On The Mall and tucked under Carlton Terrace butting up against the Duke of York steps, you’ll find the Institute of Contemporary Art. Not a gallery that will interest all, its exhibits are exceptionally modern. Among the works they have shown are performance art, films, and an old cathode ray TV showing static in a cardboard box (don’t touch as you lean over to look in the box, you’ll get in trouble – naughty Hugh). But as you work your way through a few rooms you’ll find a mezzanine level covered in plants and housing Rochelle Canteen, the new restaurant.
Margot Henderson (husband of Fergus of St John’s fame) and Melanie Arnold have opened up this new branch of Rochelle serving up a short but exceptional menu that’s also extraordinarily well priced. The food is honest and stripped back, reflective, not surprisingly, of St John’s (indeed a good chunk of the wine list is St John’s house wines). Nonetheless, don’t think it’s just the same it’s not. If it were, it wouldn’t be playing host to so many luminaries of the food world, including the great late Antonio Carluccio shortly before his death.
The menu may be short but, so tempting are the options, you’ll still have trouble deciding what to have. On my last visit, the starters, each under £10, featured a grilled quail with aioli; that’s all that it said, but still all of us ordered it. What came was exactly as advertised: a white plate with a large whole grilled quail lying on a large dollop of golden aioli. The succulent sweet gamey meat and the charred skin paired beautifully with the punch of garlic and hint of saffron from the aioli.
The mains, on average about £16, included a chicken and smoked bacon pie that a number of our party went for. It was the perfect example of this traditional pie with a layer of golden buttery flaky pastry covering it. Another option was the braised lamb shoulder with potatoes and green sauce for two. Big enough to feed three, and reminiscent of dishes served up at Anchor & Hope, it was succulent, tender and packed with flavour to the point that the pie eaters at the table were jealous.
Rochelle Canteen is well worth a visit. Apart from the well-priced food and its even better quality, the setting is relaxing and full of vegetation (don’t worry you cant see the art from the tables) and the staff are constantly friendly and helpful.
London Lamppost Score – 4/5
Rochelle Canteen at the ICA