Despite the name, there’s nothing small about the flavours at Angie’s Little Food Shop in Chiswick. Emily Manson meets owner and chef Angie Steele
With restaurants, the devil is always in the detail, and no-one is more aware of this than Angie Steele, founder of Angie’s Little Food Shop in Chiswick. When I meet her a week after opening the café there are rings of activity swirling around her. She’s buzzing with energy and she’s loving it.
A former ‘lifer’ from the Gordon Ramsay stable, Angie has opened up the divine little café on Chiswick High Road, just next to the Sainsbury’s Local. But don’t be fooled by the unassuming Scandi-esque exterior, her goal is nothing short of culinary world domination – her aim, she admits, is to be a modern-day Martha Stewart.
Having spent nearly 10 years heading up various Ramsay establishments including Maze, Claridges and Royal Hospital Road, last year she made her break for independence and delved into the world of lunch boxes and food platters, as well as heading up the Avenue Cookery School in Putney. But this wasn’t enough, she explains:
‘I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life under a railway arch making food for corporate lunches.’
And so the café was born. Chiswick was Angie’s number one choice, as its array of other foodie establishments meant she knew locals would love and appreciate her food. And although it’s early days, so far she’s been proved right. In her first weekend of opening they were rammed – far beyond expectations – and her success seems to be continuing, taking the High Road by storm.
The reason for this is, as you would expect from someone who’s spent a career in fine dining, the attention to detail. As we are chatting, she breaks away to guide the staff – ‘just add a little more cheese and ham to that croissant to perk it up and make it really gorgeous’, peppered with ‘We’re just gonna freshen that and jazz it up a little to make it totally scrummy’ to a customer who’s ordered an avocado, rocket and smoked salmon open sandwich.
Her food is all about the ingredients. Healthy yes, but terrifically tasty too. ‘If I haven’t got top ingredients then I’ve got nothing,’ she says bluntly, adding ‘if you have great ingredients you don’t need to do that much to them, just let them speak for themselves.’
And the attention to detail is not just directed at the food. Her loo has received as much attention as the café. It is gorgeously decorated with stylish feature wallpaper. Even her crockery is hand made and hand-sourced from artist friends back in South Africa. With each piece totally individual and used to decorate the café as well as being available to buy, it adds an authentic artisan feel to the proceedings, that is only enhanced by the fact that Angie is there as busy in the kitchen as she is meeting and greeting her morning customers – some of whom appear to have already become regulars.
She comes from a pedigree culinary background, with parents in hospitality (her father owns the iconic Brad’s Grill in Cape Town) as well as her time working for Ramsay. She wants nothing short of perfection and is used to working hard. ‘I’ve got hospitality in my blood I guess and am used to hard graft after working for someone like Gordon, where if you’re a woman you have to work doubly hard and doubly fast to constantly prove yourself or you get trampled on.’
But after years as senior sous chef where she didn’t do much cooking, she’s finally enjoying her work again. ‘It’s so much fun because it’s such a passion it feels more of a hobby than work. It’s really nice not to be stuck to anything and able to refine the concept day by day. We’re talking and really listening to our customers and making changes based on their feedback – we want to make it nice and homely for all,’ she explains.
And back to the dream of culinary world domination. In the near future Angie plans to open up the downstairs kitchen for cookery lessons and the café at night for special events such as tastings and food pairing evenings as well as adding hot dishes and a children’s menu to the café offering.
On top of that, there’s the food platters, which she has continued to offer, and also a looming career in TV. Then of course there is the goal of expansion and no doubt the world will then become her, if not oyster, then her hand made, lightly toasted, perfectly seasoned eggs benedict.