I don’t think that the areas south of the Thames in London has a great reputation. In fact, this article characterises south London as being rough, gritty, poor, dull, dirty…but on the flip-side, it’s also considered to be up and coming and family-friendly. What mattered to us though, was that it was cheap. We found a great little bed and breakfast place in Stockwell, within ten minutes walk to three different Tube stations and a bus line as well, that was priced well below what similar places were charging in north or west London. More money saved = more meals out!
The pub closest to our accommodation was the Canton Arms on South Lambeth Road, a self-described gastropub. My friend dismissed it as a typical dodgy pub offering food served by “Chef Mike” (microwave!), but the dinner that K and I enjoyed there one evening proved to be anything but that.
Drinks to start – a Diet Coke for me (happily out of a bottle, no post-mix here!), and a large pint of local cider for K. Addlestones is as pure a cider as you will find anywhere else, unfiltered and full of the sweet and cloudy goodness of English cider apples. I’d venture a guess and say that if you were to go back two or three hundred years, this would be the type of cider served up at the local English tavern.
I chose one of the specials of the day – a homemade Papperdelle Pasta with Oyster Mushrooms on the side. This was unlike any papperdelle that I had tried before as it was very thin – almost akin to a Chinese flat rice noodle in its translucent thinness. This proved to be a boon as the thinner and less substantial pasta paired particularly well with the full-bodied plump and juicy mushrooms on the side. My only gripe is that the pasta got a bit dry in some places as there wasn’t enough of the rich mushroom sauce to coat the whole dish.
K chose their Roast Blackface Lamb – pink and juicy with a healthy dose of sweet aniseed flavouring via the plump raisins and fennel in the sauce. These lamb slices were particularly meaty, but the dish lacked balance overall – some plain roast potatoes or peas on the side would have made it more palatable overall. As it was, it was just too meaty and overwhelming.
We ordered some Greens on the side to share – a rather uninspiring mix of cabbage, cabbage and more cabbage without even a single floret of broccoli, beans, or peas to liven it up. Not worth the 3.50 GBP charged at all considering the lack of variety in green vegetables.
The mains were truly belly-bursting, but I never turn down a good dessert – Almond Tart and Yorkshire Rhubarb to share. I don’t know why I don’t eat rhubarb more often because it is quite versatile – you can have it quite sweet when cooked, or you could cook it this way so that it’s just slightly tart enough to offset to sweet nuttiness of an almond frangipane tart.
And what the heck, might as well top off the whole evening with a scoop of their Peanut Brittle Ice-Cream. This scoop of ice-cream was properly loaded with chunks of caramel peanut butter, actual peanuts, and crunchy toffee-esque peanut brittle. Two scoops next time, not one!
The Canton Arms lives up to its claim of being a gastropub – the food is surprisingly delicious, if not particularly well-rounded. While it’s most popular with the south London locals just as a watering-hole, the food is not to be dismissed out of hand either. It is quite pricey for what is considered ‘pub food’ though – with the bill coming in at over $100 AUD, it’s certainly not a cheap local!
The Canton Arms is located at 177 South Lambeth Rd in Stockwell, London.