side with sharp lemon dressing is the perfect foil.

“The reason for the regular FT columnist’s return to active service? He was “bored” apparently. His residency at Laylow, Taz Fustok’s restaurant and club in an old pub beneath Trellick Tower, is his chance to test his mettle at an unprecedentedly difficult time for London restaurants. It’s a fun place to enjoy a long Sunday lunch, cocktails, or supper with friends”
Chez Rowley At Laylow Review: The Must Visit Pop-Up 2023Pin
Chez Rowley At Laylow Review: The Must Visit Pop-Up 2023Pin

Chez Rowley has us feeling so nostalgic, we pounce on the prospect of sherry trifle for pudding but, alas, it’s off; rice pudding swirled with quince is a decent second best. If you too share a love of old-fashioned cooking, you’ll need to hotfoot it there now. Leigh is in residence only until 22 December.

THE LOWDOWN:

Meal for two (with wine): £160

Signature Dishes: Salsify Fritters; Parmesan Custard & Anchovy Toast

What to drink: Wines from “Rowley’s Italian Cellar”


10 Golborne Road, Ladbroke Grove, London W10 5PE
chezrowley.com

Photography: Steven Joyce
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