This week in Brunch on Saturday, we visit the laid-back Ben’s Canteen and make Mimi Thorisson’s French cinnamon crepes with strawberries and cream at home
Ben’s canteen has become a little bit of an institution for brunch. People not savvy enough to get there early (or who prefer a lie in) keenly queue outside the door of the Clapham Junction branch post 10am, even in the rain. While on sunny days pleased-as-punch punters sit outside on the benches in the restaurant’s suntrap.
And it’s easy to see why they do. Ben’s Cantenn is all about burgers, wine and brunch (their self-proclaimed specialities) and plenty of the green stuff people love – avocado. Boozy cocktails flow, the coffee is punchy, their crockery is instagramable and it’s all pretty laid back – thanks to their Aussi inspired ethos. In short, they know what they’re doing.
The menu is indulgent, playing up to weekend stereotypes of either nursing a hangover with big old burgers (from £8.25), a breakfast burrito (£10.50) -with spicy chorizo, scrambled egg and cheddar- to your classic banana pancakes (£9) and a range of poached eggs on sourdough (from £7) with a pot of “BC Hollandaise” – to which you can add extras to. The names are fun – from egg’s pigs out (£9.75), which is Ben’s favourite dish, made with pulled pork and hot sauce, to eggs costa brava with chorizo and Brixton sourdough toast. But the standout dish (and the most popular, according to our waitress) is the sweetcorn and courgette fritters. Two chunky circular fritters are accompanied by halloumi, balsamic roast tomato chutney and a poached egg. Although it’s vegetarian, there’s the option to add chorizo or dry cured bacon. I went for the bacon.
The extras and sides are pretty large too. We went for the homemade hash browns. They come with melted cheddar on top and are better than anything you buy from a shop.
The drinks are just as fun – if not a little too fun with the option for “Brunch shot – jager”, (not sure what’s brunch-like about it), with five for £12.50. But for a calmer option, go for Ben’s breakfast fizz, which could almost trick you into thinking you’re just drinking orange juice, bar the bubbly aspect from sparkling wine. There’s also the dirty Aussi iced coffee – dirtied by rum, or the virgin kind if hair of the dog is too much.
You’re welcomed to stay for a while and, in true Aussie style, there’s no rush. The idea is based on a Sunday spent at the pub, but in a more relaxed environment. And that’s exactly what it is. It’s light and bright and you won’t want to leave.