Friday, 13 August 2010

The Canonbury Pub review - not for those in a rush

Address: 21 Canonbury Place, London N1 2NS
Tel: 020 7704 2887
Nearest Tube station: Highbury & Islington

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: N.A (for bar service)
Taste: ***
Service: **
Ambience: **
These days, The Canonbury has been designated as one of the gathering places for NCT (National Childbirth Trust) mothers staying in south Islington. The reason is simple: The Canonbury isn’t too busy during weekday afternoons, its ground floor’s disabled toilet comes with a baby changing panel and more importantly, its wide walkways within means that large prams (or ‘travel system’, which those mini tanks are called nowadays) can manoeuvre with relative ease.

Wife was suitably impressed by it and dragged me down there for lunch over the weekend. With the Little One strapped onto me, we hopped into a cab were there in a couple of minutes. The Little One is getting cranky these couple of days and we wouldn’t want to waste any precious moments trekking to our destination.


Anyway, The Canonbury boosts a huge outdoor seating space, which is perfect for a sunny summer day. Not only that, there are a couple of comfortable leather sofas dispersed in a almost haphazard manner in front of the bar counter with a couple of tall velvet benches on one side of the room. The main restaurant dining area, which can easily seat fifty, is set further into the pub.

“Did you make a reservation? Because we are packed today,” a harried looking staff told me when we finally got hold of someone. Bad news – we obviously didn’t. As we didn’t expect The Canonbury to be so popular even at around 3pm on a Sunday afternoon that we didn’t even bothered calling to check.

In an act of desperation, a sign that says “Bar food served from 3pm-5pm” caught my attention. I looked at my watch. It’s 2.49pm. Wonderful. With time to spare, we placed our orders a minute later.

Curiously, other than the mandatory burgers and Sunday roasts, The Canonbury has some pasta on its menu as well. Intrigued, Wife went for the linguine while I opted for a safe classic burger.


As we took our seats by the high benches, a guy went up to a waitress and asked about his order. Judging by his wild gestures, he must have waited for quite some time and was getting rather frustrated. Little did we know what awaited us.

Thirty minutes later, no sign of our food yet. The Little One started stirring. Wife went to check with the staff only to be told that “the food will arrive only 40-50 minutes from the time the order is placed”. Really? To think that The Canonbury wasn’t even operating at its full capacity that afternoon! I would have thought that we should be told about that when we ordered.

An hour later, still no sign with our food. I went up to counter and asked about them. Perhaps it was due the fact that I had a fidgeting infant (still) strapped in front of me, the staff was suitably apologetic and went to check with the kitchen. “Your order will be with you in 5 minutes,” came the reply thereafter.

Our burger and linguine arrive exactly one hour and twelve minutes after we placed our order, and with only a fork between us (we got hold of a staff to ask for the rest of the utensils).

I almost felt like giving up at one point in time and pop by the newspaper stand opposite for some bread only to find that it was closed on Sundays. I have trouble imagining how the kitchen would cope if the entire place was filled and I suspect it might be a ploy to get customers buy its overpriced Tyrrells crisps while they wait two hours for their burgers.


By the time burger arrived, I was absolutely famished and made a mad grab at it and almost didn’t get to taste it if you know what I mean. To give The Canonbury some credit, its classic burger (£9.95) was quite decent. The thick chips were nicely fried, not a hint of being burnt or doused with recycled oil. Patty was flavourful and my only complaint was that it’s too well done and almost rock hard. I miss my Byron.


Wife’s linguini came with flakes of fresh crab, parsley, bits of tomatoes tossed with garlic and chilli (£6.50 for half portion). I managed to wrangle some from her and thought that The Canonbury’s linguine wasn’t too bad at all. The fresh parsley did help to refresh the palate by quite a bit.

The Canonbury is about a 10min slow stroll from Islington’s Upper Street. Set in a lush residential area, its popularity could perhaps be attributed to its large sitting area, relaxed setting and perhaps the mere fact that there’s not much choice in the immediate vicinity. That probably explains The Canonbury wide menu range. It’s absolutely fantastic if you are looking for somewhere to spend your entire afternoon with a copy of the Sunday Times but give this place a wide berth if you are looking for a quick bite.

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