by Gareth Groves
Let’s cut to the chase: The Canton Arms in Stockwell, south London is a very good gastropub. Managed by a team who previously ran the show at Waterloo’s Anchor and Hope, it opened about twelve months ago to a barrage of press which mainly focused on its rather novelty foie gras toastie. No signs of those yesterday, but there was excellent beer, good wine and gutsy British food served in unpretentious settings by smiling staff. Exactly what I want on a Sunday lunchtime.
The jars (pictured at the top) lifted my heart as I soon as we sat by them. I can’t help but warm to a kitchen who stockpiles Damson Gin and homemade chuntneys. There was also a jar or too of something called Seville Rosé, which I was told was a blend of pink wine, bitter oranges and vodka. Anyone got a recipe?
Ah, the menu. Short but sweet with the increasingly-common River Café-style aperitifs at the top. Campari and Blood Orange? Don’t mind if I do. Only I didn’t. I had a pint of Skinner’s Betty Stogs and damn near perfect it was too.
The real treats though were not on the menu at all but the specials board: Venison Pie for two and Seven Hour Swaledale Shoulder of Mutton for three…
As I have said before, this trend for big, slow cooked dishes to share is one I heartily endorse. Informal dining like this should be all about sharing good food with friends, digging in with gutso and greed rather than kitchens apeing the elaborate constructions of a multi-Michelin-starred chefs.
The pie was rich and gamey topped with a crisp, savoury suet crust. Simple but very effective. God bless Saint Fergus of Clerkenwell for popularising suet pastry. The mutton melted under the pressure of a spoon and had enough oomph (technical term – look it up in Larousse) to stand up to its dark, concentrated sauce and the sweet, soft carrots that shared its cast iron pot. It arrived with a dish of textbook pommes boulangere. It didn’t last long…
The rabbit off the printed menu was just as good. The meat had real flavour and the chef had balanced bunny’s tendency to dryness by generous use of some excellent bacon.
Desserts disappeared before I remembered to get my camera out but if Buttermilk Pudding was to replace Rum Baba as London’s sweet de nos jours, I would be delighted. And it was lovely to see rhubarb back in season.
The puds came with tea. In a tea pot. I can’t overstate how important this is. I am in full agreement with Christopher Hitchens about stuff like this.
But something is missing.
Wine. Another missed photo. We drank a bottle of Marcillac Domaine du Cros 2009 from the South of France, and very good it was too. Light and fresh with some rustic tannins and dark, mineral fruit – all at a very commendable 12.5%. For those who would like to know more, Jamie Goode recently reviewed it on his Wine Anorak blog.
It all came in at well under £30 a head. We’ll be back.
The Canton Arms, 177 South Lambeth Road, London, SW8 1XP – http://www.cantonarms.com/