Rochelle Canteen at the ICA review
Rochelle Canteen review.
The Mall was like something from an old Russian film last week. On peak snow day, it was almost deserted. Colour had vanished from sight. Everything was white, grey or black. Cars passed just once ever few minutes. The odd couple trod carefully, clutching each other for warmth.
The ICA stood steely and stark. It would have been easy to cancel a reservation at Rochelle Canteen. But given the slight dutch courage of pre-dinner Duke’s Martini, we ploughed in anyway.
Rochelle Canteen lives inside the ICA where an owned brand cafe used to sit. The original Rochelle Canteen: hidden away in an east London courtyard, had been on my to visit list for years but I never got round to it.
The ICA sets the tone for the type of place you’re about to eat in. Open and airy but not expansive and empty. Cosy but not homely. Smart but not formal. Charming but not kitsch. This is no country pub, nor is it the Ritz. It follows the template of what a lot of restaurants have aspired to since the opening of St John, but few get right.
The menu exudes confidence: from its design (set classically in Times New Roman) to its content. Starters like white onion soup and croutons (£5.50) sit alongside grillled quail and radicchio (£10.50). LA opted for the chicken liver and fois gras pate (£9) which was suitably rich and sustaining considering our Duke’s aperitifs. I opted for the braised octopus and new potatoes (£8.50), which was meaty and tender.
The mains followed suit. As snow hailed past outside, the Guinea Fowl & Smoked Bacon Pie (£16) was a no brainer. And what a pie this was. These are the sort of adapted-French country classics that you dream of making at home, but rarely do. LA went for the roast squash, swiss chard and grilled polenta (£12.50) which was good but no knockout. Though her rhubarb and almond tart (£7) was as fitting a close as my calvados (£10).
Rochelle Canteen is a delight. The food is no-fuss but executed well. Considering these courses are priced in gastropub territory, you’d be hard pressed to find a menu of this standard in many boozers. The evening was surreal. The snow kept many away from their reservations and as a result, it felt like we were all in on a little secret. An excellent place to eat in a fleeting moment of near-empty bliss.