Thursday, 21 January 2010


Royal Festival Hall
Belvedere Road
London SE1 8XX
0845 686 1122

Canteen is a small chain with branches in Spitalfields, Baker Street, Canary Wharf and the one we went to last night at the back of the Royal Festival Hall. It was 9pm and we had just been to an exhibition at the National Theatre and we wanted something quick, simple. Canteen sets out to do 'Great British Food': good value good food in a simple canteen environment. There is a Wagamama like feel to the place. Big open kitchen at the back. Long communal pine tables. Some smaller tables though too, with more comfortable banquette seating. The seating at the longer shared tables is self consciously uncomfortable: hard pine seats with no back support.

We try for a banquette table but there is only one available with side by side rather than facing seats. We go for the end of a shared table where we can sit opposite. The manager is solicitous. She sees we are having a discussion about where to sit and comes over, adjudicates, sees us to where we are happy to sit opposite each other.

The menu has fish, pies, a daily roast, stews and bakes which change daily as well as a short list of 'main dishes', steak and chicken. It is simple hearty British food. We go for the daily roast which is roast duck. It comes with cabbage and roast potatoes, gravy; and it comes fast. Five minutes after sitting down it is on the table. We have ordered red wine. It is four up from the bottom of the list in price: Chateau Saint Romains, Bordeaux 2007. It is £18.50. There is a good range of low priced wines. The food has come so fast we are worried there will be a long lag before the wine arrives. There isn't. It arrives a couple of minutes after the food.

So no complaints about the service! It is speedy. I suppose being right by the Festival Hall and National Theatre they are used to diners with a performance to catch. Our duck though is dry, overcooked. The roast potatoes are flabby. It is hot and filling nonetheless. The problem I have is that for one course with a modest bottle of wine two of us still end up paying a total of £51.90. I can eat much better than this in more comfort so the simple canteen, good food, quality equation simple doesn't stack up for me here. Why pay £13.50 for overcooked duck in discomfort when you can have the Brompton fish stew at the Brompton Bar and Grill for £14.00 (see review)? The place is nevertheless very well run. We talk to one of our waiters. Like us she is impressed by the manager who we learn is called Marianne. She is bustling about walking the floor, noticing everything, not too proud to help clear tables herself. Our waiter though is not happy. Only sharing in the tip pool brings wages above the minimum to £7 per hour. The kitchen staff are unhappy because there is no air conditioning in the kitchen. I won't go back.

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1 comment:

  1. You've been out on the town! This blog knows no bounds...