My first visit to Canteen was not pleasant. The food was underpar and the staff rude (think waiting 45 minutes for dry chicken). Everyone has their bad days though and as Canteen has more than one location, I left the Spitalfields branch filed under 'do not return'. I had a far more pleasant experience at Canteen on the South bank, situated under the Royal Festival Hall.
My dining companion and I had just been to the Tate to see the Lichtenstein exhibtion. We had planned to grab a bite at a near by pub but seeing as it was a Friday night all of them were packed with post work follies. As we moseyed down the river to the South bank, I thought about where to go. Ping pong was out as I had had dumpling soup for lunch. As my dining companion is on the primal diet (meat and veg only) Canteen seemed like the perfect option.
The premise of Canteen is quintessentially a shared dining experience. Don't go there unless you are happy to share your table with strangers. I personally love this. The chaps beside us were polite and friendly and most importantly not encroachers of personal space.
The menu runs on the following format: pie of the day (veggie and meat options - shallot or pork on the day I visited), roast of the day (roasted pork belly and all the trimmings), and then there are dishes as standard. These are Brit cult classics, sausage and mash, fish and chips, steak and chips. I opted for sausage and mash with onion gravy and a side of braised red cabbage. My friend had feathered steak and changed the chips for sweet potato mash. At only £13 quid her meal was excellent value for steak lovers.
So the food is great. Proper English grub. The interior is spacious and inviting. It features low lighting, booth style seating mixed with wooden tables and chairs, and your menu is your place mat. As for drinks there are a wide selection of ales, ciders and wines on offer. Only one thing let our experience here down slightly and that was consistently having to seek service. Our waiter was not present and didnt stop to ask how our meal was. The chaps beside us joked how we would have to beg to pay the bill.
Meal for two with wine came to £48.