Rochelle – London, SW1

Jimmy and I were both extremely sad to hear of the news of Anthony Bourdain’s passing.  What an absolute legend.

When we learned of the news, we were on our way to Noirmoutier Island set to attend the incredible La Marine and due to this we made sure we toasted Anthony on arrival.

I have also just finished watching an episode of ‘The Layover’ which is now easily viewed on Netflix.  There is a scene where Anthony visits a very humble restaurant to have a signature dish in Sao Paulo called Feijoada.  He talks of how its ultimate comfort eating, and the ultimate testament to cookery is using humble ingredients and cheaper cuts of meat to make up the dish.

This got me thinking about where Jimmy and I dined last night.  A restaurant called Rochelle within the ICA, The Mall.  Having originated from a bike shed in Shoreditch, Rochelle was set up by the wife of Fergus Henderson (the legendary founder of St. John restaurant and as it happens one of Bourdain’s food heroes) Margot, and Melanie Arnold.  Jimmy (who’s food knowledge stretches beyond Christendom) was explaining to me about how St John first championed the concept of ‘nose to tail’ cooking.  I was instantly taken by this.

We walked through the doors of the ICA (having had to direct our Uber driver not once but twice).  We sort of, shuffled around trying to find the restaurant until we came across quite an amateur bar area with scruffy tables and chairs.  ‘I think this is it” said Jimmy dimly.  We walked up a stairway and there was a simple, canteen style dining room above.

We sat down and looked at the menu.

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An array of things I love.  I went for peas Rocket and Burrata to start and Jimmy went for grilled Quail with Little Gem. However, at first, we got a bread basket (homemade sourdough – however not quite squidgy enough in the middle) and radishes with cod’s roe.  I’ve noticed a trend in restaurants serving raw humble unpolished radishes with dips (also served at new Notting Hill hotspot 7 Saints as reviewed).  It was a delicious combination. Light, airy whipped cod’s roe with a crisp, clean, crunchy radish.

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The burrata was fresh and delicious and sweet peas with a bite.  Jimmy said the quail was ‘the best he’d ever had.  Juicy and perfectly cooked. Grilled over a fierce heat to give it a lovely charred flavour so reminiscent of a summer bbq. Beautifully matched by some immaculately dressed, fresh, crunchy baby gem.”

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For main course I had Aubergine, Roasted Tomato & Labneh (a middle eastern yogurt) and Jimmy had Chicken and Girolle Pie.  Jimmy and I both agreed that this was undoubtedly some of the best food we had had all year. Simple, honest, humble. Just truly delicious.  I love middle eastern food and have ordered and even tried to replicate the baked bitter-sweet aubergine with a spicy tone to an accompanying yogurt – but this was like nothing else.  Perfect garlic ratio in the yogurt.  Soft fluffy flat bread and oozing indulgent baked tomatoes.  It was a triumph.

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Jimmy had the pie which he also pointed out was only about 5 ingredients, all perfectly in sync and harmonious.  Apparently this was the zenith of pies. Beautifully succulent chicken, earthy mushrooms in a seriously tasty sauce topped with a light, buttery and flaky pastry. Perfect pie. The sort of pie you can’t understand why you can’t get more often. Nothing fancy, nothing complex, just delicious food.  I ordered a side salad and Jimmy some cabbage. The cabbage came in huge quantities but the side salad arrived exactly how you would want. Tossed in a winning Dijon, salty, sweet and sour dressing.  Just a perfect light accompaniment.  It was then when Jimmy and I both agreed that a side salad can tell you everything you need to know about that restaurant.  The care and attention of a simple side salad (this one had chopped up chives running through it) we thought shows more about a chef than how many Michelin starts they may have.

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I passed on pudding (for once!) as I had eaten too much bread…but Jimmy had the Apricot and Almond tart. It arrived in all its simplistic glory… Jimmy shovelled it in like nobody’s business.

I feel Anthony Bourdain would have loved this restaurant.  The satisfying simplicity of it all intertwined with the total passion and care for good honest ingredients.  I can just imagine him sitting at one of the white tables, talking through the Aubergine dish and saying things like ‘This food is so comforting it makes me just wanna curl up at home right now with episodes of Mad Men and my wife’s Prozac’.  Rest in peace Mr Bourdain.

X 2 starters

X 2 main courses

X 2 mains

X 2 fizzy drinks

X 1 sparkling water

X 1 pudding

Total: £87

Rating (0-5) ***

http://arnoldandhenderson.com/

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