11 Newport Street
London WC2H 7JR
T: 020 7437 6220
Sun-Thurs 12 noon - 11.30pm
Fri-Sat 12 noon - 12.30am
Cost: £6 to £15 per head without alcohol.
I'm devoting my first restaurant review to an old favourite of mine, The Canton in Soho, London.
I started going here in my youth in the 1980s when I could club for England and go nights on end without sleep. In those days you'd emerge from Alice's or Gossips or the Kit Kat Club in the early hours, famished and longing for hot tasty food, and you would head straight for either breakfast at the Cavendish Hotel or something spicy at the Canton.
The Canton is no longer a 24 hour establishment, sadly, due to Westminster Council indulging killjoy impulses. But it is still going strong as a good inexpensive and reliable eatery.
For a speedy meal when I'm caught in the West End I usually do what my fellow Chinese bredren do under the circumstances and order from the window. Typical of Cantonese cuisine, you'll find roast duck, chicken, crispy fat pork and char siu hanging up over trays of squid, pigs' ears and roast gizzards. The Roadkill Special, as it struck me once when viewing the flattened poultry, is quick and delicious, and costs little more than a Big Mac meal or other High Street fast food. Duck and char siu (lean barbecue pork) on boiled rice with a garnish of vegetables and a pot of green tea is around £6.
If you go during peak eating times times, expect to find yourself sharing a table with other diners. The service is brisk but friendly and no-one hangs around for a long lingering meal. This is fast food Chinese-style.
The other day a friend and I felt adventurous and ordered a plate of the usual duck and char siu plus the pigs' ears and squid with choi sum in oyster sauce and boiled rice. Shame, they've stopped serving gizzards due to a fall-off in demand. Can't imagine why. We probably eat this every time we chow down on your average sausage, if you're lucky.
Squid and pigs' ears The dominant flavour of the pigs' ears is star anise as found in Five Spice powder. The cartilage makes this quite crunchy — a favourite Chinese texture — and the covering skin melts down slightly so it's gelatinous. The squid is tender and the tentacles a little chewy, as I like them.
Roast duck and char siu pork The duck and char siu were tasty as always, although the duck is quite fatty.
Served on plain boiled rice to cleanse the palate between bites, and with fresh choi sum with oyster sauce, this is great traditional Chinese food for carnivores.