SL Reviews: Rochelle Bar & Canteen

SL Reviews: Rochelle Bar & Canteen

A restaurant that’s been taken over by the duo behind Shoreditch’s best-kept secret, within a contemporary arts hub – you’d expect an arch statement. Instead, Rochelle Canteen’s Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold (the eponymous Arnold & Henderson catering team behind a slew of A-list parties) have embraced the bare-bones aesthetic of the ICA’s old modernist café-bar, and served up a deliciously restrained overhaul.

The setting…

The ICA opened in 1947 as a space for artists, writers and scientists to debate new ideas. In late 2017, Stefan Kalmár of New York’s Artists Space took over as director, stripping the building back to its former simplicity in the process. Now, the space’s only statement is its starkness. Ghost chairs have been replaced with functional Alvar Aalto furniture; a hoard of cheese plants adds splashes of green to the otherwise white backdrop.

The food…

A changing menu comprises simple dishes made extremely well: hits from our lunch include smoked cod’s roe with crackling, Old Spot with sauerkraut, and an unforgettable pheasant and bacon pie. These plates are very much not for sharing. Fresh from the original Rochelle, head chef Ben Coombs serves up British classics designed to be devoured solo, and that’s what I do – right down to my side dish of buttered greens.
To finish, a light chocolate sponge with a generous dollop of creme fraiche reinforces the message: this is the comfort food you crave, done many times better than you’d manage at home.

The drinks…

 We begin with a finely turned cocktail from Bar Manager Fin (Melanie’s son), formerly of Soho members club Quo Vadis. While he stirs my negroni, a glance over the wine list reveals the full extent of the duo’s commitment to family: Margot’s husband is Michelin-starred nose-to-tail chef Fergus Henderson, and his restaurant St John’s own wine is also served here. My white is crisp, and a snip at £5 per glass.

The verdict… 

We were impressed by the exceptionally friendly staff and faultless food – I’m already planning to return for a scoop of its marmalade ripple ice cream next time I check out one of the ICA’s exhibitions.
Away from the sleek and simple restaurant, the gallery also has two ornate private rooms that overlook The Mall. Given that these are available to book for parties, there’s no reason why you can’t make like Kate Moss and throw a banquet of your own.
The ICA, The Mall, SW1Y 5AH

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