Food and drink
The food mixes crowd-pleasers (bacon sandwich, sausage and mash, macaroni cheese, steak and chips) with more interesting British specialities (Arbroath smokie, devilled kidneys on toast) and combinations (a salad of beets, goats curd, pea shoots and pumpkin seeds). There’s a full wine list too. The menu has options for any time of day, including a good range for breakfast, and covers snack-sized eats as well as main meals.
It’s a low-key, animated place, with a fun mix of chatty local workers and arty South Bank types. The good location makes Canteen popular: you might have to queue at busy times, but I’ve never had to wait long. Do check in at the door, though, rather than just plonking yourself down on the first available seat outdoors.
Despite the name, Canteen is full table-service - waiting staff are always obliging, but sometimes seem a bit overwhelmed and not entirely sure of what’s on the menu. The maitre d’, however, runs the queue with calmness, good cheer and authority.
On a paved square tucked into the back of the building that houses the Southbank Centre’s main concert venue (the Royal Festival Hall), shops and restaurants. There are no river views, but you’re still right in the middle of the South Bank’s cultural attractions (BFI Southbank cinema, Hayward gallery, Southbank Centre’s concert halls) and close to the London Eye and Aquarium one way, a bit further from Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe the other.
You can mix and match smaller dishes to keep prices down (a bacon sandwich is £4.50, for example), but a starter, good-sized main and pudding will cost £26 or so, without drinks. The 28-day, native-breed steak is good, but much pricier than the other mains at £16.75.
Tables to book
The front section indoors and the tables outside are all furnished with curious backless chairs, so the stylish fixed-seat booths in the centre of the restaurant are my preference. On a sunny day, though, there’s usually some enjoyable people-watching to be done from the outdoor seating.
There are a few more Canteens in town, with the branch on the Liverpool Street station side of Spitalfields Market (2 Crispin Place, E1 6DW) worth remembering.
- Culture vultures
- Families with teenagers
- Families with younger children
- People watching