Britain has punched way above its weight with inventions that have shaken the world. But for us, the Earl of Sandwich’s radical idea of inserting a filling between two slices of bread makes him as much a British hero as George Stephenson, Alexander Graham Bell and Tim Berners Lee. And even today, some of the most exciting food coming out of London’s booming street food scene are various lip-smackingly seductive interpretations of the mighty sandwich. Here are five that we think the Earl would be rather proud of.
Banh Mi Classic at Keu
The banh mi has become something of a local staple in east London, with various Vietnamese eateries dotted across Shoreditch slugging it out for the banh mi crown. Keu is our favourite. It’s a satisfyingly crackly baguette, with the white dough excavated and boldly filled with a mixture of spiced pork belly ‘floss’, ham terrine, chicken liver pate and a mixture of crunchy pickled veg, coriander, chilli and mayonnaise. If pork isn’t your thing, there’s a stewy beef brisket or a roasted duck with hoisin gravy. A window seat is a sweet spot to park up, flick through the newspapers and look out into the street while trying to stop the filling from spilling down your arm.
332 Old Street, EC1V 9DR More Info
Cheese toastie at Towpath Cafe
Crunchy on the outside, oozy in the middle. Towpath takes the basic requirements for a toasted cheese sandwich to hitherto uncharted heights. God knows what goes on in the kitchen, but the results are crazy good. There’s a sprinkling of spring onion and the suggestion of some sort of frying. It’s then simply presented with an optional side of homemade quince jam. The toast is the work of chef Laura Jackson who presides over Towpath with Lori de Mori, serving simple great seasonal food, coffees and juices. It’s difficult to imagine a nicer place for breakfast on a sunny day in London. The combination of this cheese sandwich, the location, the drinks and de Mori’s service are why we make the controversial decision of choosing Towpath over the more famous Kappacasein cheese toastie at Borough market.
36 De Beauvoir Crescent More Info
Lamb raan at Dishoom
Dishoom is simultaneously a throwback to the old school Irani cafes of Bombay, and a modern contrast to the east London legend (and Qbic neighbour), Tayyabs. Dishoom is perhaps a bit of a pastiche for some traditionalists, but it is difficult to argue that the food is exceptional.Among its highlights is the lamb raan – a slow cooked leg of lamb in Indian spices. It is served in a big sharing portion as it is, or generously packed into a sourdough bun. The accompanying crunchy slaw adds a perfect freshness, making it an essential inclusion for this list. One for the spice heads.
7 Boundary St, E2 7JE More Info
Salt beef and ox tail. Brass Rail at Selfridges
We’re unapologetic about including a department store sandwich. By the entrance of the food hall in London’s famous Selfridge’s is a salt beef bar with, yes, a brass rail. And the sandwich it serves up is simply outstanding. Take a tray, ask for rye bread, opt for a mix of salt beef and ox tail and watch as slices of meat are cut in quantities that appears way beyond a realistic amount to fit between two meagre slices of bread. It’s a veritable meat assault. Definitely choose mustard, and pickle. Then take a seat and join the rest of the shoppers, office workers and devotees in savouring this simple yet sublime festival of bread and meat.
400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB More Info
Prosciutto and mozzarella. Fernandez and Wells
Pork is a much loved ingredient for one half of F&W, Jorge Fernandez. Legs of jamón dangle wherever you look in the cafes and delis. Three F&W piggy sandwiches could have easily taken a spot each on this list. The chorizo and roasted peppers is the crowd pleaser, sitting majestically at the top of the sandwich pile. Otherwise, there’s the black pudding and egg mayonnaise; not for everyone but it has a majestic depth of flavour and richness. Our favourite however is the utterly delicious prosciutto and mozzarella. The bread part is a rather modest bun, but the filling is anything but. It’s an example of outstanding quality ingredients that marry wonderfully together: prosciutto, mozzarella, spinach and roasted tomatoes.
1-3 Denmark Street, WC2H 8LP More Info