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Britta Jaschinski / Time Out
South Bank

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.


Venue name: Canteen
Address: Royal Festival Hall
Cross street: Belvedere Road
Opening hours: Meals served 8am-11pm Mon-Fri; 9am-11pm Sat; 9am-10pm Sun
Transport: Tube: Embankment tube or Waterloo tube/rail
Price: Main courses £8.50-£18.50
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Average User Rating

1.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 1 star:3
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I visited Canteen's Royal Festival Hall location on Sunday the 24 May 2015 in a group of eight people. I have previously eaten at this location and struggled to get a big group into the restaurant without a reservation, but it was easy to make one online a few days in advance.. The food at Canteen is ideal for groups of all ages as they offer children's portions of any dish at half price and the selection consists of traditional British fare with rotating daily and monthly specials. The menu features homemade pies, fish and chips, macaroni and cheese and all day brunch dishes- they boast fresh ingredients and all of our dishes were vibrant, immaculately arranged on the plate and good portion sizes. The homemade pies were the envy of all diners in the group, as these came out with a nice flaky crust, generous filling, hand cut fries, a small jug of gravy and lightly sautéed seasonal greens. The macaroni and cheese offered a mature spin on the classic, delivering a creamy, rich cheese sauce and decorated with an arrangement of bacon strips balanced on top. The fish and chips represented a nice attempt at the quintessential dish and were lightly battered with a crispy coating, accompanied with hand cut fries. My hot trout salad was a solid option for a light lunch with flakes of perfectly smoked fish on a bed of lightly dressed apple, fennel and salad leaves.

The food at Canteen definitely delivers, but we had several issues with the speed and care of service and the facilities in the restaurant itself- the ladies toilets were backed up and a complete mess when we first arrived. They were then closed, leaving women queuing for the handicap stall, which also quickly became a mess because the hand dryer was out of order and there were discarded tissues and hand towels piling up. In addition to this, it took the waiting staff much too long to clear our dishes when we were finished our meal. When our plates were eventually collected, they were merely put aside on an empty table and some remained there for the duration of our visit. However, we did arrange for some Birthday cupcakes to be brought over the table and management happily obliged with this request.

As Canteen's food is equivalent to a relatively high end gastropub in terms of its presentation, portion size, assembly and pricing, I would expect more attentive service and cleaner facilities generally, however this is a general comment that likely applies to all restaurants along the Southbank because of the footfall in this area- in particular, staff always appear to be overladen, distracted and frazzled in these tourist hotspots. 

I would recommend Canteen as a good spot for fresh, hearty British food if you are visiting the Southbank as they do offer good value in comparison to other generic food franchises in the area, but otherwise, it might be advisable to try one of their alternative locations for a more intimate and enjoyable atmosphere.

sophie m

I really liked this place when it first opened, but after an extremely lacklustre meal last night I will not be going back. The decor and lighting are still beautiful, but all the rest is just not worth your money. I get the distinct sense that that staff morale here is low and that no-one can be bothered anymore. Had a onglet steak with watercress ordered medium rare(£9.50) Chips (£3.50) and Peppercorn sauce (£1.50). The steak came on the well-done side of medium, with a limp salad (no watercress in sight) and the peppercorn sauce was watery and flavourless. When I asked the waiter (when I finally got his attention) where the watercress was, he went to ask the kitchen and came back and told me they didn't have any (confirmation was not what I was looking for). I'm not bothered about limp mixed salad but I do love watercress and it would of been nice to know before or if not have a little recompense. I could go on (dessert and wine both distinctly 'meh') but my main point is that the general public would be better off spending their money elsewhere and head-office (if you read this) you need to fix up be good to your staff and train them properly. You had a real good thing going but you've lost it.


I went there with a friend yesterday. It took me ages to order a spritzer, as the waiter had no grasp of English at all and also did not seem to know what a spritzer was. In the end I gave up. The food when it arrived was so-so and expensive for what it was. Not the best dining experience.


Went with a friend and my wife and will not be going back again. Started around 3pm with drinks (15 pounds for 2 beers and a small glass of wine) and continued on into the evening. Around 8pm (and a tab of over 100 pounds) we were asked to leave our table because they wanted it for people who wanted to eat. When I pointed out that there were several tables open the assistant manager told us we had to go. When I asked to speak to the manager he told me I couldn't and to deal with him. So to sum it up, rude management and overpriced drinks. I have eaten there previously and that is why we didn't eat there this particular day. AVOID!!


Very disappointing, service slow and roast chicken when it came was very dry and overcooked, garlic mayo had de-coagulated and was unpleasantly greasy. white wine was warm! nothing to recommend, and overpiced.