This best-of-British mini-chain serves a broad and enticing menu of well-cooked national treasures in a stylish but pared-back setting.
Brit concept chains have become two-a-penny since the first Canteen opened on the edge of Old Spitalfields Market in 2006, but this group – now five-strong – continues to thrive. The location of the SE1 branch (tucked into the back of the Royal Festival Hall) means it’s usually busy.
Although the devilled kidneys on toast have always disappointed, more familiar dishes can hit the spot: macaroni cheese, sausages and mash with onion gravy, the all-day breakfast – each of which costs shy of a tenner. Otherwise, prices are no longer as appetising as they were: £18.50 for the (albeit good) 28-day-aged steak, £14.50 for a reliable, daily changing roast, and a naughty £7.50 for that favourite corner-filler, fish-finger sandwich.
The virtues of the place remain constant (handsome functional decor, dishes well pitched for different occasions), but the vices are also unchanged: booths a little tight for comfort, and refectory-style designer chairs lacking proper backs, neither of which invite you to linger. On our most recent visit the service was disinterested and slack, but this hasn't always been the case; maybe it was an off-day.