Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari

Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari

Over the course of the next three years, as well as getting married, the couple found a former pub in the heart of Notting Hill which they would transform into a relaxed neighbourhood site. The aim was never to try and replicate the fine dining style of the restaurants associated with the Roux dynasty, but rather to create somewhere more accessible. ‘We always said that we wanted to make a restaurant that we would want to eat at on a regular basis,’ says Emily. ‘We didn’t want it to be super high-end and only be somewhere you ate at once a year for that exclusive meal. The focus is on great food and friendly service without it being too fancy.’

Caractère finally opened its doors in 2018, serving a menu taking influence from Diego and Emily’s time spent in both Italy and France. ‘These places are part of our character,’ Diego says with a smile. ‘I’ve spent ten years of my life in France but I’ll never forget where I came from. Italian cuisine is all about sharing and there tends to be a more relaxed ambience, whereas in France there’s a little more etiquette and everything’s a bit stricter. At Caractère we try to take the best elements of both cuisines and put them together.’

As a brand-new restaurant in a relatively residential area, the duo started off attracting as many people as possible with a simpler menu before allowing Caratère’s food to develop and evolve. ‘When we look back now at some of the plates we did when we first opened, we’re like ‘wow, we did that?’,’ laughs Emily. ‘It was very simple and the plates were a lot less eye-catching but it was necessary at the time. None of the neighbours knew what to expect and there were a lot of curious people opening the doors, so we just had to show them that we were actually doing really good food, and have built and built since then.’

Since 2018, things have not only continued to blossom at Caractère, which now appears in the Michelin guide, has two AA rosettes to its name and still serves to packed dining rooms, but the couple also now have a son, born during the first coronavirus lockdown. Diego and Emily could very easily have spent their careers working in and running already established restaurants within the wider Roux portfolio but were instead determined to make a name for themselves through their own project. Going on the success of Caractère so far, the risk they took has definitely paid off and the future is bright for these two chefs.

Three things you should know

Emily is Michel Roux Jr’s only child.

Instead of being split into starters, mains and desserts, the menu at Caractère is divided up into six sections: ‘curious’, ‘subtle’, ‘delicate’, ‘robust’, ‘strong’, and ‘greedy’.

Emily and Diego used the downtime during the various coronavirus lockdowns to source products from new suppliers, many of which they now use at the restaurant.