Photograph of Cass Titcomb courtesy of Canteen
With four locations in London, Canteen provides Londoners with “simple British food” in tastefully casual settings. Chef Patron Cass Titcomb has been with the small chain from its 2005 start. After a recently and terribly filling lunch (we loved the roast chicken) at Canteen's comfortable and spacious Baker St restaurant, we decided to find out more from Cass about the guiding principles behind the restaurants' success as well as a little about his life as a chef.
Tell us about Canteen. How long have the restaurants been around and what was the inspiration behind the opening?
Canteen first opened in Spitalfields in 2005. Prior to that we spend roughly two years from conception until we opened. We had a desire to create a British offer using good quality seasonal produce with an all day menu with everything being produced in house as we felt that this was lacking in Britain. Our high streets are awash with an excess of Italian or Asian brands.
How long have you been involved with Canteen and what were doing before becoming Canteen's Chef Patron?
Along with my partners Patrick Clayton-Malone and Dominic Lake, I have been involved from the very beginning. Prior to that I was involved in setting up and running the Real Eating Company in Hove.
What sorts of responsibilities come with being a Chef Patron? Does the role differ from that of being a restaurant's head chef?
Being a chef owner of a small chain, I have to focus on giving our customers the best possible experience. So we are continually assessing and improving what we do.
How would you define Canteen's cuisine?
Simple British food with lots of nostalgic dishes from your childhood cooked with best quality ingredients.
In your opinion, what's the best dish on Canteen's menu?
My personal favourite is the devilled kidneys on toast, but a sure winner has to be the pie and mash with greens, mash and gravy for a very reasonable £10.50.
Do you have some favourite restaurants and shops in or around London that should be on our radar?
Favourite restaurants at the moment would be Lahore Kebab House, Bocca Di Lupo, the bar at Hix in Brewer St and Bentleys. Broadway Market in London Fields has to be my favourite for food shopping.
Any basic tips on how to be a better cook or for budding chefs?
Get as much experience as you can in a variety of restaurants. Also reading and eating out all help to give you a wider breadth of knowledge.
Canteen is located at Spitalfields, Royal Festival Hall, Canary Wharf and Baker Street. Visit them online at www.canteen.co.uk.