Restaurant of The Week: Chef Rowley Leigh of Chez Rowley

Words by
Lisa Barnard

2nd November 2023

Chef Rowley Leigh, of Kensington Place fame and a spring chicken at 73, has returned to the stove after 10 years, at Chez Rowley in Ladbroke’s Grove’s Golborne Road, but just until 22 December 2023. SPHERE’s Lisa Barnard retraces her fond taste memories

If you’ve been around the restaurant block for as long I have, a foodie since my 20s, the name Rowley Leigh sparks various chain reactions in the cerebral cortex and gets the gastric juices flowing, most expectantly. My memories of Kensington Place on Kensington Church Street, a place where I grew up in my teenage years, are vivid, but the restaurant launched just afterwards, 36 years ago. It served unswervingly (new word) great food, it was glamorous, never pretentious. It had buzz and you always came away feeling that you had a great evening out and eaten deliciously. I've interviewed the man himself at least once in the past and he was always engaging. Now at 73, he is still showing his verve in his pop-up kitchen in Golborne Road which he has opened with Laylow founder Taz Fuzstock (pictured above).

Opening of Chez Rowley
Rowleigh Leigh of Chez Rowley (all photography by Steven Joyce)

Rowley Leigh of Chez Rowley

Discovering that Chez Rowley was launching this autumn on Golborne Road off Ladbroke Grove for a brief period (until December 2023) meant I had to visit. I was delighted to meet the chef himself, cheerful, chatty and looking ebullient. We ate well. The cuttlefish, clams and butter beans as a starter is a winner. My guest and I went for meaty options: roast partridge, braised cabbage and bacon, and for myself the feather blade steak, ox tongue, beetroot with horse radish. They were both good, although the steak was not quite as special as I hoped. Next time I would go for a sharing dish, such as the Poulet Antiboise, which is reportedly the pièce de resistance. The Bone-in-Sirloin Bearnaise I would imagine is special too, so take a gourmet carnivore as your companion and tuck in. The steamed Dover sole for two also sounds a treat.

Opening of Chez Rowley - Fish

For pudding, both the panna cotta with raspberries and the roast pears with Bakewell pudding took me back to the Rowley Leigh of yesteryear.

This is a pared-down, simple bistro version of Rowley Leigh, but has all the vestiges of his signature cooking. Bag a table while you can until 22nd December.

Chez Rowley by Rowley Leigh - clams
Cuttlefish and clams being prepared before their humble serving on toast
Chez Rowley by Rowley Leigh - Escalivada
Escalivada with girolles
Chez Rowley by Rowley Leigh - Poulet Antiboise
Poulet antiboise with anchovies, black olives, garlic, onion, thyme and white wine served with hispi cabbage and pangrattato
Chez Rowley by Rowley Leigh - Bavette dish
Raw bavette, cep toast and gribiche dressing