North London's Cultural Guide

Gospel Oak’s secret foodie gem: have you been yet?

Mother Canteen is the best thing to happen to this corner of the neighbourhood in recent memory

Age: Two-and-a-bit. The wonderful Mother Canteen opened back in the dying days of 2019 (read our first review here) before you-know-what came and changed everything.

Where exactly is it? It’s actually under the pavement on Southampton Road, near the London School of Mosaics. Now it’s summer, you’ll spot the many alfresco tables and chairs; hell, it’s almost a submerged sun-trap down there.

OK. So what goes on at Mother? All-round excellence and attention to detail, from a strong coffee game to a daily-changing blackboard of specials.

Mother Canteen
Under the pavement terrace: Mother Canteen

What should I eat? Well, you’ll have to chance it, but whatever’s chalked up will be undeniably delicious. On our visit the main menu comprised a meat or vegan Jjajangmyeon, the Korean/Chinese noodle dish topped with a thick sauce made of black beans and vegetables.


Eschewing the plant-based mushroom and courgette option, our slow-cooked pork (£7.90, above) was melt-in-the-mouth, the black savoury-sweet gravy lifted by notes of ginger and garlic. It’s served in a deep bowl topped with thick noodles, julienned cucumber and radish, spring onions, coriander and a crispy noodle cake for texture. You give it all a good stir and wolf it down in seconds. If that’s too much for lunch, also on the menu are smaller, cheaper toasties and wraps (around £5).

Houseplants ahoy: Mother. Photos: SE

The interior: discuss. Almost film-set quirky. Houseplants cascade from the ceiling, all doing surprisingly well for what is essentially a subterranean space. Junktique repurposed furniture invites table-sharing, while wonky living room lights add a touch of home comfort. Art is hung casually on the walls. And the open kitchen buzzes with bonhomie and a sense of playfulness.

And what do I drink? You could go for a mango lassi; or aforementioned coffee or soft drinks.

What’s the service like? Extremely homely and friendly. It’s all repeat custom, with a constant flow of regulars – and the food positively flying out on our visit.

Do say: This really is the best place to eat in Gospel Oak (read more about why the area is called this here.)

Follow @mothercanteen on Instagram. Open 10am-4pm Mon-Sat at 181 Mansfield Road NW3

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The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.