W Somerset Maugham once said, “to eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day”. As an avid fan of England’s restaurants I would dispute the continued accuracy of this observation, however as an equally devoted breakfast lover I am not opposed to eating it three times a day. Canteen comes into its own in this regard with its all day breakfast service meaning that you can indeed eat breakfast for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Canteen has spread its way to Royal Festival Hall and Baker Street but MTV boyfriend and I met our friends Fi and Tim at the original branch in Spitalfields. Featuring big glass windows facing out onto the market Canteen is light and airy. The blonde wood bench seating brought back repressed memories of Wagamas but my spirit is lifted by the inclusion of a bottle of Heinz ketchup and HP brown sauce on every table.

The thing about breakfast is that it is not a meal that you can wait around for. If you are eating breakfast (even if it is after lunch time) it generally means that this is the first thing that you have eaten for the day so there is an urgency to ordering. Conversely, the thing about Canteen is that is is very popular and operates a no booking system so you are likely to have to wait an indeterminable amount of time until you get to order your breakfast.

Finally we get a table and finally the eagerly anticipated breakfasts arrive. Canteen is premised on the concept of British cooking and so while the menu featured fairly universal breakfast dishes there were a few nods to Britain such as the inclusion of Marmite and a hot buttered Arbroath Smokie which is apparently a type of smoked haddock.

Canteen’s Eggs Benedict features good quality eggs, slightly stale bread and a creamy Hollandaise sauce which while text book is a little too cool for my taste. However, the star breakfast order is the bubble and squeak with fried eggs and bacon. The bubble and squeak is a great big round pancake of fried potatoes cooked until golden and crispy on the outside. The eggs perched on top are disappointing as they have been cooked in chefs rings which gives them a sterile all too perfect appearance. Fresh orange juice, English breakfast tea and reasonable coffee are all dispatched with a smile and despite the mounting queue we are not pressured to leave our table.

Prices are not canteen prices and would probably have W Somerset Maughan turning in his grave but they are fairly standard for a London breakfast. There are better breakfasts in London but Canteen is a decent enough option for the Spitalfields area.

Details: 2 Crispin Place, Spitalfields London E1 6DW UK (ph 0845 686 1122)
Damage: Reasonable

If you liked this you may also be interested in my review of breakfasts at Providore’s, Raoul’s and 202.

Canteen on Urbanspoon


  1. I’ve always fancied eating in Canteen – and have walked up to do just that many times, perused the menu – and then walked away again….I have no idea why this is as I love traditional British food.

    As for breakfast, If I’m in the area and it’s a leisurley all you can stuff in your face British-Fest I’m after – It’s pretty hard to beat S+M cafe across the road for breakfast.

  2. I’m a huge fan of W Somerset Maugham. As a writer, he’s very out of fashion, and first editions can be picked up for “reduced” prices.

    I can’t think of anything better than a traditional English breakfast, served on Spode “Italian pattern” plates placed on a shiny mahogany table, looking through a window onto a field with lots of fresh Spring lambs bouncing around: Fried eggs, black pudding, bacon, fried bread, kippers, devilled kidneys, and decent black coffee, Earl Grey tea.

    As we’re in London, the next best thing is breakfast at The Wolseley. Excellent service, and a good atmosphere.

  3. Dan – I haven’t been to S&M yet – the queue always appeared equally daunting.

    Greasy Spoon – yes Earl grey tea is a very English way to start the day. I like how your vision of the perfect English breakfast is complete down to the crockery!

  4. I’ve heard mixed things about Canteen – and yes, one is that it’s a lot of money for what you get! Still, I agree that English breakfasts are the absolute best and anywhere that does a good one deserves to be investigated. Keen to try the S&M cafe as I see one is now open near my office by Smithfields!

  5. I must say that Canteen is consistently delivers with beautifully cooked traditional English food. I’m a big fan of their roasts. Simply can’t go wrong. xx

  6. Jeanne – Please do and report back

    Top bird – A Canteen roast does sound good. I walked past this weekend and they actually had a whole pig on a spit outside which was pretty impressive.

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