Test Drives

cracklingPigs skin and cods roe

So what do we need to know about Rochelle Canteen at the ICA?

This is the sibling restaurant to the original Rochelle Canteen over in Shoreditch. That was opened back in 2004 by Melanie Arnold & Margot Henderson, wife of Fergus Henderson of St John. The new restaurant sees chef Ben Coombs move from the Shoreditch original to head up this kitchen.

Where exactly is it?

It's the new canteen at the ICA on the Mall, so close to Buckingham Palace that the Queen could pop in for a snack without calling for her carriage. Your nearest tube would be Charing Cross. Head on through the downstairs gallery where you'll find the restaurant in a galleried section upstairs with a bar and cafe downstairs.

pork2Pork chop with coco beans and green sauce

Ooh - a bar. Does that mean cocktails?

It does indeed and they are expertly made by Arnold's son, Fin Spiteri. Our vodka martini was one of the best we'd had in London recently and was just £7.50.

So what kind of food is it?

The menu wouldn't look out of place to anyone who's either been to the original canteen or, indeed, any of the St John restaurants. The bread is, as you'd expect, one of London's finest sourdoughs and dishes are described in the familiar pared-down style. The menu is changing and evolving all the time, so we'll list our favourite dishes in case you spot a variation of them when you visit.

  • Pig's skin & cods roe (£4.50) - a marriage made in foodie heaven. Scoop the pale whipped cods roe up with your pork scratchings and feel very, very content
  • Grilled quail with aioli (£9.50) - a whole quail and some of the most AMAZING aioli. That aioli also comes with the chicken in the bar, so that's a must-order if you're popping in. 
  • Rabbit and bacon pie (£16) - it would not be hyperbole to say this may very well be the best pie we've ever eaten. Gloriously lovely sauce and perfect pastry.

There were four dessert choices when we visited and while a huge creamy meringue with caramel apple and cream (£6.50) was very fine indeed, it lost out to an impeccable quince and almond tart (£6.50).

pieRabbit and bacon pie

And wine?

We love the St John range of wines so we when we see St John Beausoleil Rosé on the menu we always order it. You should too.

Overall thoughts

Gazing up through the skylight at the stucco buildings of Carlton House Terrace while eating the kind of food that deservedly made a tiny, hard to find Shoreditch cafe famous, proved to be a great juxtaposition.

This area doesn't have a lot going for it in terms of great eating spots so the arrival of the Rochelle Canteen is a massive bonus. We can see ourselves popping in here to look at the installations before enjoying a snack and a martini and thinking that life in London is really very civilised indeed.

tartQuince and almond tart

What: Rochelle Canteen at the ICA

Where: The ICA, The Mall, St. James's, London SW1Y 5AH

How to book: Email icabookings@arnoldandhenderson.com

Find out more: Visit the Rochelle Canteen site

 

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