Arriving at The Canteen is an experience in itself – it does not take the largest of mental leaps to suddenly feel you are on the set of a 70s Police procedural. Access is via a less-than-auspicious, derelict-looking alley and back yard that does not prepare you for the Tardis-cum-Aladdin’s cave that awaits you on entering. What does await is a pleasant surprise, for it is a truly organic melange of Cotswold cosiness and alternative, creative vibe.
The sprawling ensemble of organically scattered rooms is more like a collector’s home than a coffee shop and invites further investigation; I could not sit down until I completed a full recce of the place. It is interesting and lived-in, and the laid-back atmosphere makes you want to play nostalgic board games; we opted for Trivial Pursuit, the Harry Potter edition, reminded as we were of The Burrow.
The choice of music played in the background – from reggae to Stevie Wonder – adds to the relaxed experience and the boho environment, and the cheerful staff, humming tunes and breaking into the odd dance move, make you want to join in. To hell with that British reserve.
The variety on offer is pleasing also, with sandwiches, soups and salads all present and correct. The aroma of bacon that wafts up your nostrils is enough to tempt you and you will not be disappointed, given the flavours, as well as the portions, are generous. The cakes are very good, made with wholesome ingredients and an evident effort to ensure decent and interesting flavours will descend on your tastebuds. I can vouch for the granola flapjack, the orange polenta slice, and the chocolate and raspberry brownies.
The coffee, too, is clearly made with good quality beans, and even the decaf coffee has a rich and fruity depth of flavour and has enough body to endure you into thinking you’re sucking boiled sweets. Even the brightly-glazed cups add to the experience – don’t you find that coffee is infinitely more photogenic in bright porcelain? If there is a quibble, it is perhaps that on occasion, my flat white could have done with being a tad hotter, but even that did not take away from my enjoyment.
Once sated you can stretch your legs once more by embarking on a browse through furniture, antiques and novelties, toys and kitchenalia – perfect to bring interest to that rainy Sunday afternoon!