Catering Together | St James's London


Catering Together

Meet the double act behind Rochelle Bar & Canteen at the ICA

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It is a little over a year since the acclaimed caterers Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson (Arnold & Henderson) took the culinary helm at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. In this time, the pair have transformed the ICAs café into the second outpost of their hugely successful Rochelle Canteen (its forerunner is in Shoreditch), while also running all the in-house catering for the pioneering Institute, too.

Their recent residency came about shortly after they'd catered a series of fundraising events in New York for the ICA's director, Stefan Kalmár. Having just accepted his tenure at the Institute, he was keen to have them join him at The Mall. "I think we suited the aesthetic," says Margot, "he was looking for a much smaller, more hands-on company to run the space," continues Melanie, one of multiple occasions the duo complete each other's sentences when we meet for a chat.

The pair's symbiosis is little surprise; they've been partners since 1995 when they launched the catering part of their business while running Soho's The French House Dining Room with their husbands.

Rochelle at the ICA is all minimal chic, with a lush inside garden and huge sash windows overlooking The Mall. "It's an endlessly exciting strip to be on," says Melanie, just as a convoy of blackout windowed cars flanked by police hurtle their way past. The two of them clearly delight in every aspect of working here in thriving St James's. "The grounds are so beautiful, as are all of the old school galleries and the auction house out back," Melanie continues. "There is such a gentle pace to this part of town."

Rochelle Canteen boasts an all-day bar and restaurant; the menu, curated by Margot, places an emphasis on quality seasonal food, as locally sourced as possible. Joking that shes had her eye on the chard from the cottage on St James's Park for a few months now.

Above the restaurant are rooms lined by Palladian pillars with inimitable views of the city. "A lot of people host catered events here because they know our food and style," says Melanie, "others come for these beautiful rooms." The pair have simple unpretentious knowledge, acquired from experience and intuition; "The essence of any party is to have fun, they say, together," of course.