O CANTINHO DE PORTUGAL: LITTLE LISBON DOWN STOCKWELL WAY
I used to live South of the river. I know, I know, I find it hard to believe now that I am a sophisticated young (shut up) urbanite that I could have ever comprehended such a thing, but that was in the early 80’s. I was a student and, consequently, thick as a Ghurkha’s foreskin and broke to boot so had little option. I got better of course and now, even the thought of setting foot in The Swamps, let alone living there brings me out in hives.
Mind you, even in those days I had more sense than to go to Stockwell. It was (and is) one of the less pleasant areas of London whatever those people who want to, but can’t afford to live in Clapham, may tell you.
It does however have one redeeming feature. For reasons I can’t quite figure out, it is the home to a large population of ex-pat Portuguese and, therefore, also home to any number of cafes and restaurants providing a little taste of home to those from the poorer part of the Iberian peninsula.
Of these, the most well known is O Cantinho de Portugal. For as long as we can remember, DH have had it on out list of must tries, but have never got round to it primarily because we can always find an alternative in an area of town where we have a better than 50% chance of survival.
Today, however, we decided to chance our arm and headed down on the Northern line and along the Stockwell Rd, passing about seven other cafes on the way. All packed to the rafters with Portuguese families enjoying a bank holiday lunch.
O Cantinho was too, but they found us a table in the main restaurant where, true to Iberian form, TV’s were blaring and people were talking at a volume that would have people from neighbouring Brixton complaining that the noise was drowning out the sound of Megadeth at The Academy
The menu is fairly short and to the point and complimented by half a dozen pleasing looking chef’s specials.
We both went for clams in wine and garlic to begin which saw us presented with large plates of meaty shellfish with enough tangy sauce to mop up with bread or scoop up with an empty shell depending on how carb conscious you may be feeling. Not a bad start for £7 a pop
For main courses, HP went for a standard plate of pork chops which, in true Portugese fashion came with both chips and rice. The chops were thin, but grilled perfectly and the chips, cooked in olive oil were suitably crunchy.
Better though, was my own plate of Maozinha, a cocido-a-like stew of chickpeas, Portuguese sausage and gelatinous veal trotter. A hefty plateful that defeated even DH despite HP’s sage advice to “ focus on the meat, only the meat” We sucked on fatty trotter and chewed on spicy sausage but the sheer quantity began to draw beads of sweat and I had to give up in the end. I am a grave disappointment to my family in so many ways. This will only add to it.
For pudding we filched their last remaining Pastel de Nata which was fine, but barely worth the calories.
The wine list is small and exclusively Portuguese and a bottle of Reguengos Reserva came in at £18 and suited the meal down to the ground.
With a couple of beers and a couple of fierce aquardente, the bill came to £75 inc tip which was a bit of a shock to the system after the barely scratch the wallet joys of Australia. Still, we left there replete and definitely planning to return one weekend when they serve up big plates of leitao a faia to a homesick crowd.
So, perhaps South of the river is not so bad after all.
What the hell am I saying?