As many of you will know, my favourite Japanese art gallery in London is the ICN gallery. As it happens, the ICN gallery also has a cafe, and it’s fast becoming one of my favourite places to eat (or just stop for tea) when I’m out and about in Shoreditch.
The lovely people at the ICN cafe found time to talk with me about their delicious food and drinks…
AM: Why did you decide to have a cafe at the gallery?
ICN: Our director had a concept of a “local gallery/museum” which is some kind of gallery with an art space and also with an attached cafe next to the gallery. So, it’s like people see the art works and have a little lunch break… We would love people to enjoy and be relaxed with both our places. See the art and taste Japanese food. Frankly, it’s as simple as that!
AM: Who creates the menu and how is it created?
Our menus are based on really simple, home-made style Japanese food and there’s no need to have any specific skills to make them. Actually, all of us ICN members used our basic cooking knowledge and developed our ideas to business level in all of our menus. First we just made something, then tasted it, then afterwards we developed it if it seemed to be okay.
AM: Do you keep anything specific in mind when you create your menu?
On this new menu, we have a main concept which is in-between Japanese and fast-food. Something new, something original (an example of this is our “Soy Wrap”). We have been looking for something interesting. We believe this is the key for our branding.
AM: Would you say your menu is entirely Japanese, or are you influenced by other cultures?
We could say it’s entirely Japanese, however, as I mentioned above we have been trying to introduce something new and original (we came up with a style of fast-food) so that it could be also called Japanese “style” food. That name indicates a variety of meanings such as healthy, tasty, well-designed… etc.
AM: Where do you get your ingredients from? Do you import anything directly from Japan?
Yes, we directly import some of our ingredients from Japan, especially our Japanese Green Tea.
AM: How healthy is your menu? Do you display calorie counts for individual items?
It is healthy. There are many of variations on our menu which contain a variety of vegetables, for example, and miso soup would also fit in that “health food” category. Although there is no calorie label on our food right now, we will soon be introducing them to meet customers’ needs.
AM: Do you cater for vegetarians?
Yes, we do. For example there is an avocado salad wrap, and an asparagus & avocado salad box.
AM: Tell me more about your new menu… What is a hana temaki?
Hana temaki combines healthy Japanese food in a new way by wrapping rice and fresh ingredients in soy beans sheets. It’s actually new, isn’t it?
AM: What’s your favourite hana temaki?
I personally like “Beef Yakiniku”, which is also good hot!
AM: Why should people come to the ICN Cafe?
To try our original new-style Japanese food!
AM: Where are you, when are you open, and do you deliver?
The ICN cafe is in the ICN gallery, which is at 96-98 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4RH. The cafe is open Monday to Friday, 11:00 – 18:00, and Saturday, 12:00 – 17:00 (with only tea and sweets on Saturday). We have recently started a delivery service. For more details please check our website!
AM: Do you have anything else to add?
We keep producing something new, something original, so please keep your eyes on us!
For more information about the ICN cafe, please visit their website: www.icn-global.com/cafe.
The ICN gallery’s next exhibition, Ukiyo-e Pop – ukiyo-e & contemporary Japonism, runs from 5th July – 8th September. Check out the ICN gallery website for more information.
(All images in this post are courtesy of the ICN cafe)