How did La Rock get its name?
The name ‘La Rock’ comes steeped in local history. The area that many locals will know as ‘The Roach’ is actually a little lost in translation, having been bastardised from the French for the rock, ‘la Roche’. This name came about from the Napoleonic War, when the British used the captured French slaves to carve the rock from there, and the surrounding areas, to build the roads (in particular, the main road leading to us). As a result, La Rock uses snippets from both the French and British languages, respectively, to represent what we produce as our modern British cuisine infused with a subtle, French twist.
What’s different about your food?
Our food shows a serious passion for flavours, textures and balance. We focus our passion as Chefs to create well thought out and completely scrutinised dishes, often played out with a twist; be it deconstruction, plays on textures, or a little sense of humour. We’re excited to use seasonal ingredients and to keep our menu evolving from week to week. Our kitchen can be occasionally experimental as well as involving classic technique. We’re all about cherry-picking the best methods, ingredients and influences.
Over our 12 weeks thus far, the menu has seen classic French sauces, potatoes and cuts of meat, Carpaccio curing of beef, onion bhajis, spring rolls, curried soup, black pudding, takes on Welsh Rarebit, haggis, cappuccino-style soups, tarte tatin, chilled lasagnes. It’s a big stockpot of influences!
What’s different about your restaurant?
Besides our strive for quality and consistence, we’re maintaining one strict rule – La Rock is about occasion. It’s not a ‘pre-theatre’ bistro that rushes tables through for a next sitting, and our food really isn’t launched from the kitchen with the momentum of a train. We want our guests to take their time. It’s about subtlety; relaxing, unwinding and, above all, enjoying the food, wine (or beer…), ambience and surroundings. We’re quite particular about the loos, too!
What’s keeping you busy right now?
Refining our menus, playing around with techniques and combinations of textures, flavours and presentation. Keeping staff in the know as far as wine and food goes.
We’re looking to Christmas, and have a pretty special Christmas Day lunch planned. We’re holding back at about six or seven courses. We think.
Cobwebs – keeping on top of these appears to be the bane of my life, anyway. Old building, you know…
Who inspires you? Where do you find the inspiration for your dishes?
We’ve found that having two ‘Creative Managers’ (one being myself, and the other as Nick), who plan and design the menus, with different background and influences, plays really well into pushing forward. Executive Chef Nick Gillespie has a particularly classical background, although isn’t afraid of moving forwards with the times to tease the best out of his ingredients. A younger trained Chef, Matt has a more scientific approach, exploring techniques with dehydration, freeze-thawing and has a particular penchant for marshmallow.
Matching beer to food is in the ascendancy – fancy a “beer and food” matching night?
We’re more used to our wines, however we’d love to think about beer a little more. We’ve only got room for the Peroni and London Pride barrels from day to day, though we’d be very interested in marrying flavours from the plate to the pint! We might need your expertise on this one, though…
Read my La Rock Restaurant review.