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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

London Restaurant Reviews - Canteen

Fish and Chips @ Canteen, Baker Street

Fish and Chips have got to be one of the main reasons why I love this country so much. A fresh, chunky piece of cod deep fried in a light, crisp batter, served with hand cut chips and smothered in plenty of salt and vinegar gets my vote every time.

Interestingly, our national dish was introduced in the UK by Portuguese Jews, with the first ever chippy being opened in 1860 by a Jewish immigrant called Joseph Malin in the East End of London. The Portuguese love of all things deep fried also resulted in the introduction of tempura to Japan.

I admit I had an unfounded prejudice against Canteen – I am not sure if it was because of the sleek Wagamama-like decor, or the fact that it is now a mini-chain of four restaurants across London. But when I was invited by Jenny of Sauce Communications to an evening of “Fish and Chips” at the Baker Street branch, I decided to give it a try.

The event was hosted by Canteen’s co-founder and head chef Cass Titcombe, the author of “Great British Food”. Cass shared some of his top tips on how to prepare “Fish and Chips”, including his own batter recipe, how he fries the fish, advice on the type of potatoes to use and how to prepare chips.

All the fish used at Canteen is purchased from responsible and ethical South Coast day boats, and hence fish availability varies daily. “Fish and Chips” is priced between £10.50 and £13.50 depending on the catch of the day; these are normally cod, haddock or plaice.

We had cod and pollack deep fried in batter and also a fillet of plaice prepared in breadcrumbs. The batter was light, crisp and not greasy, and both fish were chunky and fresh tasting. Interestingly, the plaice in breadcrumbs was the most popular choice across the table.

Maris Piper is Cass’ potato of choice and his chips are double fried before being served. The chips did not disappoint – they were crisp on the outside but deliciously fluffy inside, and I could have eaten twice as many as there were on my plate.

To accompany our main courses, we were served traditional mushy peas @ £3.50. Cass added bicarbonate of soda to the marrowfat peas which were soaked for 12 hours thus helping them to retain their beautiful green colour. The tartare sauce was freshly made on the premises, tasted excellent and was a real step up from its jar equivalent.

Perusing the food menu, I was impressed to see that Canteen is an “All Day Dining” restaurant, serving breakfast through lunch, tea and dinner. In addition to “Fish and Chips”, the menu includes other British classics like “Devilled kidneys on toast” @ 7.25, “Steak and Chips” @ £16.75 (28-day aged, free range 250g rib-eye steak) and “Eton Mess” @ £5.50 among other old time favourites.

The drinks menu is well thought out and reasonably priced with wine bottles starting from £12.50. There are 5 wine options below the £20 mark in each of the white and red categories. In keeping with the British theme, three types of Meantime beers (one of my favourite London brewers) are sold on draught and are priced between £3.70 and £3.95 per pint.

Cost: this was a complimentary meal but I have quoted prices of all dishes I had. I estimate that a 3-course meal would cost in the region of £25 excluding drinks i.e. pint of prawns @ £7 + fish and chips @ £12.50 + Eton mess @ £5.50.

Likes: no-fuss British cooking, fresh, good quality ingredients, reasonably priced food & wine menus and Meantime beers on draught.

Dislikes: in my personal opinion, the decor is somewhat bland and impersonal.

Verdict – Good quality, comforting British dishes at reasonable prices in four London locations. Canteen is helping to make British cooking an appealing eating out option for locals and visitors alike. Recommended.

Canteen Baker Street  on Urbanspoon


  1. Dear Luiz,
    This is a very nice piece on Fish & Chips something I haven't enjoyed for 11 years, the closest being McD fish burger!. I can't compare the Asian options on this.
    An aspect that caught my eye and interest was your mention of the introduction of this national dish by the Portuguese. Interestingly their introduction of foods in this region has been very significant and enduring. Foods including Korokke, Khanom Buang and of course the third cuisine of Macau. There has to be a foodie story in that!

    Kindest regards,

  2. I do enjoy a good fish and chips now and then. Sounds like a good time was had by all, now when are you going to try your hand at cooking some up? ;)

  3. I had no idea that the Portuguese introduced both fish 'n' chips into London and tempura into Japan. Add that to their spreading of chillies to both East and South (and indeed SE) Asia and they had a major impact on world cuisine.

    I, reluctantly at first, really enjoy Canteen - the food is tasty, simple and good value, even if the decor is not that great. It's my go-to restaurant on the south bank and I can vouch for their deviled kidneys, which are generous in both taste and size.

    It's a shame that well sourced fish has to be advertised these days. Pretty much everywhere in the UK is close to the coast and all fish should be fresh and quite local. It's only when this freshness is taken for granted that our everyday food (as opposed to hi quality restaurant) culture will approach that of Spain, Italy or France.

  4. This was a great evening! The fish and chips here are so nice. Thanks for the very interesting post. I agree with @ The Grubworm above regarding the freshness of fish having to be advertised.

    Cass is a great guy and I wish him all the success in the world. Canteen is a great stop for Great British Food!

  5. Always meant to go there but tend to get sucked into places next door that look brighter and more fun i.e. Wahaca at Canary Wharf or Leon at Spitalfields.

    Fish and chips well done are such a joy - although you cannot get the secret ingredient in London no matter how good the fish - a fresh breeze of sea air.

  6. I have not been impressed with Canteen on my visits sadly. Always hard to get an accurate impression of a place at an event as well. Although I have found their cook book to be quite good.

  7. Hey! Fish & Chips now we are talking my kinda food - yummy! - Bet my chips are better tho :-)

  8. @ Peter - great to hear from you. Indeed the Portuguese being such a maritime nation in the early days, managed to get around quite a bit. Food (spices), fishing, etc have always been one of the main reasons for trading and immigration.

    @ The Wine Sleuth - I have been so lazy recently, should really be doing more cooking at home. I find however certain dishes tast much better from a restaurant, fish and chips being one of them.

    @ Grubworm - completely agree, it is a pity that ethically fishing has to be advertised today. I look forward to trying Canteen again, the devilled kidneys sound really good.

    @ Love Leluu - we had a lovely time, it was nice that you came to this event too. Nice picture of you tucking in!

    @ Maison Cupcake - you are right Sarah, you can't beat good fish and chips, just had a massive one for lunch and feeling reeeeally sleepy now.

    @ Gourmet Chick - I think Canteen divides opinions, you are not the only one to be critical. I should return for a second visit sometime.

    @ Rob Angel - hey Rob thanks for your comment. Fish and Chips is such a crowd pleaser. Would love to try your chips sometime!

  9. Like Gourmet Chick, I wasn't very taken with Canteen on the two occasions that I've been there (Spitalfields branch). While there is no specific nagging issues, the food wasn't memorable and oh, it does remind me of Wagamama :)

  10. @ London Chow - thanks for that, interesting comment. I only tried the Fish and Chips and no other dishes so I could not comment. The fish and chips were however very good, and on that account I would recommend Canteen (for good quality Fish and Chips).


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