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The Canton Arms

by Ross Bruniges on October 2nd, 2010

At a glance

The Canton Arms

Chef: Trish Hilferty

Reservations: 020 7582 8710

Rating: 8 out of 10

Cost : £25-£50

Location

177 South Lambeth Road

London

SW8 1XA

Map

Location map

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In photos

The Canton Arms

The famous foie gras toastie

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If you’re not already aware I’m a big fan of pubs as well as of food so when I find a pub which also serves great food this is a thing to celebrate; and when such a pub can be found within a 30 minute walk from my house well then that is even better!

The Canton Arms is at a nice corner location on South Lambeth Road and opposite a Cost-cutter; an area not massively known for good grub and certainly not on the beaten Clapham borders track and the latest opening from the people behind the equally excellent Anchor and Hope on The Cut, Southwark. If you’ve not been to one of their pubs before the vibe is split very much between a good traditional pub (no bottled beers, guest ales and stools around the bar though annoyingly pork scratchings and nuts have been replaced with olives and lupins) and a place to eat food and have a glass/bottle or two of wine with the two generally split 50/50 for floor space. At The Canton the bar and restaurant is divided by the bar meaning that drinkers can easily be tempted by the food and smells on offer from the kitchen. And, one of the bigger annoyances, you can’t book a table; though they will happily let you know when one comes available if you stick around for a drink while you wait.

The food on offer is ‘traditional’ gastropub fair but done to a very high standard with the regularly changing menu being very in sync with what is in season. We went on a Friday evening (my friend who works there recommended that we arrived as close to 6pm as possible) and for starters had autumn minestrone soup and cuttle-fish braised in ink with polenta followed by one of the daily specials (of which there were 4) of beef Provencal with dumplings and steamed spring greens. The puddings all sounded excellent but after the food and 2 glasses of wine (as well as a few beers beforehand) we couldn’t force ourselves to eat them though have promised ourselves that room will be saved for them next time. All dishes were seasoned perfectly and you could tell cooked with flair and a real understanding of the ingredients and dishes. I think the quality of the beef dish could be highlighted by the fact that the kitchen started off with 4 portions and within four orders had sold out; so, FYI if you want to sample the specials get in early!

Where The Canton varies from its sister pubs is the inclusion of a bar snacks menu which provides the main reason why I will continues to return to this pub for years to come; the foie gras toastie (other toasties such as haggis and cheesey beans are also available). Crispy fried bread with rich creamy foie gras in the center that tastes and feels that this is something so good that it’s bad. This amazing creation was concocted as part of the teams experiments in what can be put into a sandwich toaster and still taste good. I’m not sure what the failed attempts included but thankfully it didn’t put them off placing it on their menu; they are in my opinion reason alone to venture down to Stockwell though not the cheapest bar snack ever at £8.80 (so high because real foie gras is used, not a pate).

Waiting staff are all nice and chatty, are well trained and the wine list for a pub is great with some really nice Italian reds on there that will go as well with a main course as with a toastie. With the winter months about to come in I can picture many an evening spent in The Canton. As both a pub and a restaurant it delivers everything that you could want, apart from cheese and onion crisps…

UPDATE: The Canton staff have told me that they DO sell cheese and onion crisps as well as pork scratchings, peanuts, salt and vinegar, prawn cockatil, salted crisps, bacon fries AND scampi fries. All I can say is that I probably missed these due to booze consumption!

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