In three words: Relaxed, Friendly, Awesome
The Lowdown: Sundays are no more something to fear. Or at least, put off that feeling of dread for at least another few hours because Ben’s Canteen has given us reason for eke out the long summer days a little longer.
Yes, it’s another winning formula from our favourite neighborhood brunch, burger and booze spot. Whether your local is Battersea or Earlsfield, or you make the trek to visit these temples of chilled out charm, then hopefully you know the score (and if you don’t then it’s time to get educated). Ben’s offers quality snacks, meals, cocktails, and a brunch that has become legendary, all in a space that is cheeky, fun, and has interior design flair without being overly styled.
Location: The original Ben’s Canteen is on St John’s Hill in Battersea, a short trot from Clapham Junction. The second, located in Earslfield, followed in May 2014. Such is the popularity that a third site is due to open very soon, and we’re not surprised at all.
The Occasion: Although famous for its brunches, Ben’s also does evening chilling down to a T. And now there can be nowhere better to spend your Sunday eve. Your best bet is to come with a group of friends and all make the culmination of the weekend an indulgent affair by ordering the sharing cocktails.
Decor: Ben’s treads the line between modern and chic, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek kitsch thrown in too. White-washed wood, blackboard walls with cheerful messages scrawled on them, and mismatched furniture such as the long artists benches all give a cosy feel, while the neon-pink heart adds that touch of humour.
Atmosphere: Sunday mornings at Ben’s are pretty manic – people queue for a long time to get their teeth into brekkie, and the smiling staff always deal with it admirably. But Sunday evenings one gets the feeling this is the real Ben’s – a relaxed, chilled out and communal space that is perfect for catching up with friends, having a casual date, and just unwinding.
Culinary Concept: Now that the days are getting longer, it’s time to pull that BBQ out, and this is a definite influence of the Sunday Sessions menu. There are burgers, a superb sounding 38 Day aged Shorthorn Steak, and a lamb dog, all of which will have your stomach groaning. Sharing is also a big deal, be it nachos, skewers, sliders, or boozy delights.
What we tried: Who knew that pounding your own guac could be so fun (and kind of therapeutic?) With the DIY guacamole then you can smash your avocado any way you like, courtesy of a mortar and pestle, lime, salt and salsa, then scoop up the velvety green dip with crisp tortillas. We went double trouble with burgers, opting for a pulled pork and a posh chicken. The former was pure meaty indulgence – succulent, oozing into the brioche bun, and just on the right side of squishy messiness to be divine. The posh chicken was a huge slab of crispy fried poultry – golden crumb encasing tender meat and topped with bacon. A side of sweet potato wedges completed the dish.
For dessert it’s another DIY success, this time in the form of donuts. The genius concept of personal filling has been embraced by Ben’s Canteen, and a dish of mini sugar coated donuts arrives with three syringes of jam, chocolate and custard. Who says you shouldn’t play with your food, especially when it tastes this good?
For next time: The Spicy Lamb Dog with BBQ Sauce, Fennel, Rocket and Buttermilk Poppyseed Dressing sounds like it would be an absolute party for the taste buds. And the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownie needs to be tried.
Veggie delights: Vegetarians can chomp away their Sunday blues too, with the Awesome Veggie burger, the tomato and sourdough salad, veggie skewers and smashed guacamole.
Best of the booze: Ben’s is passionate about craft beers and has a great wine selection, but it’s the cocktails we really love. The standard menu has all kinds of intriguing libations, such as the Bogan Juice (a heady mix of rums, lime, passion-fruit, vermouth and salted caramel) and The Giesha (gin, elderflower, rose syrup, sparkling wine and a pretty float of petals). Still, it’s the sharers that are what really sells the Sunday sessions to us. For under £40 grab a half bottle of gin, presented on a DIY board with tonic and garnish such as rosemary, lemon and blueberries. Other options to delve into with mates are the jugs of apple mojito or Pimms, and beer and cider buckets too.
Overall: We didn’t really need another reason to love Ben’s Canteen, since it’s already stolen our heart. But this has sealed the deal. We’re tired of spending our Sunday night in the pub, trying to avoid that slightly seedy feeling that creeps up on us. With the funky freshness of the interior, the laid-back approach to boozing and food, and the charming staff, then this is set to be our new favourite place to come. So grab a group, pile around the picnic tables outside or the jumbled quirky school-house furniture within, and pretend it’s Saturday all over again.