Clapham's been engulfed in a huge battle with Brixton, Battersea and London Bridge over the past few years to offer the best South London nights out. And though things haven't exactly gone to plan, Ben's Canteen has made it clear that there's more to Clapham than train stations and a massive park. I headed to this cosy pub to see what all the fuss was about. Unknown to me as I struggled up the hill toward the venue, each painful step was well worth it.
You might be out of breath but you’ll know you’re getting close to Ben's Canteen when the road starts to take on a village feel; the many restaurants become more independent and the pavements become less crowded. The restaurant itself sets up shop on a corner, with a few tables situated beneath the canopy outside (hello al-fresco summer evenings) and a large window giving you clear views into the large dining room.
Head inside and you’ll find a series of high tables and the bar which has shelves upon shelves of spirit bottles. Hidden further into the venue is the long room, where even more tables await. The most imposing feature is the heavy wooden features. With a hardwood floor, a bar made up of a colour, wood-panelled jigsaw and crystal white walls, the venue's clearly going for a rustic-sleek clash.
The Food & Drink
I arrived a bit late, somewhat overheated from my frog march from the station and was delighted to be instantly presented with the vodka and gin menu. The menu offers a selection of gin and tonics and vodka sodas, all with various accompaniments and all priced at £7. I went for the William Chase G&T, which was garnished with candied ginger and juniper berries, while my friend had the classic Hendricks and Cucumber pairing. Served in large Copa de Balon glasses, they were cold, refreshing and proved to be the perfect companion while we waited for our body temperatures to return to normal.
Ben’s Canteen is known for specialising in burgers, wine and brunch - all of my favourite things. There are a few twists on classic favourites on the starters menu and the spiced duck nuggets sounded dreamy (£7.50), as did the epic Scotch Egg (£6.50). The six nuggets came with a barbecue sauce and were packed generously with succulent shredded duck. The Scotch Egg lived up to its title of epic, served in halves with a gooey vibrant yolk wobbling in the middle, surrounded by a thick coat of tender meat and a crisp shell. These dishes are perfect for sharing.
Our main course ticked all boxes as we both enjoyed the trio of mini-burgers with matching wines (£27.50). This is an extraordinarily fun and innovative way to enjoy burgers. The three miniatures arrived on a wooden board and were introduced to us by our wonderful waitress. First, we had the ‘Posh Fried Chicken’ burger, made with buttermilk chicken, bacon and slaw served with a glass of chilled cava. Next followed the classic cheeseburger made with beef patty, American cheese and the venue's own burger sauce, accompanied by a glorious glass of the full-bodied shiraz. Bringing up the rear, the ‘Awesome Veggie Burger’ arrived, filled with a sweet potato, spring onion, harissa patty and came with a glass of Alvarinho, a light, sparkling white wine. The classic cheeseburger was the star of the board with a juicy and succulent patty that dribbled a bit of juice over my fingers as I chomped down on it. That said, it's easy to see why the posh fried chicken is a best seller. The veggie burger was delicious but heavy going and really struggled to tread water with its meaty neighbours.
For dessert, there was only one thing I was going to order - the DIY Doughnuts. The dish came with three syringes, each filled with chocolate, jam and custard for you to inject into your doughnut as per your preference. The doughnut balls were hot and dusted heavily with sugar. It was a dreamy dessert that I wish I could enjoy every day.
Ben’s Canteen has managed to put a fun twist on every element of its menu. By elevating the already delectable burgers with wine pairings, mixing up the humble nugget with new meats and quite literally injecting fun into dessert, it was one of the most delicious dinners I have enjoyed in some time. I'll definitely be back within the year.