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Katsu Sando at Nanban, Brixton

8 Jul

LOCATION: Nanban, 426 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8LF [map].

PRICE: £5.

BREAD: White sliced, the kind you ate as a kid before bread got ideas.

FILLING: Crumbed, deep-fried pork shoulder, katsu sauce, shredded cabbage.

PROS: HI! I’m back. Again. Like a bad boyfriend who keeps making promises then letting you down I’m gonna tell you that this time, it’s different. This time, it’s forever.

Here’s the news: Nanban is one of the best restaurants in Brixton and it specialises in ‘Japanese soul food’. As a side note, you must also order their hot wings and the curry goat dipping ramen from the main menu. The sandwiches, however, are served from a hatch at the front of the restaurant and are takeaway only. I’ll leave you to deal with that problem. I’m just gifting you the info, I can’t do everything.

London is having a moment with katsu sandwiches, as you will soon see. Not famil with the katsu sando? It’s basically breaded, deep fried pork in a sandwich with katsu sauce, which is like a Japanese version of brown sauce – full of sweet and sour flavours and in this case, punchy with tamarind. It is a freakin’ delight my friend – do yourself a favour by eating one.

You have the juicy pork, you have the crunchy crumb, you have the freshness of shredded white cabbage and you have the full-on flavour from the katsu sauce – all inside the kind of trashy white bread that makes you whimper with nostalgic delight. Oh, and it’s a fiver. You can barely buy a sodding pint for a fiver in London!!

CONS: Now, what I don’t recommend doing is ordering a portion of ponzu dressed Padron peppers, a scotch egg, the aji fry, a portion of gyoza, a portion of addictive cabbage, a portion of hot wings and a bowl of crab noodles between three people BEFORE you each take down a katsu sandwich. I really cannot recommend that at all. It’s too much food. This is not the sando’s fault, of course, but I just had to get closure.

SCORE: 9/10 (we all know the 10/10 isn’t really a thing).

Korean Chicken Sandwich at Wishbone, Brixton

24 Jun

LOCATION: Wishbone, Unit 12 Market Row, Brixton Market, London SW9 8BR [map]


BREAD: White  sub roll/baguette type thing – I’ll get to that.

FILLING: Chicken thigh nuggets, crushed peanuts, pickled daikon, fermented chilli mayo, shredded Chinese cabbage, spring onions.

PROS: I hurried to Wishbone in desperate circumstances. I was frenzied. Panicked. This sandwich was a special you see, to be plucked from the menu but two days later. As it turns out I wasn’t  the only one to *SPOILER ALERT* like it, and so they’re keeping it on for the foreseeable. YES Brixton! People power!

So what’s all the fuss aboot? Aye? Well, those nuggets  inside are made from thigh meat, which we all know is the way to go when choosing bits of chicken what will be eaten into the face. If you’re not eating a bit that was once sporting bone then it had damn well better be roasted, with crispy skin and a blob of aioli on the side. I’ll take a potato salad with salsa verde too while you’re at it and also some young broad beans; lightly cooked, podded and dressed with a spiky vinaigrette and nuggets of bacon. Ta.

So yes, nuggets. Nuggets nuggets nuggets nuggets. The Wishbone nuggs were succulent and greaseless. Spot on. To be honest though, one would hope Wishbone would have the whole frying of chicken bit down by now, what with being a er, fried chicken shop and everything. The fermented chilli mayo is an appropriately Korean flavoured lube, which is actually surprisingly subtle. Don’t be put off by the word ‘fermented’. Personally I’m drawn to foods that have been shoved in a pot, sealed and left to their own devices for an extended period of time but I can empathise as to why the idea might strike fear into the hearts of nervy eaters. Chinese cabbage, if you’re not familiar, is kind of like iceberg but without the water…no, that’s unfair…it’s like regular cabbage but without the sulphurous twang. An excellent sandwich ingredient (see katsu sando). There are dinky batons of pickled daikon, there are delicate papery rings of spring onion, the crunch of scrunched peanuts. It’s a balanced sandwich and it shows restraint; knowing when to stop is the clincher.

I bet that bread recipe is a well kept secret, too. Wowzers. I dunno who is making it but it’s a goddamn revelation, like a very light baguette, with much of the inside crumb removed to make way for more filling and a sort of polenta-esque sprinkle on top which reminds me of that grainy stuff you get on a Maccy D’s sausage and egg Mcmuff. DON’T PRETEND YOU DON’T KNOW.

CONS: My name is Helen and I am a spring onion addict. I can make sandwiches with big ol wedges of spring onion inside and munch them down happily. I often find myself  dunking whole ones in salad cream by the sad yellow light of the fridge. More spring onion in everything, please? YES INCLUDING TRIFLE.*

SCORE: 9/10

They lose half a point for not having thought of this sandwich sooner and half for the fact I’d like more heat, although I guess that’s why there’s hot sauce on the table.

 *not including trifle.

Meat Sandwich at Wild Caper, Brixton

9 Jun

LOCATION: Wild Caper, Unit 11a, Brixton Market Row, SW9 8LB [map]

PRICE: Yeah so I can’t remember and I need to pay more attention, about £4.50? £5 (think I would have noticed if it was more than a fiver although possibly not). Sorry.

BREAD: Flat bread pitta thingy made from sourdough starter.

FILLING: Chorizo, red pesto, ricotta, salad leaves, some kind of sprout jobbies. It’s genuinely just called ‘meat sandwich’ by the way, as I guess the meat varies. There are also veggie and fishy options.

PROS: There’s so much going on in this sandwich; it shouldn’t work but it does. The chorizo is very good quality indeed, not spicy but really packing the funk of hog. Generous amount too. Ricotta is not something I’d ever really put next to sausage or indeed in a sandwich but it works well as a spread actually, having more substance than mayo or some such and none of the greasiness. There’s red pesto too. I know. I mean, pesto and chorizo and ricotta, have you gone batshit mental? It’s not crappy metallic tasting pesto though; it’s rich with tomato and nuts. I was actually digging it. The leaves are just leaves but then the lady poured dressing on them. Nice touch. The bread though…oh the bread, it’s just staggeringly good. It’s made from a Neopolitan mother sourdough starter and is baked in the Franco Manca pizza ovens daily (Wild Caper and FM are owned by the same people – I am assured this is ‘more or less’ true – and I imagine it’s the same starter they use for the pizza bases). Yesterday’s bread is sold off at half price on a separate shelf so it’s always incredibly fresh. I had flour all over my face, hands, keyboard (working lunch). Wild Caper are making some of the best bread in London and that is no exaggeration. Respect.

CONS: The sprout thingies…I’m not a fan. They’re fine and everything, as things that exist in the world but I don’t want them in my sandwich. Firstly, they look weird, like tadpoles. There’s something a touch foetal about them like they’re in their infancy…oh wait. They’re lumpy and their fresh pea-like flavour doesn’t really work for me. There was a big cluster of them in the middle of the sandwich which I actually didn’t mind too much as it made them easier to get rid of. I’d like something else subbed for texture though. Also, there is a lot going on in this sandwich. I mean I know I’ve said it works and all but still. I get uneasy about these things.

SCORE: 7/10. Nah sod it they can have an 8 because the bread is out of this world. 8/10. 

Bifana Especial at Cafe Max, Brixton

9 Apr

LOCATION: Cafe Max, 18 Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PD [map]

PRICE: £4.50

BREAD: White bap

FILLING: This Portugese beast is packing fried pork, a fried egg, a slice of processed ham, a slice of Emmenthal style cheese, lettuce and tomato.

PROS: Well, no-one could accuse them of being stingy with the filling. That’s a lorra lorra protein for £4.50. The bap was nice; fresh with a good bit of chew.

CONS: Let’s start with the pork, shall we? It was fine; clearly cheap meat but you know, fine. I think it had been marinated but didn’t have much flavour save for one bite when I found myself dealing with a piece of garlic. It was chewy, too. The egg was okay; they cooked it on both sides, I assume to make it easier to eat. It’s annoying to be presented with a fried egg and yet denied the joy of the oozy yolk though, don’t ya think? The processed protein products on top were um, unexpected. I don’t shy away from a slice of mystery meat and I regularly plunge headlong into the guilty pleasure pool of processed cheese but jeez, what was the point here? The lettuce and tomato underneath was…well it was there. Yes, definitely there. The sandwiches (I subjected a friend to this delightful lunchtime experience also) arrived at the table with mayo and ketchup. I squirted a bit of mayo on mine, mainly because I wanted to do a pattern with the squeezy bottle. Also, I don’t know what that substance is on top of the bun that was clearly left behind by the knife used to cut it, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in my sandwich.

We were hungry, me and my mate, so we managed about half of our sandwiches. As I looked up at him to declare defeat I noticed he looked pale and concerned, “my pork” he said through a mouthful of four kinds of protein, “it’s raw in the middle”.

SCORE: 1/10