What? Ben’s Canteen was one of the first restaurants I visited when I moved to London, before I worked at The Handbook, before I knew my way round London and before (most likely) I had ever had a proper brunch. Having left Gloucestershire to find my way amongst the gold paved streets of London aka interning and living out of a suitcase, one of my tasks was to go and photograph dishes at Ben’s Canteen for the magazine I was working on. Fast forward to now and I am back several years later, having eaten at Ben’s Canteen several times, but never having had the brunch I first photographed. Of course, this needed to change.
New? Nope, having opened back in 2011 it has become a quintessential part of Clapham brunch life, because love or (pretend to) despise Clapham, you can’t fault its brunch game. A second Ben’s Canteen followed, opening in Earlsfield in 2014 and it’s also set to open in Battersea as part of the Circus West Village development.
Where? Just up from Clapham Junction, you’ll find the original Ben’s Canteen on a corner of St John’s Hill: 140 St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction SW11 1SL www.benscanteen.com
On the Menu: Alongside classics like eggs royale, poached eggs on toast and banana pancakes, there is a whole section dedicated to brunch buns. Get stuck into chorizo, cheese and egg in a bun; the chicken club or scrambled egg with cheese, spring onion and sriracha. Big breakfasts include The Big Ben and the Full Veggie and there are two healthy options if you’re that way inclined such as the vegan squash salad.
The Look: Ben’s Canteen is all about the relaxed vibes: a giant neon heart lights one black wall but the rest of the walls are white and there’s a nautical feel to it with its stripped back wooden floors, miss-match of tables and chairs, succulents and minimalistic lights strung up on the ceiling. High tables for two sit opposite the bar, but the room extends at the back, so there is plenty of space for your rowdier brunch. In the summer, grab a seat at the table outside or try and a bag a spot by the folding French doors.
What We Ate: For me it only had to be The Recovery Burger, a glorious mound of sausage, black pudding patty, American cheese, bacons, hash browns and fried eggs. The sort of thing that will most definitely sort your hangover out if you can stomach it, if you’re not hungover then it will definitely set you up for the day. A word of warning though, the recovery sauce is planning on blasting your hangover away because it is so spicy, it would probably help you recover from flu too. The Pig Out was their take on Egg’s Royale, with hollandaise sauce and a hearty portion of pulled pork. Talking of hearty portions there was plenty of smashed avocado with feta to cut through the heaviness of the meat.
The food is simple here, but with big meaty flavours and perfectly poached eggs. Safe to say they know what they’re doing.
What We Drank: For those in need of a pick me up or just want to get the party started early, then you’ll find Ben’s take on Bloody Marys, Red Snappers, Buck Fizz and bellinis, you can even have your coffee with rum in it. That said we kept it virtuous, much to Ben’s disappointment no doubt, with lattes and beetroot and ginger juices.
Go With: Ben’s Canteen is the sort of place you could take anyone, as long as they are into food and are not looking for tiny portions (you might need to reassess your priorities if you are). This is the sort of place to really get stuck into your food, not to worry about whether food is clean or not – yes, I said that c word. If you’re worried, have a fresh juice with your gin and giant burger and get on with your day, you can always run it off later.
Final Word: Ben’s Canteen is on to a good thing, burgers and cocktails done well, it’s always going to get into my good books. How they are going straight to the top of the class though? With their current Christmas burger, just think about this: sage brined and butter-milked turkey breast, Karma Cola braised ham, squashed stuffing ball, brie, bacon and chestnut mayo, mulled wine and cranberry sauce and buttered Brussel tops. Next level.
Ben’s Canteen: 140 St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction SW11 1SL