Yesterday my Twitter feed became positively gourmet as this years Michelin announcement was made. It’s a time when the culinary elite hold their breaths to see whether they are ascending or descending the ranks.
Little you would say to do with the humble boozer? Well not quite true. Entering the 2011 Michelin Guide was a firm favourite. The Canton Arms in Stockwell. Yes, Stockwell. It has earned inclusion as a Bib Gourmand, denoting quality food, service and value.
Since my early visits and my posts in reverence of what they can do with a slice of bread and a Toastie Machine – think Foie Gras or Haggis – I’ve returned regularly. Now and again service hasn’t been quite as expected but even so I’ve always walked away well fed, well watered and happy (and eager) to return. It’s good to see the Michelin Inspectors recognise this small piece of South Lambeth Road and makes me wonder if they tried the Toastie.
Canton Arms, 177 South Lambeth Road, Stockwell, SW8 1XP
My appreciation of the Canton Arms seems to be growing with each visit. I need a weekly fix as a minimum and this week found myself sharing the fix over dinner.
Our meal for 4 (with Lou, Meister and O) had swelled to 7 when news spread that we were dining as well as drinking. Captain English dropping hints as big as his eyes when faced with a Fopp sale secured the invite with his other half, Hadedar. Making up the seven was Silvio; to whom I promised not to mention his recent appreciation of a corked bottle of wine. “Hmmmm. Interesting…. Its different. But I like it”. His name has been changed (as with all) to protect his pride further. I mean its a mistake any Italian could make (well at least that’s what he told us).
Enjoyment of the Canton starts with the ale board, which rarely disappoints. New to me were Tring Brewery’s, Jock O’Legs, copper coloured with a hoppy bitter taste and Acorn Brewery’s, Barnsley Bitter. At 3.8% this dark chestnut bitter could sustain for a session with its rich flavour.
The dining room was busy but securing a table was effortless (no bookings taken under 8 diners). Presented with the option of a Salt Marsh Lamb, slowly pot roasted for 7 hours, served with Boulangere Potatoes (my mouth is genuinely watering), there was no contest and a quick show of hands confirmed we had the required 4 to manage the dish. Starter was similarly an easy choice. There was no answer other than “yes” when Meister suggested the Foie Gras toastie to share. I rub my hands with glee at the prospect.
Neither course disappoints. The toastie had as much for its novelty value than the fact I love foie gras wasn’t as rich as I thought. For £8 you aren’t going to get masses of it but what you get is more than enough. accompanied by a chutney or relish it won’t be the last time I sample this dish, or the further choice of haggis..
Served from the oven, the Lamb and Potatoes were placed in the centre of the table with serving spoon, fork and tongs. The Lamb had benefited from every minute of its 7 hours, the meet falling from the bone. The potatoes were the standout, crisp with a rich onion taste from white onions reduced to almost puree. I could order this on its own, although I don’t think my belt has enough notches to cope.
The Canton goes from strength to strength. Next stop Haggis Toastie!
Moving on from the Marquis we headed for the Landor. Promising from the outside this North Clapham theatre pub had all the atmosphere of a bends chamber. This is the danger point of any crawl. You are 4 pubs in, and maybe 6 pints or more down. Spirits waning we necked them quickly and headed on before the will to carry on deserted us..
Crossing Clapham Road we made our way to the Surprise, just off Larkhall Park. A Youngs’ pub, it fits the tag of a local boozer right down to the tumbleweed moment as the door creaked open and all eyes turned to us. Could this be another killer blow to the crawl?
A few locals sat in the small front bar and despite the initial tumbleweed we got a friendly enough reception. Well we made it out intact after another swift pint, though unlike the Landor I will probably return to the Surprise, even its just to find out what the Surprise is.
Heading on to the sixth and final pub of the crawl there wasn’t any doubt as to which pub it would be. Set at the edge of a Stockwell estate is the Cavendish. You write this pub off as another estate. pub at your own peril. In fact it should itself be called the Surprise with the backroom Ballroom showcasing new comedy, music and on occasion burlesque. Added to which it’s probably the only pub in London to have an occasional house organist. The on tap selection isn’t huge with Greene King being the choice to round off the crawl. Standing at the bar chatting with the staff, there is a thought that if we started the crawl here we wouldn’t have made it far. We’ll defintely be back here for a full entry as it rightly deserves.
So 6 pubs down and the pint count pushing double figures, there is no thought of the head related sonsequences in the morning; thoughts more reserved for the pubs we missed (notably The Priory and the Canton). Surely an excuse for a second annual Stockwell Crawl. Or perhaps just next week.