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Ex-River Cafe Chef Will Open Handsome Little Restaurant by the Canal in Hackney in August

Chef Max Rocha is opening Cafe Cecilia, which will probably lean into the normcore aesthetic of peers like Cafe Deco’s Anna Tobias

Overhead table shot of someone passing a plate of ham, butter beans, and cabbage at one of ex-River Cafe chef Max Rocha’s first supper clubs, Pacific Social Club in 2016.
Ham, butter beans, and cabbage from one of Max Rocha’s first supper clubs at Pacific Social Club in 2016.
Jacob Lillis

Updated 15.06.21 with opening date and confirmation of the opening team.

Chef Max Rocha — a chef with serious pedigree and someone some in the industry might call an up-and-coming talent — will open his debut restaurant in Hackney on Thursday 19 August.

Rocha, who has worked at the restaurant widely considered to be the city’s best Italian (The River Cafe) as well as the pioneering St. John Bread and Wine, and Skye Gyngell’s Spring, will open Cafe Cecilia at 32 Andrews Road in the hip east London locale, according to Hot Dinners. Cecilia will live in a new build development on the edge of the Regent’s Canal, equidistant from Broadway Market and Mare Street.

Rocha announced that he’d captured the site on the 1 April, but has since kept details quiet. In April, Rocha told Eater London he was “opening a cafe this summer.”

Today, 15 June, Rocha has shared a few more details with Eater London. As well as taking cues from his former employers, the chef says he has taken inspiration from growing up in Ireland and the cooking of his mum, Odette. He’s promised dishes such as ham hock, butter beans, and mustard; potato and onion galettes; and brown bread ice cream to feature on the menu. When the restaurant opens in August, it will begin serving breakfast and lunch and eventually moving into evening services.

Rocha has told Eater London that Kate Towers, former manager at Shoreditch’s favourite conservatory-garden restaurant Rochelle Canteen, will become the manager, while Rosie McBurney, formerly of Spring, and Paris Tzimtalis from St. John Bread and Wine, will both join Rocha in the kitchen.

Through lockdown recently, Rocha has been operating a small provisioners and takeaway food service out of a flower shop and creative studio called A Flower Shop on a similarly hip stretch of Hackney: Chatsworth Road.

Rocha, who is the son of the fashion designer John Rocha and brother of fashion designer Simone, belongs very much at an exciting intersection of high fashion, art, and food. A cursory glance at the chef’s Instagram grid reveals more than a couple of similarities with the still-life style and execution of Beige Food Master Anna Tobias, who opened her own (mega hit) debut, Cafe Deco in Bloomsbury, last autumn. It is equal parts British and (Southern) European — stylish without being fancy. It could be called “normcore cookery.”

Just today, the chef teased a breakfast plate of fried eggs with sage, and a potato rosti with some cracked black pepper. It is the likes of that, or fried artichokes with butter beans and “good oil” that guests can expect when Cecilia does open.

Rocha’s restaurant is one to pique the curiosity of those whose interests are split between style and substance. In other words it is likely to both look good and be good.

But the industry will have to wait and see.


Lancaster Place, , England WC2R 1LA 020 3011 0115 Visit Website

Broadway Market

Broadway Market, , England E8 4QJ

Rochelle Canteen

16 Playground Gardens, , England E2 7FA 020 3928 8328 Visit Website

Cafe Deco

43 Store St., London, WC1E 7DB +44 20 7323 4501

St. JOHN Bread and Wine

94-96 Commercial Street, , England E1 6LZ 020 7251 0848 Visit Website

The River Cafe

Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London, W6 9HA Visit Website