We recently visited Canela, a Portuguese restaurant in London’s Covent Garden area, before catching the matinée of The Death of Stalin at the nearby Curzon Soho Cinema.
We were able to book a table online via ‘OpenTable’ the night before and were greeted by the friendly, but not overzealous, staff on arrival.
The decently sized menu caters for all appetites, with dishes ranging from light bar snacks to hearty traditional Portuguese dishes such as Moelas em molho do Chef (chicken gizzards in sauce). As it was lunchtime and we did not want a heavy meal before our visit to the cinema, we opted for a small selection of sharing dishes, followed by a Bifana (pork loin steak sandwich), finishing off our meal with a Pastel de Nata (custard tart).
The first sharing dish to arrive was ‘Alheira’ mini burgers with quail eggs – which were so beautifully presented it seemed a shame to eat them. They consisted of a mildly spiced sausage meat topped with a fried quails egg, had a smoky flavour to them – and were delicious. As soon as we cleared our plates we were presented with Pastéis de Bacalhau (salted cod croquettes) – our only disappointment, as they were lukewarm and a bit on the bland side. The last sharing dish to arrive was the Camarão ao Alho (garlic prawns) which consisted of perfectly cooked fresh prawns engulfed in a rich sauce – absolutely marvellous.
A Bifana is a traditional Portuguese sandwich, consisting of marinated pork loin steak with mustard wrapped in rustic bread. In this case they were served with salad and crisps (the crisps might seem a little strange but it is a common combination in Portugal and works very well).
Although they lacked the authentic ‘slightly burnt’ look, the PastéisdeNata (custard tarts) were very good, the pastry had a nice, crisp consistency and tasted very fresh. Mine was washed down with a delicious Galão (a type of latte, served in a tall glass).
The interior of the restaurant was simply decorated with subtle nods to Portugal; the marble tables for example, and the carefully chosen Portuguese wines that adorn the walls, rather than the gaudy souvenirs or ’reminders’ of the restaurant’s authenticity often found in places heavily frequented by tourists.
The meals were served in white ceramic dishes with a blue rim – the subtlety here lies in the fact that whilst these are traditional Portuguese plates they did not have ‘Portugal’ written on them and nor were they embellished with scenes of the Motherland.
It is also worth noting that the prices are very reasonable, especially given Canela’s location. The aforementioned dishes and a bottle of wine set us back £90 – there are very few places in this part of London where you can find fresh food at so low a cost. The most expensive dish on the menu is Bacalhau à Brás (salted cod with potatoes and eggs), which is priced at only £13.90.
Currently there are some special offers available, including:
‘Afternoon Offer’: free coffee with any cake
Monday to Friday 3.30pm–5.30pm and
‘Lunch promotion’: Portuguese daily dish for only £6.50
Overall I would say that Canela is worth visiting and makes a refreshing change from the surrounding ‘gimmicky’ or, heaven forbid, chain restaurants so prevalent in this area.
For those of you who might be interested, we thought that ‘The Death of Stalin’ was a decent enough film. Whilst it was by no means a masterpiece of British comedy, it was nevertheless an enjoyable watch, which was surprising considering the subject. Some of the acting was superb.