As small boys, home-cooked Algerian food played a massive role in Ghiles and Nabil Kadi’s upbringing and emigrating to France fuelled their love of fine-cuisine.
The brothers went on to become chefs for some of UK’s biggest names; Ghiles was Head Chef at Villandry in Great Portland St and Nabil worked for Planet Organic.
Now they run La Duchesse, a popular Stoke Newington café. Everything (apart from the pastries) is cooked from scratch in-house using recipes inspired by their heritage. They have their own unique spice-mixes, their cakes are stunning and their coffee (Italian fair-trade by Miko) hits the spot.
They took time out to tell See you in Stokey their story.
Ghiles said: “Our background definitely influences our food – we use a lot of French techniques. My mum was an amazing cook – she grew her own vegetables and, as children, we helped her a lot. We also have our own way of mixing spices and import them from Algeria.
“Our dad was a businessman and we moved to France when I was 12 for his work. In Algeria times were tough – France offered more opportunity for work.”
Ghiles, later moved to England to study hotel management and went on to become a chef. The brothers live in the area and longed for a place that sold good breakfast and pastries. Eight years ago, when a local pizzeria closed down, they saw the opportunity, quit their jobs and launched La Duchesse. The décor is rustic and underplays the extraordinary quality of the food here. Some locals describe this place as: “Stokey’s best kept secret.”
He added: “Our food is modern-European, with Algerian and French flavours. Our shakshuka is cooked the Algerian way – you need to try it! We are always travelling to France and Algeria and bringing home new ideas.
“We’ve built up every single recipe from experience – adapting until it’s just right. Our cakes and pastries are lower in sugar – they taste good, they’re lighter and healthier and customers like them.
“It’s very important that our food is attractive – that’s why the cakes are in the front window.”
The pastries at La Duchesse are good. Ghiles added: “We don’t have the space to make croissants here but we were determined to get the very best. We went through 20 suppliers before we found these!”
La Duchess is open daily for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.