I’ve never really been to Kentish Town, well the closest I’d been was when we were first looking for somewhere to live in London, and were taken to a small dingy flat with broken furniture somewhere nearby. After we told the estate agent on the way back to her office that we were not interested, she kicked us out of the car at a set of traffic lights. We never returned. Until now.
Last week I received an email inviting me to sample the delights of the Kentish Canteen. Oddly enough, I’d read about it the week before in the Guardian, as it was listed in an article about the “Top 10 Budget Eat’s in North London.” The blurb about the restaurant was that it prided itself on reasonably priced unpretentious, seasonal dishes from breakfast right through to dinner. It sounded a PR to me, but I was kinda hooked.
Reading some of the critic’s comments made me more curious. Or were they the norm we have come to expect from certain newspaper journos who have lost their way.
“Bright, buzzy… the flexible food station it claims to be”
“Sensationally good…Exemplary. Expect great things of this new place”
“Simple things done well include grilled chorizo on lentils, the eggs Benedict, an excellent beef burger (soft floury bap, good meat, no frills, far better than any “gourmet” hamburger chain), big juicy sardines on sourdough toast with roast tomatoes, fat chips, a good mid-priced plate of Spanish charcuterie, and any number of salads”
After reading the email I was pretty excited about going, so I jumped at the chance and set up a time to visit the following Wednesday. Told you I was excited.
I’d read that the décor was bright, buzzy and a little bland. A tad harsh on the bland I would say, it definitely is a lively coloured restaurant. The large windows let in a lot of natural light, that at 7.30pm made me feel it was still lunchtime. I still haven’t got used to the extra hour yet.
Even for a Wednesday evening there was quite a crowd, which gave the place a nice atmosphere. Nothing worse than going to an empty restaurant to eat. Some people are swayed by the look of a dish, I more the vibe of a place really. Probably why I give starchy 3 Michelin Star places a miss. It’s all in the atmosphere for me.
Their menu is nicely laid out and not that big, which is a blessing these days, as any place with a 4 page plus menu means nothing is freshly cooked.
As with the décor, everything was light and summery, with starters ranging from Spring Parmesan Minestrone to Grilled Haloumi and couscous.
Everywhere these days have their own version of the burger and the Kentish Canteen is no exception. They also have heir own is the Fish n chips ala NW5 (their words not mine), which is pan fried haddock, pea puree, skinny fries and tartare sauce. Also on the menu is a pumpkin ravioli with sage, lemon butter, and a crab, lemon and chilli linguine (sadly not available when we visited, as we asked).
I was pretty surprised as there are quite a few good veggie options as well, which you normally don’t get. I often feel sorry for veggies eating out, as there normally is a token-thought-on-the-spur-of-the-moment-dish. But here I’d be a very happy veggie. Although there is no chance of that happening. Too addicted to meat I’m afraid, even if it National Vegetarian Week.
As it was a mid week supper, and me trying to control my excessive eating habits, we opted to share a starter of their own smoked and flaked salmon with chilli and lemon. Which to be honest I was not expecting much, but was actually pretty damn good. It actually tasted of salmon, which is very unusual these days, as I’ve had some really bad stuff recently.
For the mains we ordered a Hake steak, which came with a Spanish green sauce, new potatoes and a salad and the big boy Butchers steak, horseradish cream, watercress and fat chips.
Both were really excellent. The hake was still juicy and flaky, a lot of care had been taken in its preparation. The steak was cooked a nice medium rare, anything more with this cut and it would have tasted like old shoes. But the real star of the show were those fat chips. I’m a chip lover and these are some of the best in London, almost as good as the Hinds Head in Bray, but not quite. But damn close.
To round off the meal we shared a Passion fruit cheesecake. I’m a lover of passion fruit, it’s the tartness of the juice that gets me and it went well with the creaminess of the cheesecake. It was a shame that the cake was still fridge cold when it was served, but after a few minutes of trying to leave it alone so it could warm up a bit it was a treat. Nice biscuit crust.
Even though we were on a freebie I would have been very content to pay for the bill. I roughly worked out the bill to be around £40 or so with 2 glasses of wine as well. It’s a winner, but I want to return and have a lazy weekend brunch there.
Kentish Town seems to have a lot to offer, as there are some good pubs on the high street, and its not too far from where we are now, but I just wish the Kentish Canteen would become the Stoke Newington Canteen, then I’d become a very happy man indeed.