Sunday, 4 November 2007

Canteen and Spitalfields Market

Cowie and I have been looking forward to paying Canteen a visit for Sunday lunch for ages... probably more than a year now. We've just always had other stuff to do and find the trek to Liverpool Street from Clapham a bit of a mission! Getting the bus from Shoreditch home once took 3 hours and involved a detour via Trafalgar Square the night the Italians won the football work cup...

So we zoomed up to Spitalfield eager to get stuck into some bartering and haggling... but were disappointed to find the old market is being renovated and is due to reopen shortly... so we had to make do with the new market stalls just outside Leon, Giraffe and most importantly, Canteen.

Stalls that pop up at Borough, Albeville Road, Good Food Show, London Food Show etc were all on show selling divie chocolate brownies and bananna cake, gorgeous focaccia with olives, amazing pies, stunning chocolate and every other goodie you could think of... London's markets are brilliant. It made us want to give up our day jobs and start a stall...

Having got over our disappointed at the market being somewhat truncated we nipped over the road to Brick Lane to check out the Shepard Fairey exhibition at Stolen Spaces. Just as we set off I overheard an American girl call out to her friend, "Hey Shepard...". How bizarre!

The exhibition was immense. In a vast, industrial space above Brick Lane we emerged into a cavernous space that probably used to be a clothing factory. On the bare concrete walls hung powerful images showing Shepard Fairey's evolution of his Obey/Andre propoganda into a collection of posters/stencil paintings that couldn't hammer home his anti war, pro freedom message any more explosively. The message that we are all being watched in an Orwellian state is particularly apt in London, and even more so on Brick Lane as London has the highest proportion of CCTV cameras per person in any city! He managed to sell 90% of his work on the opening night... not bad for what a lot of the art world would call a vandall!

We ventured back to Canteen via a vibrant market on Brick Lane which could't have had more imaginative stuff on sale... full of originality. Great T shirts, awesome belt buckles, delicious food from every culture of the globe. And we popped out at the rear to see a red London RootMaster bus set up as a restaurant in between a clapped out car by Banksy and a meteorite type thing by D-Face... so cool. I've promised to take Cowie there for a quirky evening of vegan food and bus passes! Very appropriate because Cowie sat us next to a stinky tramp on the bus this morning!

Back at the ranch in Spitalfield we had to queue for about 10 minutes for a table at Canteen which, in conjunction with the school dinner tables, reminded us of Busaba and Wagamamas... no bad thing. The menu is a tour de force of British classics. From macoroni cheese, through potted shrimps, roast duck, veal pie, abroath smokies, smoked haddock and mash and fish and chips. We couldn't find anything we didn't want! No mean feat.

We were seated at the end of a long communual table right next to the kitchen... perfect. It gave us a chance to see all the goodies flying out. Our first observations were that quite a few of the plates seemed to spend too long on the pass. And we weren't sure putting a salad under the hot lamps was a wise move either! On top of this we were quite surprised that not one of the chefs (5 of them) were British bearing in mind this is a British restaurant. And come to think of it neither were any of the waiters or greeting staff. But then again it doesn't matter because all of the food was sublime. In many ways its a great endoresement of how good British food is... and of what a brilliantly mixed culture we are lucky to have in London.

We ordered some apple and tomato juice whilst we filtered our way through the totally delicious menu. When Cowie wasn't looking I asked the waiter for some home made pork scratchings which arrived in a little kiln jar and put a massive smile on my face. The combination of salt and fat is a bit like a class A drug... except more addictive and probably worse for me in the long run!

Our water was from the eco friendly Belu which gets another tick in the box. I love the little icon of a penguin with a smile on his face... and the fact that all profits go towards bore holes in Africa and other great water projects in the developing world.

All this boring stuff aside.... Cowie had smoked haddock and mash with spinach and holandaise which was so, so good I could have licked her plate after she had finished.

Luckily I didn't get food envy because my veal pie was so epic! Stunningly crispy pastry and rich gooey innards took all the pain away from playing hockey on Saturday. The greens were great too... mainly because they were smothered in gravy and veal juice.

All for £32... what a great place. I can't wait to go back.

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