LOCATION: The Camberwell Arms, 65 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 [map]
BREAD: Sourdough baguette.
FILLING: Spit roast chicken, pickled peppers, wholegrain mustard mayo, watercress.
PROS: All the ingredients are really good quality. The baguettes are from my favourite bakery, Brickhouse, I believe; the chicken is a premium bird, brined and rotisserated (new word) on their own spit. The pickled peppers are fabulous, and pop up on their menu with their charcuterie plate and I expect elsewhere. The mayo is made in house and plentiful.
CONS: This sandwich was constructed by someone who doesn’t eat sandwiches very often, and perhaps doesn’t particularly like them. They certainly haven’t tried eating this sandwich anyway. All the elements are there, but it doesn’t work as a whole and to quote J Kenji Lopez-Alt, isn’t greater than the sum of its parts, which is the number one rule of a good sandwich.
A really crusty sourdough baguette like this works as table bread, spread thickly with butter, as it appears at the beginning of every meal at The Camberwell Arms, but for this sandwich it is completely inappropriate. A chicken sandwich needs a bread with some softness to it. The sandwich is also really tricky to eat as the bread forgives NOTHING, and so when I take a bite everything squeezes out of the sides. It therefore breaks another sandwich rule effortlessly: no structural integrity. The second sandwich I try (never a quitter), basically the same fillings but with cold porchetta (I know, yum, right?) is actually inedible. The bread is like a rock and I have one bite before giving up, cursing the fact that the sandwich is in my flat and not the pub where I could be bothered to return it. It makes me really bloody angry, actually.
How do I score a sandwich that I couldn’t even eat? All these ingredients are good, so the end result must be great, right?! Wrong. So wrong. I’ve not even got into the fact that the wholegrain mustard in the mayo is not detectable, and that the allium bite of a spring onion would really bring that necessary extra dimension; the pickle can’t quite step up on its own. Sandwich rule number 3: layering.
Sigh. I want to like these sandwiches so much but they feel like an afterthought. They are leftovers slapped into too old bread. I’m really genuinely sorry, Camberwell Arms; I will continue to spend time (and a shitload of money, actually) eating the rest of your food, but your sandwiches are bloody awful.