The Kentish Canteen may only be eight months old but it shot straight into The Guardian’s North London Budget Restaurants list last month. And if their crab, lemon and chili linguine at £6.50 for a small bowl is anything to go by it’s a throughly deserved accolade. Spicy and zingy (yes, zingy) and packing more crab than ten of L’Anima’s version it’s probably the best main course under a tenner I’ve had this year. Well, definitely the best main course under seven quid.
We booked in last Saturday lunchtime (again, it must be said, via a PR) and nestled ourselves among North Londoners of every age from screamo baby to gibbering pensioner and surveyed the scene. The cafe boasts, shall we say, one man’s meat decor – the walls are adorned with department store art celebrating Kentish Town as some kind of destination and the welcome table is bedecked with an extreme cross-section of food (from cookies to brownies to peppers to onions to croissants to garlic to sunflowers) that makes it look like a Habitat show kitchen. But it’s very homely. Slates advertise homemade raspberry ripple ice cream and waitresses act like siblings or best friends.
We rampaged through three hours of mid-sized mains, sharing plates, starters and sides and unearthed very few duds. Highlights were piquant thai fishcakes, a simple yet devastating greek salad (the usual suspects thrown together in generous chunks), a nanjing black rice salad, milky mochas and the most moreish fresh mint tea I’ve had in aeons. Low points centred around a soup offered chilled then brought warm and asparagus, which was cooked well, but needed something with it.
With almost everything clocking in at three to six quid, though, such quibbling seems churlish – they could get away with adding on a good 30% should they ever start feeling a bit Fred Goodwin.
Best cheap eats in North London? It’s definitely a heavyweight contender.
Price per head: £10-15