A mid week dinner with Jo, whom I haven't seen in ages, took us to Canteen on the South Bank. It's another one of those places I've been meaning to try but never got round to. It boasts of a menu of British food - gone upmarket and lightened on the stodge - but still rather reasonably priced. Located at the Waterloo end of the Royal Festival Hall, Canteen's decor is clean and modern - almost an imprint of the houses featured on Grand Design. Of course there is the touch of old British charm with the counter featuring their daily offering of iced cakes.
I thought we were rather early when we walked in at 6.45PM but found that three quarters of the tables were already occupied and quite a few reserved. We were offered a shared table, which we accepted. If I'm not a fan of the shared table idea, the couple we were placed next definitely thought even less of it. The lady almost grimaced when we sat down. Not a good start to the evening but hoorah... they had just paid their bill and were about to leave! :) We greedily moved to the take over their table by the window and settled down to a heart meal.
Jo chose the roast of the day - roast pork with roast potatoes, cabbage and gravy. Topped with a piece of crackling. All for £13. I'm not a fan of roast pork but the dish definitely looked yummy. Jo was happy enough with it to finish it ... leaving only a bit of the crackling - slightly too tough and chewy.
I had the fried fish of the day (cod) with chips and tartare sauce. It was very generous with two portions of breaded cod, which were nicely crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. The chips were perfectly cooked - crunchy, not too thick nor thin. The tartare sauce was a bit bland, nothing great. I was a little disappointed that the kitchen had sprinkled the sea salt over just one spot of my fish, ensuring that I had to scrape and spread it myself. Where I wasn't particularly successful, I took a hit of saltiness. The other bits were thoroughly enjoyable - crunchy salt free.
Portions are generous at Canteen and though we were both nicely full, we decided to soldier on and get dessert as well. The little piglets we are :) Thank heavens Jo got her appetite back! I was very lonely when she lost her will to eat to the tropical heat when she came out to Southeast Asia with me :) We ordered the fruit cobbler and custard to share (£5), which arrived in a little bowl with the custard on the side. The lights had been dimmed at this point, which made taking an acceptable looking photo without flash rather difficult. For me it was the disappointment of the evening. It was more of a crumble than a cobbler (which I always believed should have more of a batter/scone like top) and the fruit tasted purely of apple. Tart apple at that.
Verdict? The food was good, the portions generous and the atmosphere chilled. I must say the service was prompt and friendly without being overbearing. Although I had my back to the restaurant for most of the evening, the turnover of diners was steady - evident with a turnover of two couples at our shared table . The bill came up to about £20 each - not bad for 2 main courses, a dessert, a soft drink for me and a glass of wine for Jo. Would I go back? Yes.
Canteen Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX
A Malaysian foodie at heart, I now live in London where, after eight years, I am still trying to come to terms with the four changing seasons. Although far from home there is never short of good food to be salivated over!Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org