I have a confession: I’m not much of a fancy food person. Good food, served simply, goes a long way in my book. That’s probably why I’m so drawn to Fernandez & Wells. Launched in 2007 by Rick Wells and Jorge Fernandez, the mini-chain of London cafés has a guiding principle of serving food suitable for a shepherd’s knapsack. (Think good bread, wine, cheese, cured meats — simple, flavorful foods that travel well.) Couple that mission with Fernandez’s passion for good coffee, throw in some rustic baked goods, and you have a spot that beckons you in, whether you’re in search of morning caffeination, a hearty soup and chunk of bread at lunch time, or a relaxed evening outing of wine and charcuterie.
I’ve been visiting the cafés regularly since my first visit to London five years ago. I’m sure the initial draw was the cozy, minimalist interiors (courtesy of William Tozer Architecture and Design), but during that initial August lunch, my husband proclaimed the chicken sandwich we shared “excellent”, giving instant validation to my design-driven slog through the city. And now, as temporary Londoners, I’ve been able to visit all six locations. My favorite is probably Somerset House because, well, Somerset House! but we finally made it to the original, Lexington Street location just two weeks ago, and spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon sampling wine and grilled pimientos de padrón (peppers). The peppers were outstanding. The interiors were cozily charming. Let’s call it a tie.*
And happily, this fall Fernandez & Wells published a cookbook. Rustic tells the story of how the partnership began in 2005, complete with the trials and tribulations in finding the right London location, and yes, plenty of recipes, organized by time of day and beautifully photographed by Helen Cathcart. Rustic‘s tag line is “Simple food and drink, from morning to night” and I don’t think it gets much better than that. I’m sure that, back in the US, cooking from Rustic will be the genesis of many a happy madeleine moment.
* During the all-too-short London summer season, they make an outstanding iced tea.
all images, with exception of book covers, by jane potrykus (cover images from hardiegrant.co.uk and rizzoliusa.com)