Eevee’s Hannah Staff talks scrumptious sarnies and explains where you can lay your hands on the very best British butties…
Whatever happened to the sandwich? Once described by the Wall Street Journal as Britain’s “biggest contribution to gastronomy”, in recent years this luncheon staple has been hijacked by the supermarkets and mass produced into pitiful disarray. However, it seems that not everybody is happy to sit back and accept such barbarism. Last year the burger received a revamp and stuffed its way into the hearts and bellies of foodies everywhere. Now 2014 is giving the sandwich the same gourmet treatment. From confit duck and banh mi baguettes to toasted brioche with creamy Italian gelato, it seems there’s no end to the ingredients you can squidge between bread. We’ve been out and about tasting the latest and greatest sandwich re-inventions since sliced bread.
Salt beef at the Dukes Head, London
London’s favourite street food sellers, The Bell and Brisket, have come in off the curb and taken up residence at the Duke’s Head pub in Highgate. Presenting a menu of ‘Salt Beef Aristocracy’, their hand brined beef is served on a choice of bagel or black rye bun with variations of mustard and pickles guaranteed to leave any mouth drooling. From The Lord Rupert (pickled cabbage, gherkins and melted cheddar) and Viscount Kimchi (kimchi and melted cheddar) to even The Virgin Rupert and Bare Baron for those pesky vegetarians, The Bell and Brisket are quickly developing a loyal following of fans and their locally sourced salt beef is elevating the humble sandwich to truly royal heights.
Duck confit at Borough Market, London
It’s a wonderful thing when you stumble across a sandwich and now the team from Le Marche du Quartier have added a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the proceedings. From the south west of France, this family business supplies the finest local French foods and wine to Borough Market with specialities including goose fat, garlic, confit, cassoulet, truffles and cheese. And now, the duck confit sandwich. From a vast paella pan, you’ll smell the mound of hot shredded duck before you see it and when stuffed into a soft white roll there’s really no going back. Luckily the nutritionists have declared that fat is no longer the enemy as the sticky, salty, soft duck confit and slathers of proper butter just oozes with irresistible French extravagance.
Sourdough at Mr Wolfe, Brighton
Recently sourdough has seen a surge in popularity with many wheat-skeptics discovering the natural free-from benefits of this slow-rising dough. No sandwich is complete without quality bread and at Mr Wolfe their simple approach to the sandwich is what makes them stand out. Australian owners, husband and wife Travis and Kat, were some of the first to introduce sourdough as a menu staple and the rest of the food really does bow down to it. Sourced from Glynde-based Flint Owl Bakeries, the sourdough is served with either a help-yourself tray of local honeys, jams and obligatory Nutella or a small chalk board of options such as egg, sausages, smoked salmon or avocado. It really is the bread and butter of sandwiches, and it never fails to disappoint.
Chicken is big news for 2014. Nando’s might already have done its bit for the meat’s fast-food reputation but now the old bird’s being stuffed with foie gras and the food trend reporters (yes, that really is a job) are predicting fowl to be one of the year’s hautest food trends. Cooked rotisserie-style, chicken is even spawning a new breed of chicken shops across London – the southern-fried chicken roll from Rita’s in Dalston jumped-up junk food at its best. The Kati Roll Co. use flat-bread and a marinade of Indian spices to give some Asian kick to the traditional chicken sandwich and student Cecily Schurch described Daisy’s combination of toasted harissa chicken with mozzarella and spinach as “the greatest sandwich in Britain”.
Bolognese Sauce at SoHo, London
Always a fan of the cold spagbol sandwich, thanks to SoHo this leftover classic can become a lunchtime reality everyday of the week. With two cafes in Hendon and Loughton, SoHo also supplies over 2,000 handmade sandwiches from their Shoreditch-based kitchen to hungry Londoners citywide. In 2007, owner Adam Gilbert earned the title ‘British Sandwich Designer of the Year’ for his spicy combination of olive oil bread with chorizo, tomato salsa, roasted sweet potato, alfalfa sprouts and spinach. His motto? “Fresher is pressure”. Quality is clearly key and with fillings like roasted topside of beef and navarian lamb on the menu, his New York deli-style sandwiches re-define how we’ve come to know the pre-packed sarnie.
Catfish at Bahnmii11, London
Marinated in turmeric and galangal then slowly grilled with dill and spring onion, the Fish Q from Banhmii11 is possible the freshest fish sandwich you’ll ever eat. Staying true to their Vietnamese roots, the team handpick ingredients from London’s wet night markets with their signature banh mi baguettes made fresh every morning. It’s been hailed as “the world’s best sandwich” by the Guardian and one of “London’s best street foods” by Metro. Grilled over coals, this crispy baguette is 11 bites big (hence the name Banhmi11) and every mouthful is as good as the last. Banh mi means bread and this popular Vietnamese street food is being served up with crackling pork belly, puffed tofu and cha cha chicken to wide British acclaim. It’s no wonder even Jamie Oliver’s a fan.
Gelato at Gelato Gusto, Brighton
The best thing about a sandwich is its flexibility so it’s a good job that these artisan gelato producers have had the gusto to accommodate both a sweet tooth and our penchant for a sandwich. The owners of Gelato Gusto trained at Italy’s University of Gelato and scoop up to 30 flavours of gelato and sorbet from their North Laine parlour. Not content with a simple cone, the ‘Gelato Burger’ wraps your chosen gelato in warm brioche before being sealed frozen with chocolate sauce. Sea salt caramel and banoffee pie are personal favourites with dark ecuadorian chocolate and syrup sponge pudding also addictively indulgent. Made with 50% less air than ice cream, milk-based gelato is the perfect creamy sandwich filling for sophisticated sweet tooths everywhere. Who said dessert should be saved for afters?