Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Kentish Canteen, Kentish Town, NW5

Lunch options in Kentish Town are a shade limited if you work here every day - to say we were pretty thrilled when the Pret opposite the tube opened would be an understatement. So when the Kentish Canteen opened, replacing a long-closed restaurant, it was exciting to say the least.
Salads on display when you walk in
It has all the elements - tasteful, modern decor, with a nice outdoor patio section for dining al fresco, a great location near the tube and seemed not too expensive for the odd lunch with a friend.  And an AMAZING menu. So it should be fantastic. But it just isn't, really, and sadly I don't think I've ever come away, apart from once, feeling like I'd really enjoyed it and wanted to go back soon, which shows itself in the mixed reviews it receives.

But it does offer a good lunch deal - £10 for a dish, and a glass of wine, beer or soft drink. So it's popular with the surrounding area, and a good choice for my office if we're doing a group lunch. (I haven't eaten there in the evening time.)

It's just such a shame about the food - at its heart, it's a fantastic idea. Mediterranean food with a modern twist, small plates for making a tapas-style lunch, large sharing platters, simple dishes, brunch (including that ever-popular Eggs Benedict) all day. They also have a little rotating selection of fascinating and inventive salads like "Naanjing black rice with mango, pepper, soy, sesame, ginger" and "roast aubergine, cumin & coriander, lemon yoghurt", all displayed beautifully when you walk in.  Or you know, you can have just have a plate of chilli linguine (small or large!). I love that flexibility and variation. And the food DOES taste okay, and has the potential to be great, it just seems that it comes so close to being very nice, and then falls at the final hurdle.
For instance, on one previous visit, me and a friend went with the £10 lunch menu burger. The chips that it comes with were huge, chunky monsters and very satisfying, and the burger itself was decent enough - but both me and my friend had a completely stale bun. I have no idea how the kitchen could have overseen this, but a half-hearted attempt to toast it didn't hide the fact, which spoiled the dish.
On another visit, I found that the ravioli, which was also quite okay, was advertised on the menu as containing asparagus but didn't hold any trace as far as we can tell, which could have been the buttery sauce overwhelming asparagus's delicate flavour, but the filling was completely yellow and orange.
Onion tart, with pepper and anchovy in the back
Kentish Canteen burger with chunky chips and coleslaw

Finally, my most recent visit, we branched off from the lunch menu which seemed to have been a good choice. I went with an onion tart, which was good value at £8.99 including a side salad of my choice. I went with the stuffed pepper, tomato, and anchovy side (what can I say, I'm obsessed.)
The stuffed pepper was actually very good, but was wonderfully salty and came with the nice afterthought of a crouton of bread to mop up excess juice which I liked. The onion tart was also quite tasty, apart from the fact that I discovered the crust was a little burned - just a little, but enough to drag the meal down from 'good' into 'eh'. Meanwhile, the burger was apparently very nice this time! So who knows.
It's such a shame that the Kentish Canteen falls at the final hurdle. I can't help but feel that if they just sorted out the little niggles like this across the board, they'd be a fantastic place to eat in. And although on this instance, no burger buns were stale, and we were even given a complimentary selection of rather zingy and refreshing lemon posset desserts, I'm still a bit disappointed. I daresay I'll be back - perhaps the breakfasts are superb? - but either I have pretty bad luck in general, or it just seems to be the same failing over and over; not enough attention to detail.

Kentish Canteen, 300 Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town, NW5, 0207 485 7331


  1. Mmmh! That burger looks amazing!

  2. A shame to hear as I had heard not bad things about this place.


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