Great Britain has never had a reputation for great food—it is, after all, the nation where a dish called mushy peas is purportedly a good thing. But designer-cum-restaurant- entrepreneur Patrick Clayton-Malone says British cuisine has rebounded from its maligned reputation. A renewed national interest in supporting local farms has introduced color and freshness to traditional dishes.
At Canteen, the restaurant Clayton-Malone founded in 2005 with Dominic Lake and Cass Titcombe, the focus on simplicity and quality extends beyond food to the eatery’s design itself. “It was important to create a space that reflected our values—democratic, honest, British,” he says.
Iconic modern buildings like the brutalist Royal Festival Hall, where the second Canteen opened in 2007 (the first opened at Spitalfields in 2005), were a source of inspiration, as was the London-based design company Isokon, whose work peaked in the 1930s under the direction of several Bauhaus legends. “Although not financially successful in their time, they were trailblazers,” Clayton-Malone says of Isokon. “Their ethos was to create great design but not be exclusive. Everything they produced had real integrity and design longevity.”
In 2008, Clayton-Malone launched a design studio, Very Good & Proper, to produce custom furniture and accessories for Canteen. Their first commission, the Canteen table, was developed with designers André Klauser and Ed Carpenter for the third Canteen location on Baker Street, which opened in late 2008. The birch-ply four-top on cast aluminum legs was designed to be cost-efficient, timeless, and durable.
London-based retailer twentytwentyone sells the Canteen table and will carry future VG&P designs. They also supplied lighting and seating for the Baker Street location, where bright colors and warm oak create a welcome place to linger. Londoners can come in early for potted duck or piccalilli and stay late for treacle tart. While it may still be hard to find a hot buttered Arbroath smokie across the pond, Canteen is doing its part to put a fresh face on Her Majesty’s gastronomy.