Goodness, if I ran a local bar/bistro, would I want the onslaught of 35 or more food bloggers intent on eating their hearts out over a networking lunch? No – I think I’d avoid it like the plague despite the potential benefit of reviews etc. And, if I did decide to go ahead…would I serve up a menu like the one below? I suspect I’d be serving an altogether more simple menu, perhaps a Sunday lunch type of thing. But Ben of Ben’s Canteen is a brave, brave man! He is obviously proud of his food – and rightly so.
We arrived in dribs and drabs and were greeted by the man himself before sitting down to eat
Pork Crackling Popcorn – tiny morsels of pork crackling, cut to look like popcorn. I’m not a great pork crackling fan, but this was quite moreish
Pickled Root Vegetables with Pickled Quails Eggs – a large platter of tiny turned root vegetables and egg, tempered with a light pickle. These were lovely, especially the tiny pickled quails eggs.
Black pudding, truffled poached eggs and foie gras hollandaise
Wandle poached cod cheeks, mushrooms, crispy ham hock
Beetroot tarte tatin, horseradish & herb yoghurt, fennel pollen
Duck liver parfait, with damson jelly and plum crisps
My Beetroot tarte tatin was nice but not exceptional. The beetroot was a thick piece of heritage beetroot that rather overwhelmed the pastry. It WAS beautifully presented, but it was a dish which won for me because I have a bit of a beetroot fetish;)
Cauliflower veloute with truffle foam – this was lovely – a mouthful of soup topped with truffle shavings
Venison, thyme fondant, black pudding and walnut crumble, beetroot puree, pickled mushrooms and damson & chocolate sauce. This was my main choice and was really very good. The venison was perfectly cooked, served with thyme seasoned fondant potatoes. While I thought I’d chosen the best of the mains, the alternatives did look pretty amazing too.
BC Burger, topped with homemade corned beef & smoked cheddar, secret burger sauce and chips.
Oven roasted Brill, glazed chicken wing, braised chicory, brown butter shrimp mash and confit lemon.
Marmite nut roast, sauted jerusalem artichokes, braised fennel, pea puree and cep gravy.
The next Amuse of Mojito Sorbet was delicious and amusing in the true sense of the word.
My dessert was poached rhubarb, honeycomb crumble and beer shandy icecream – a delicious combination of flavours. My only criticism was a heartfelt yearning on my part for an uncheffied crumble. On the other hand, doesn’t this one look beautiful (and it tasted as good as it looked!)
The alternatives of strawberry tart and basil sorbet or beer gums, toffee apple lollipop, marshmallows and candyfloss cordial also looked stunning.
So, Ben of Ben’s canteen pulled it off I think. Everyone looked happy and well fed by the end of the afternoon! If this was my local bar, I’d be there quite often, I’d get fat on their fabulous burgers and I’d probably take up residence on Sundays. It’s a few minutes walk from Clapham Junction – so if that’s your neck of the wood pay it a visit!
Thanks for the hospitality and to Gail Doggett for organising yet another fabulous afternoon. An honourary mention to Dave Ahern, who I’ve followed on twitter for ages as @Corkgourmetguy and who was the chef producing this amazing feast, do check his blog post on Chefs for Calm…it’s a very special appeal that deserves a lot of support