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Canteen


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Canteen has been mentioned a few times in passing in the forum but as far as I can see doesn't have a specific topic - correct me if I'm wrong.

We found ourselves there on a wet and blustery Sunday afternoon. The sort of food they were offering seemed right for the weather. Some of its dishes worked, others were only ok but at this sort of price, and with the focus on quality British ingredients, we were forgiving.

For starters my girlfriend had the potted duck. It came with equally-sized small jar of piccalilli and a pile of good quality toast. I had a plate of devilled kidneys on more toast. Both dishes were good - simple, rustic and just what was needed. If we weren't so hungry they could have sufficed as a light lunch-type dish.

For mains, I went with a pie. Given the size of the starters, I was surprised to see how small the pie was but actually it was well-filled with pork and mushrooms. It came with a large mound of mash and some winter greens. My girlfriend's main was less successful. She had gammon with parsley sauce. To my taste the meat was a little chewy, though she liked it. The potatoes were slightly undercooked and the sauce was bland.

I liked the restaurant however - London needs more of this sort of place: simple food, cooked well and at reasonable prices. I also appreciated the design of the interior - its obviously had a lot of 'designer-y' thought put in but it has been done in an understated way.

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For starters my girlfriend had the potted duck. It came with equally-sized small jar of piccalilli and a pile of good quality toast. I had a plate of devilled kidneys on more toast. Both dishes were good - simple, rustic and just what was needed. If we weren't so hungry they could have sufficed as a light lunch-type dish...

I liked the restaurant however - London needs more of this sort of place: simple food, cooked well and at reasonable prices. I also appreciated the design of the interior - its obviously had a lot of 'designer-y' thought put in but it has been done in an understated way.

I dropped in here for a late-lunch/afternoon snack in late summer. I had some sort of potted meat with piccalilli - I think it might also have been the duck - and found it OK but really under-salted (not a big deal since I could add my own, but why not get it right?). Service was friendly but a bit lackadaisical, although this might have been because it was an odd time, too late for lunch and too early for dinner.

But I liked the look of the menu, and the space was great: a really nice place to be - I'd certainly go back and give them another chance.

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  • 3 months later...

Has anyone been here recently? We're coming down to London for this easter w/e and quite fancied its no-nonsense approach. Actually the other half did - I'd like to go to Bacchus (we're staying at the Hoxton Hotel) but it's Mr Woman's birthday and he liked the menu more at Canteen. Noticed it won Best Restaurant in the OFM - is it deserved?

Any other non-too-dear suggestions (to eat, to drink, to make merry) in that general area would be great too.

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Bacchus and Canteen are two very different restaurants.

Though it is not one, Canteen serves the sort of quality food that I wish more pubs would. Simple, honestly put together and very reasonably priced. However, its name is not unworthy. It is in the redeveloped part of Spitalfields Market - which, depending on what is around, can sometimes feel a little like the outside part of a shopping mall - and many of the diners can share long tables. To be honest, while its very good, I'm not sure that it is special enough for a birthday meal.

Bacchus, on the other hand, is based in an old pub but I guess that I don't need to write much more about it.

For a birthday meal, given the choice of the two, I'd go for Bacchus. You could always go to Canteen the next day for lunch.

Having said that there are a number of other interesting, not too expensive restaurants around the area.

St Johns Bread and Wine is just the other side of Spitalfields. Up the road and nearer your hotel is Hawksmoor - which you absolutely must visit for a post meal cocktail. Up on the Kingsland Road are a number of very cheap Vietnamese restaurants, although there's also one on Curtain Road that gets a lot of good reviews. You'll also not be too far away from the Eyre Brother's Restaurant which I've never been to but have heard mixed reports things about.

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Charlie, many thanks for all your suggestions. Canteen is my husband's choice - the pies and roasts drew him. While I would love to go to Bacchus, "messed about food" (his words) is not his thing! He likes to try all kind of food but for his birthday, he'd wants to go somewhere with good, honest grub. What can I say, he likes his meat and potatoes :biggrin:

I have already rang and booked a booth but I will put the other suggestions to him.

We have nothing booked for Friday so I may be able to drag him to the Vietnamese place you mention.

Is Hawksmoor no good for food then?

Edited by Mrs Woman (log)
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I was at Canteen last Autumn and I'd say it was alright - reasonably priced, Brit menu and all that - but I wouldn't have said I was particularly impressed by it all. The individual mutton pie I had, for instance, was a bit dry and had far too much pastry relative to the amount of meat/filling. The mash was a bit lumpy as well.

However, it seems to have a lot of customers, and I guess most of them are Guardian/Observer readers, hence the OFM win.

Given the choice between Canteen and St John Bread & Wine, I'd be at SJB&W every time.

PS

Edinburgh

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Canteen is one of those restaurants which as a sterling reputation for what is does, however whenever I look at the menu I never see a single thing I want to order.

Personally I'd pop round the corner to Giraffe instead. I continue to maintain it has simply the most intelligently thought-out menu in London. Something for everyone, without straying into excess.

J

Edited by Jon Tseng (log)
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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Ah, that’s what happens when you start to write something, get distracted looking for a link and then click the post button. As you quite rightly observed, I hadn’t read your post! (But only because it wasn't there when I started.) Hope you have a good break. :biggrin:

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Is Hawksmoor no good for food then?

I'd say Hawksmoor is very good for what it offers - steak and (triple cooked) chips.

There's a short thread on it here.

I'd second what PS said - given the choice between Canteen and St Johns B&W, it'd be St Johns every time.

They're also open all day so if you're in the area it might be worth popping in.

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For my sins I work in the glass monlith that sits above Canteen and can vouch for the quality (and consistency) of the food. It will be less challenging and interesting than Bacchus but you will get a proper old school meal of the ilk that should be being served in countless pubs around the country, which is sure to please Mr Woman. In my opinion not worthly of a best restaurant award, but then I don't usually read The Observer.

Hawksmoor is good - I'm willing to stick my neck out and say best steaks in London. Service lets it down a bit though and I'm not convinced by the 70's office decor. If you don't go for food try to make it for a cocktail - its only a 5 min walk from Canteen.

If you are going to Canteen for lunch be sure to check out AA Gold and Verde on Brushfield St. which are how all food shops should be (other than expensive). Sadly, I would think it's only a matter of time before the premises become a Starbucks and a Benjis.

Also buy chocolate brownies from the Flower Power food stall in spitalfields market if you get a chance.

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As a concept i love Canteen - old school traditional food in a contemporary but comfortable setting. For me though the food is a letdown and at the price point its at this makes even more resonance.

Having said that i still go back every couple of month hoping that i find something that isnt dry as a bone or overcooked as is usually the case. Last week i had roast chicken and potato gratin which at £10.50 is pretty good value - but then you have to factor in your sides - seasonal greens (cabbage) and cauliflower cheese at £3 each and your roast chicken (single leg and thigh) has just become £16.50. So it better be good. It wasnt. It was ok for a £10 roast from the pub but not for a £16 roast from a smart city restaurant. A starter of duck rillette with picalilly was really good though - i could easily have taken a pot of that stuff home with me for supper!

To be fair - they do 600 covers on a Sunday alone (it seats less than 100) when Spitalfields market is on which is a huge number of covers to do and i'm not sure how you keep quality standards up at that level so perhaps that plays a part

Definitely agree that if hubby wants 'not messed with food' then St John is the place to go but i certainly dont think you will have a bad time at Canteen

<a href='http://www.bacchus-restaurant.co.uk' target='_blank'>www.bacchus-restaurant.co.uk</a>

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i think canteen is great, and not only because i'm his butcher! commercial interest aside i really like the long overdue concept. i've eaten there a small handful of times and my food has always been well executed. In the past I've had sole with brown shrimp which was excellent.

on a picky note, i one had the roast pork-belly. the meat was excellently cooked although it came with a roasted apple that didn't make too much sense to me, was pretty palpy and looked like a South African golden delicious, possibly my least favorite (after the horrid "Pink Lady")

agree sides are expensive and really rack-the bill up.

However, if you want you can grab a great lunch for under £10, when you think a MacDonalds costs a £5er that looks pretty good to me.

www.naturalfarms.co.uk ~ our wholesale butchery

www.sussexfarms.blogspot.com ~ our pie kitchen

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