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Canteen (Restaurant)

Picture of Canteen in Waterloo, London

Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, Southbank Centre Square, Waterloo, London, SE1 8XX
Cuisine: British
Tel: Not on file | Email to Canteen | Transport: Waterloo | Write review

Canteen Review

It is sheer gargantuan in size, and because of this, London is an easy city to get lost in. It’s packed with restaurants selling food hailing from far flung places through to English classics, ranging from the downright awful to the absolutely divine, costing the earth or just a few pence scrounged from the back of the sofa.

Got a craving for the Persian delicacy Borani Esfanaaj? There’s a little place I know out west that does the dish justice (Persian Palace). Fancy an authentic South Indian curry? There are a plethora of restaurants to satisfy your needs (Sagar off Tottenham Court Road). A good old hearty plate of traditional English pie, mash and gravy? There are thousands of places if you know where to look (The Prince Regentin South Kensington).

Because of the magnitude of restaurants squeezed into the square mile (without even taking into account the masses on the outskirts), it is easy to forget a restaurant when there is nothing specific to remember it by. If it doesn’t have that special something, I’m probably not going to go back. A restaurant with that added something – a great view; an extensive wine list; an exceedingly good dish – is difficult to forget. That’s the reality when it comes to dining in the capital.

Canteen restaurant faces the concrete not the river. The interior mimics the style of a traditional canteen, with low seating and tables, wipe clean surfaces, and 50s style lamps. Although it doesn’t look it, with its snug tables, the layout is cleverly managed so that it’s easy to have an intimate meal without being majorly disturbed by the surrounding tables.

The food was pleasant. Hearty English fare – sausages with a small pile of creamy mash; a pie of the day (today: steak and kidney); a soup of the day; a breakfast menu. However, it was nothing I hadn’t eaten before. Yes, the onion gravy was thick and steaming and full of onion slices. But I know a restaurant in the centre of London that does a similar dish just as well. In fact, there are a couple of places I know off the top of my head that serve sausages and mash to the same standard as Canteen. The same, unfortunately, can be said about the rest of the food we tried. It was well cooked, well flavoured food, but uninspiring in its mediocrity.

The service was, again, pleasant. We got served on time and our waitress was forthcoming when responding to requests about the food ingredients. Everyone was nice and smiley; but nice and smiley service does not a great restaurant make.

It is easy to be swallowed up by the London quicksand, never to be seen again. However, even though I listed all the easily forgettable attributes about Canteen, it was popular and lively when we sat down to eat on a Thursday evening. Perhaps that is partly due to its location – it’s just a spit away from the Royal Festival Hall and the River Thames, so an obvious choice for those bound for the South Bank. Perhaps it had something to do with the familiarity of the dishes; Canteen succeeds in serving up a small menu of recognisable ‘comfort’ foods. Or maybe it is a combination of factors that still sees the restaurant thrive.

If, in future, I’m ever on the South Bank, I won’t be disappointed if I end up at Canteen. But I won’t be going looking for it. I won’t travel from my home in north London specifically to try their dishes, or be prompted to mention it if someone asks for a recommendation. And not because I hated it, but because I’ve simply forgotten. more

Customer Reviews for Canteen

Average (based on 3 votes): 3 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of Canteen.

“I've been to the other Canteens a few times but a few days ago came here for the first time. It's a very convenient location when you're in the centre doing the tourist thing, and the menu is full of crowd pleasers - there was something for my fussy parents, and fussier children. I had the potted duck which was savoury and well-seasoned, followed by a crispy chicken and chips with garlic mayonnaise - v indulgent but i was worn out from being tourist guide. it certainly did the trick! the kids were happy with the chicken too, and my parents loved the old fashioned puddings. I've not had a bad meal at any of the Canteens and this one is definitely among the better of the Southbank offerings.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
anjali, Winchester (11 years 28 days ago)

“Ate at The Canteen with a group of 4 on Saturday evening, and all I can say it was a massive disappointment and bad experience. The setting and layout of the room is quite functional, but don't let that fool you. As we waited (for a rather long time) for our food to arrive, it was apparent that there were grumblings of dissatisfaction from 2 tables around us. This was a sign of things to come. We ordered 2 starters, one of which was the pint of shrimps which came with very fishy, anemic shrimps in their casings and not properly cleaned off. Our mains were satisfactory to poor. The 'Steak and Kidney Pie' and the 'Sausage and Mash' were okay, but the 'Fish and Chips' was similar to something you would get from a children's menu (the fish tasted and looked like a flat giant fish finger, the chips mediocre at best), and the Lamb Roast dish was a joke: the cuts of lamb appeared to be leftovers from the carving board, the roast potatoes were starchy and dull, and the "mint sauce" was a bland, runny gravy-like substance. To top it all off the food was overpriced and the service was poor and rude. "Hip" restaurants like this give London a bad culinary reputation and I definitely won't be going there again.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Ken Marshall, London (12 years 3 months 17 days ago)

“Tonight (Monday night) was the second time I have eaten at Canteen on the South Bank, and unfortunately both times the service was terrible. Both times we removed the service charge from our bill, and tonight so did the table behind us. The starter reached our table before our drinks, we were left with empty plates on our table for half an hour then after asking for our mains they eventually turned up. Nothing special, the pies seemed a little dry, bog standard mash and some salted greens. Over priced, terrible service, avoid this place.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
[ Unknown ], London (12 years 5 months 19 days ago)

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Canteen is committed to providing honest food, nationally sourced, skilfully prepared and reasonably priced. Canteen believe in good produce provenance. Their meat is additive free sourced directly from producers practising good animal husbandry and their fish delivered fresh from day boats on the south coast. All dishes are cooked to order and the menu changes seasonally to accommodate the best and freshest national produce.

Updated 06/11/2007

Additional Information

  • Cuisine Type: British
  • Dress Code: Not Specified
  • Group: Canteen

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