“I loved this iteration of Rochelle Canteen far more than the original”

The simple, seasonal cuisine from a Shoreditch institution shines at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art

Grilled onglet, green beans and pickled walnut, £18.50
Grilled onglet, green beans and pickled walnut, £18.50

I have never understood the hype surrounding Rochelle Canteen, the restaurant opened by chefs Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson in an old school bike shed in Shoreditch more than 10 years ago. It’s not that I’ve ever had a bad meal there, but neither have I been blown away by the food. Maybe that’s why it took me almost two years to stroll down The Mall in central London and investigate its second outpost, located inside the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Beetroot and watercress salad with soft-boiled egg, £8
Beetroot and watercress salad with soft-boiled egg, £8

But oh, I’m glad I finally did. Perhaps it was the cultural location; perhaps the perfectly cooked onglet steak and the glass of lightly chilled St John Beausoleil 2017 Languedoc rosé (£6 a glass, £30 a bottle), but I loved this iteration of Arnold and Henderson’s modern, seasonal cuisine far more than the original. The new space consists of a ground-floor café-cum-bar with a restaurant on the mezzanine above (open for lunch and dinner), and it has the same airy and informal feel as its east-London counterpart. 

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The menu by head chef Ben Coombs features simple starters such as broad bean and Berkswell cheese on toast (£8.50) and beetroot and watercress salad with soft-boiled egg (£8), which I ate with a slice of sourdough. As a main, the aforementioned onglet (£18.50) arrived medium-rare on the recommendation of the chef, and was incredibly tender and tasty, paired with a light horseradish sauce, while the accompanying green beans with pickled walnuts were so special I would order them as a standalone starter. I didn’t taste the sea bass, braised peas, lettuce and mint my friend ordered, but suffice to say she didn’t leave any trace of it on the plate.

Sea bass, braised peas, lettuce and mint has also featured on head chef Ben Coombs’ menu
Sea bass, braised peas, lettuce and mint has also featured on head chef Ben Coombs’ menu

I wasn’t in the mood for sharing either when it came to dessert: a wonderfully dense banana cake (£7.50) with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream. My friend, meanwhile, declared the strawberry, mango and lime sorbet (£6.50) flavourful and fresh. And given the ICA’s visionary programme of exhibitions and films, post-prandial delights abound.

Desserts include banana cake and butterscotch sauce with vanilla ice cream, £7.50
Desserts include banana cake and butterscotch sauce with vanilla ice cream, £7.50

Giulia Mulè is a food and travel writer based in London who is passionate about sharing food photography on her Instagram feed (@mondomulia) and blog Mondomulia (mondomulia.com). Originally from Rome, Mulè has spent over a decade living in London and travelling the world. In her spare time, she organises brunch meet-ups with @IGBrunchClub and fundraising events with @CreatingForGood – a collective of Instagrammers who share their creative skills to raise money for selected charities.

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