Canton Element

48 Red Lion Street, London, WC1R 4PF, United Kingdom

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Canton Element is tucked away in a quiet Bloomsbury Street, and has been running since 2015. The dining room is quite small, seating perhaps thirty diners at tightly packed, plain tables. The menu was extensive, mostly Cantonese dishes with, rather oddly, a couple of Thai dishes thrown in. There was a wine list but it was cursory, a dozen bottles in all with the list telling you the grape variety but being otherwise quite sketchy e.g. “Sancerre” or “Chardonnay”. Still wines were £18 to £38, though there was also Laurent Perrier Rose Brut champagne at £80 (which retails at £68) and a misspelt bottle of Bollinger at £79 compared to its retail price of £51. Jasmine tea was £2 a pot, with Tsing Tao beer £4.80 a bottle.

A selection of dim sum offered six steamed dumplings for £9.50, with a classic har gau prawn dumpling, scallop and prawn shui mai, chive and prawn, prawn and courgette, a spinach dumpling and a mixed vegetable dumpling. The dumplings themselves were actually quite good, thin and delicate, with correctly cooked prawns (14/20). These were better than hot and soup, which was quite chilli hot but for me had stock that lacked complexity compared to the best versions of the breed (12/20).

Honey and black pepper pork chop was enjoyable, the pork pieces glazed in honey, seasoned and fried (14/20). Sichuan prawns were properly cooked and had a lively chilli kick, even if the prawns themselves tasted quite basic (13/20). Singapore noodles had good texture (13/20) and choy sum (flowering cabbage) was stir fired with garlic and had pleasant texture. The stalks were not the very tender baby ones that might see at a fancier restaurant, but they were cooked perfectly well (13/20). Fried rice was fine.

Service was, well, it was quite curt. When I phoned to book I was told in no uncertain terms: “be on time”. At the meal the food certainly arrived swiftly but trying to get the attention of waiters as they whizzed past (in this case for some more jasmine tea) was like watching Formula 1 cars as they zip around a circuit: you know that they are there but they are entirely oblivious to you. Actions like wiping down the table when you finish your dishes are left to fancier establishments, as this would just get in the way of you paying the bill and freeing up the table for more diners, who at this weekend lunch service were queuing out of the door throughout the meal. The bill came to £40 per person including service. Canton Element is a non-nonsense restaurant offering capable Cantonese food at a fair price for those looking for a quick meal rather than a fancy, lingering dinner.

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