Two weeks following the re-opening of The Canton Arms along South Lambeth Road, @AnnaJCowen and I decided to dine out at what is now our local boozer.
The old Canton was a decent drinking place, but it became a cropper with the decline of the traditional pub business: cheap booze in supermarkets, over-priced pints and shunting smokers out into the cold South London night, treating them like social lepers – which they are, of course.
Something had to give.
That something has re-surfaced in SW8 with the new look Canton positioning itself as part pub, part restaurant. Don’t even begin to mention the ghastly gastro word.
The space at the Canton suits itself perfectly to this new arrangement. There is ample bar room at the front of the building for all the bustle of the local boozers. Likewise the area behind the main bar allows diners to enjoy their food away from the buzz (and glare) of the bar room thinkers.
It’s a tough act to balance booze and nosh – even tougher to try and do it by keeping both constituents happy. The Canton pulls this off perfectly by not pigeon holing customers upon arrival.
We walked up to the bar, and an eager chap hovered, one hand on a pint glass, one hand on a food menu. We asked if it a table was available, and were led towards the back space and some seating in the corner.
There’s a whole new team in place along the South Lambeth Road, fronted up by legendary chef Trish Hilferty. Foodies out east will be familiar with Trish’s fine talents from her days spent in the kitchen at The Fox over in Shoreditch.
The rest of the Canton team is more or less made up of the fine people behind the Anchor & Hope on Great Queen Street. A local touch has been added with all bread provided by the lovely @bakermanisbakin from Di Lieto along South Island Place.
This was our first food for the evening. A generous helping of incredibly fresh bread, the best this side of the river. A bottle of water was served, as we selected from the wine menu. A bottle of Bergerie de la Bastide was brought along, providing a warm taste to match our surroundings.
Some fine conversation followed with a couple of members of staff. We asked about the business, and the prospects for the local economy. Although only two weeks into trading, the future is looking healthy.
We rightfully celebrate the uniqueness of Little Porto, a short distance down the South Lambeth Road; but to find a
boozer restaurant that has some variety away from the staple of fish and olive based dishes in SW8, should equally be held in high esteem.
Chicken saltimbocca received my endorsement. @AnnaJCowen went with potato gnocchi and chestnut mushrooms. I was slightly disappointied to find that the side dish of greens and potatos were charged extra for my course. But for the slight sum of £2.50, I experienced a side serving of boiled cabbage that was actually a joy, rather than a chore, to eat.
With life still left in the Bergerie, we went with the desert menu. My Little Chocolate Pot was indeed little, although incredibly filling. I was unable to help out @AnnaJCowen with her generous serving of pear and almond tart.
It’s not just the evening menu that is starting to attract attention at the new Canton either. Toasties are fast attracting a reputation as the finest food around these parts for your lunchtime snack.
This seems to fit in with the carefully thought out business model in place. Locals are being courted with a new dining experience on their doorstep, in parallel with a ploy to attract diners from outside of the SW8 area.
The new Canton pub sign reflects this, incorporating the traditional crest with the addition of cutlery. I like to think of it as a win win situation. I haven’t just gained a new boozer, but also a new restaurant. This probably gives me good reason to return soon for a beer session.
We settled the bill, with some loose pocket change coming out of a fifty-pound note. The front bar was buzzing, proving that both food and fine ale can live side by side. Or even both together.