Design District Canteen: Street food that justifies a trip to Greenwich Peninsula
Until now, the main reason most people had for visiting Greenwich Peninsula was a gig at the O2, which frequently ended with a traumatising tube ride spent dangerously close to someone’s armpit. Then came Covid, which closed the arena and rendered trips across the river an unnecessary risk. However, thanks to eight architects and a huge injection of money, this side of the Thames has never looked more enticing. While we’ve been away, a grid of 16 new buildings has risen from the ground to form the Design District, a rental hub for creatives that could one day house a modern microcosm of London.
Approaching the new area instils something like hope: years of watching a series of non-descript skyscrapers crawl up and block their siblings like spoilt younger children have made me cynical about our ability to construct, er, constructively, but here is a sharply executed example of inner-city, community-based growth. At the centre of clean-cut structures, the work of eight different architects, shines a sunny cloud constructed from curves. This is Design District Canteen. Beams of yellow metal support a transparent shell that reveals a canopy of twinkling trees, breathing oxygen into the development.
The canteen, designed by acclaimed Madrid-based architects Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano, is essentially a food hall spliced with a modern art gallery. Six street food vendors have been painstakingly selected from all of London’s global offerings, offering up the best in casual dining, from rising star Sugo Italian Street Food – serving up scrumptious snacks including arancini, pork ragù fitters and focaccia – to Venezuelan Guasa – who are loading their gluten-free arepas with lip-smacking fillings such as smokey beans, fried plantain and their creamy avocado-based house sauce.
We have the chance to sample some of the goods, and we start in Southeast Asia at Eat Lah, which champions the traditional flavours of Malaysia by introducing diners to lesser-known home-cooked dishes. First, we crunch into a wonderfully flaky Karipap Pusing, a spiral curry puff made from water dough pastry and filled with fragrant potato, egg and peas, reminiscent of a samosa married with an empanada. We then move onto a delightful curry dish called Nasi Kerabu, opting for the veggie version. In one big box, beautifully soft sambal aubergine and egg accompany a pyramid of blue rice and colourful salad garnishes, creating a hearty yet healthy (humour me, won’t you?) meal.
Our next stop has to be Raastawala, specialists in North-East Indian street food. The team whip us up a signature Kolkata Kati Roll, which is hard not to inhale immediately thanks to the delightful combination of juicy tandoori chicken and fresh mint and coriander chutney. This is accompanied by a dangerously slurpable mango lassi.
The team at Eastern Mediterranean joint Ehla must sense that our sweet tooth is now calling to us, because they offer us up a batch of traditional Greek tart, made from layers of buttery filo pastry and silky custard. Their menu also covers classic feast food including falafels, chicken schwarma and spanakopita alongside a range of changing specials.
Our takeaway dessert – we can’t physically fit anything else in – comes courtesy of Toasted by British Charcuterie. The brand are best known for grilling a mouth-watering array of sandwiches, but today we bypass the savoury to pick up a box of Crodough (a cross between a doughnut and a croissant) courtesy of Rinkoff bakery, who also provide the bread. We recommend the Smore and the Pistachio Caramel – for the best pastry, pick them up early.
Design District Canteen is more than a future lunch spot for professionals in the neighbourhood; it’s also a perfect place to seek out a meal before or after a long-overdue event at the 02. This bright bubble is even worthy of a visit in itself if you’re a fan of street food and fun architecture – there’s a bar, so beer and cocktails are definitely on the cards. While the upstairs seating provides the perfect place for a breather, one could just as easily spend the night walking round in circles, wondering what to try next.
Photos: Azhul Mohamed (except header)
For further information visit the Design District Canteen website here.