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Ham and Taleggio Baguette at Birley’s, Old Broad Street

22 Jun

This is a guest post from a guy called Jerry. I don’t know him or anything. We’ve never met. He’s done reviews on here before though so I let him carry on because let’s face it, someone has to.

LOCATION: Birley’s, 89-91 Old Broad Street, EC2M 1JJ [map]

PRICE: £4.75

BREAD: Ficelle baguette, lightly buttered I should say.

FILLING: Ham, taleggio, rocket, sun blushed tomatoes, pesto.

There’s always something slightly intimidating about going to an unknown sandwich shop in a busy lunchtime. You’ve no idea what the queuing protocol is, where and when to pay, the extent to which sandwiches can be made to order, etc. In your mind, everyone that’s in there is a lunchtime regular, on first-name terms with the staff, can spontaneously launch into footie banter, and will judge you with sneering contempt as you fumblingly ask for extra sweetcorn in the tuna and sweetcorn then spill your coppers all over the floor like some sort of spotty French exchange student loser.

If these sorts of anxieties eat you up at night then you will be fucking terrified by Birley’s. Its largest outlet is smack bang in the middle of the city between Moorgate and Liverpool Street and seems to be occupied at all times of the day by tight packs of guffawing, coiffured, pin-striped city types called Oliver bulk buying club sandwiches for their entire trading floor. On top of that there is a long queue on the right which the rookie will happily join, despite it leading only to the soup/salad bar, and for sandwiches you have to barge your way through to the long counter where it is, to all intents and purposes, every man, woman and child to themselves, with a separate ticketing and payment system.

But behind the counter, dear reader, is sandwich heaven. Each menu item looks like they have been crafted by 30 years of customer feedback to produce the deliciousness that now awaits. Today’s choice was the Ham and Taleggio, which you might think would contain just those two punchy ingredients, but no. There are the pesto and rocket offering a peppery counterpoint to the salty kick of the Taleggio, and, in the next bite, you are surprised by the juiciness and texture of the sun-blushed tomatoes.

The bread itself is ficelle, which is lighter of texture than it looks, and full of air pockets, emphasising the savoury kick of the cheese even more. With each taste, a different combination of taste buds are stimulated, and I may have been stimulated elsewhere as well. It was an absolute triumph of a sandwich, best I’ve had all year.

SCORE: 9.6/10

Tuna Panuozzo at Theo’s, Camberwell

20 Oct

panuozzo

LOCATION: Theo’s Pizzeria, 2 Grove Lane, SE5 8SY [map]

PRICE: £5

BREAD: Lovely sourdough pizza base.

FILLING: Tuna, mozzarella, chilli, black olives, sliced onion.

PROS: I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, because for years I have upheld the belief that the tuna melt is basically the most disgusting sandwich of all time. I mean, tuna with cheese, FFS. Fish with CHEESE. Fishy cheese. Chishy feeze. Can you think of any other dish where that’s a thing? I can’t. Fish pie, maybe, if you’re the kind of idiot who puts cheese on a fish pie, in which case your opinions aren’t valid anyway. No, it doesn’t work, it shouldn’t be done and yet, here we are.

The reason Theo’s gets away with this, I think, is the quality of the ingredients. They use Ortiz, which, in case you don’t know, is basically really good tinned tuna. Not that grey mushy shite you get from Prince’s that looks like it was scraped out of the tumble dryer lint collector. No students, anywhere, are mixing this with mayonnaise and putting it on their jacket potatoes. So there’s that. Then there is the mozzarella which I know is Bianca la Bufala flown in from Naples because I asked about it when I wrote this review of their pizzas. Again, brilliant. There is sliced onion and chilli to give it some bite and there are shiny black olives. I don’t know anything about the olives except that they’re very good and I’m sad when they’re all gone. They’re glossy and plump and they slip around and out of the sandwich and you pick one up and eat it and feel happy.

It’s just a really classy sandwich, is what I’m saying. Tuna and sodding cheese.

CONS: Head fuck.

SCORE: 9/10

Philly Cheesesteak at Liberty Cheesesteak, Victoria

5 Jun

Cheesesteak

LOCATION: Liberty Cheesesteak stall, Cardinal Place Shopping Centre, Victoria, SW1E 5JD [map].

PRICE: £8.00 for a whole one. You can also buy a half for er, £4 I guess?

BREAD: Italian-style sub roll.

FILLING: Rib-eye steak, Cheez Whiz, fried onions.

PROS: Soooo, the deal with Liberty Cheesesteak is that they are all about the authenticity. While I was waiting for my mate I overheard one of the cooks saying to an American customer, “when we sawwww how people were doing cheesesteaks over herrrre we were all like, whaaaaaa???!!” and so Liberty Cheesesteak was born. The sandwich apparently should not contain any extras, such as the commonly added fried green peppers, only the fried steak, the onions, the cheese, that’s it.

Now I am not a fan of the food police, you must know that, but I have to say, this was a fine cheesesteak. I like green peppers in a cheesesteak, I do, but it turns out that I also like the sandwich very much without ’em. The beef was rib eye, cut into really thin slices (I presume by freezing it first), then slapped on the hot plate and chopped up and mixed with the onions using those scrapey flippy spatula jobbies. There were three options for cheese: Whiz, American, and Provolone. I went for Whiz, firstly because it was billed as ‘authentic’ HINT HINT and also because I’ve always wanted to try it. It’s like artificial processed cheese that comes in jars. The Americans love that shit. It was great in the cheesesteak I have to say, like a cheesier Dairylea or a melted slappy cheese slice, and it made for the most wonderful goo inside the sandwich when mixed with the hot meat. That sounds horrible but was great, really. Honest. You no like idea of goo? No goo for you? Boo hoo. Okay I’ll stop.

Oh and the bread! Those very light and easily inhalable Italian style subs that the Americans do so well.  They didn’t get the bread FROM America, obviously, but they have, apparently, ‘worked with a baker in Putney’. So there ya go.

CONS: Ummm well we agreed the meat could use some pepper, but other than that it’s hard to think of any. Still meat in a bun wit cheez though innit, so just shy of full marks.

SCORE: 8/10

Untitled

Croque Monsieur at Le Peche Mignon, Islington

14 Mar

LOCATION: 6 Ronalds Road, Islington, N5 1XH [map].

PRICE: £5.50.

BREAD: White sourdough.

FILLING: Ham and cheese, bechamel on top.

PROS: The state of croques in the world is dire. In London it’s bad but in Paris? Even worse. Seriously. It’s depressing. This presented me with a dilemma then, about the criteria against which to judge this sandwich. Should it be judged relative to all croques in London that I know about? Or all other croques in the world, including theoretical not in actual existence yet croques? I decided upon the latter. The opinions expressed on this blog are based upon nothing if not whim, fancy and my highly variable mood, as ever.

This was one of the best croques I’ve ever had in London actually, which isn’t saying much (check out this abomination) but then it’s very surprising considering what happened when I arrived at Le Peche Mignon. I’d gone halfway up the ginger line to eat this bastard, and so when I spotted a pile of pre-made croques upon entering the cafe well, you can imagine, my little heart sank into my biker boots. I wasn’t leaving without trying it though, considering the effort of sitting on the tube for a whole 20 minutes. ‘What actually happens to cheese if you melt it twice?’ we pondered. Turns out, not a lot apart from melting, again. With reflection, I think the inside had only been melted the once, and it was just the sauce on top that had been pre-applied. Okay so it was a little crusty in places, but the sandwich in general was soft, the bread really decent, the ham perfectly good and the side salad of a little lettuce with a mustard heavy dressing, exactly as it bloody well should be. Few people seem to adequately understand that last element; there should be just a few leaves of soft, inoffensively flavoured lettuce (i.e. no sodding rocket) and a bitey dressing. No more, no less. Very well judged, Le Peche.

CONS: Okay so there’s no ignoring the fact that this was pre-made. Why won’t someone open a croque cafe? And no I don’t mean one where they start tinkering about with weird additions and combinations; I mean one that just does perfect croques, with maybe a madame and one option for the crazies. WHY?! Someone should just get the hell on with that.

So this isn’t a croque I’d ever travel to, say, North London for, but it’s certainly one I’d eat again if I lived nearby, particularly if I was hungover and had a pot of mustard in my bag which, incidentally, I often do.

SCORE: 6.5/10 (extra half point for getting the side leafage right)

Muffuletta at The Lockhart, Marble Arch

28 Jan

LOCATION: The Lockhart, 22-24 Seymour Place, W1H 7NL [map]

PRICE: £12 for 1/4 of a 34cm loaf, with crisps (REALLY good crisps which they make themselves).

BREAD: Big, round, sesame seeded loaf (bit like focaccia).

FILLING: Napoli salami, mortadella, hot capicola, provolone cheese, piquant tapenade sauciness.

PROS: I love the fact that I have to explain to at least 3 other people at the table what a muffuletta is. ‘IT’S A SANDWICH! I’VE GOT A RECIPE FOR IT IN MY BOOK!!’. They look at me with a mixture of thanks and pity. Mostly the latter. It’s a cracking sandwich though. A hollowed out loaf (traditionally a muffuletta), is rammed with layer upon layer of different meats and cheeses, and topped with a sort of zippy tapenade made of olives, capers, pickles, vinegar, herbs and olive oil. Well, that’s what’s in my recipe anyway. This tastes pretty much the same. There’s a lot to be said for layering a shitload of meats and cheeses on top of one another; the overall effect is a big protein squidge that amounts to ultimate sandwich satisfaction.

There’s a story that the sandwich was invented by a wily New Orleans grocer who spotted weary workers balancing various lunch ingredients on their knees. He thought he might be onto something by stuffing the lot rather conveniently into a sandwich and it took off immediately. What’s not to like? It’s a giant stuffed loaf, FFS. Also, I’ve not come across one anywhere else in London, so a bonus point for that.

CONS: I want to just sit in the corner and eat the whole thing to myself. We’re there for dinner though, aware that this is just a bar snack while we wait for others to arrive. We’re staring down the barrel of a meal of fried chicken, shrimp and grits, creamily dressed salads and and and and…is it wrong that I would’ve been happy with another wedge of muffuletta? I have a problem.

SCORE: 8/10

Yeah it was really dark…you get the idea. 

Guest Post: Ham, Swiss and Mustard at Nelson’s, Borough

30 May

A guest post from @jerrylatter

LOCATION: Nelson’s, 168 Borough High Street, SE1 1LB [map]

PRICE: £4.50

BREAD: White French baguette. Butter may have been used, but any sensory evidence of its existence was lost in the mustard.

FILLING: Swiss Cheese (Emmental I suspect), ham, mushroom and mustard (English)

PROS: Much like the albums of early solo career Sting and the gymnastic skills of Beth Tweddle you know that you’re guaranteed quality when you walk into Nelson’s. They certainly do enough to put you off; a huge glass door that weighs as much as a caravan, and decor that was last updated when the Bay City Rollers were in full swing, but, amongst the cognoscenti, Nelson’s is one of the best Italian delis in the Southwark area, with a huge landscape of meat and cheese based combos and an excellent range of melts, run by a selection of efficient and polite second generation Italian chaps who I have absolutely no doubt are in the possession of the phone number of someone who would be prepared to break legs for money.

This particular combo is one of their specialities, and a personal favourite – what you remember about it aren’t the components that fill you up (the bread, ham and cheese), it’s the unexpected additions. Indeed it’s the crunch of the mushroom, that you notice first off – a truly effective counterpoint to the tenderness of the cheese. There’s ham in there too, but the mustard kicks in right in the centre of your nose just as you realise, and your mouth is still salivating for the next watery squelch of the mushroom. He lightly toasted the sandwich today, which I didn’t ask them too, but it worked – the warm bread melting to the taste and letting the components do their work. Magic.

The combo is also available on brown baps but you’d be fucking nuts to go that way.

CONS: Only the price. I’m not comfortable busting the £4 threshold south of the river and £4.50 is just too much, despite their excellent service. They lose points solely for this. They also need a new cash register as the one they have whirrs like an industrial drill, but I’m not going to mark them down for that.

SCORE: 8/10

Goats’ Cheese Fondue, Marinated Artichoke & Beetroot Focaccia at Frog on The Green, Nunhead

27 Nov

LOCATION: Frog on The Green, 119 Consort Road, SE15 3RU [map]

PRICE: £4.50

BREAD: Foccacia (I like to pronounce this FOCK A CHEE YA because I am childish)

FILLING: Goats’ cheese (where am I supposed to put that apostrophe? It’s more than one goat so I’m cool, right? I mean, it can’t be the milk from a solitary bearded gnarly old goat can it?), marinated artichokes and beetroot, salad leaves and a mustardy dressing.

PROS: Pro diddy pro diddy pro pro pro. I’m going to start by talking about the guy that owns this place; his name is John Gionleka. He used to work at The Square when Brett Graham was there and he jacked in the cheffing lark to open a little deli in Peckham. Respeck, blud! *finger whip*. So the point of me telling you this other than that it is interesting, is that it really bloody shows in his sandwiches. So instead of just spreading some goats’ cheese in his sandwich, he made a flippin fondue, yo! Of course he did, he’s a chef. He knows the fondue will be well gooey, giving that sandwich lots of sexy lubey love. Then there’s the veg and again it’s all about the attention to detail; artichokes, which are actually one of my favourite vegetables in the world and then beetroot which are, well, ditto. There are fresh mixed leaves which provide texture without coming out in one big piece and slapping against the chin, and they appear to be dressed in something heavy on the wholegrain mustard. I watch John making the sandwich and he does so with proper care and attention; controlling the ooze of the fondue, teasing the vegetables into submission, tangling the salad and dressing it, before seasoning with a genuine flourish.

This is one of the best (and largest) sandwiches to be had in SE London, and I say that confidently without even having tried them all. Also, ALSO, there was a cat. No not in the sandwich you sick mo fos!!! Hanging about around the deli. I am crazy cat lady. I could easily own about ten cats and start hoarding stuff and making wigs and cushions out of cat hair if only my friends and family would let me. Also, we ate our sandwiches listening to reggae. You look at this photo of Frog on The Green and tell me if you would expect to hear reggae inside. No, no you wouldn’t. This is the coolest deli ever. Fact.

CONS: Apparently (I say ‘apparently’ because I actually see this as a bonus), the sandwich was a little too large (HA HA HA, seriously?). I am told it was a little too ‘bready’. I can but report back.

SCORE: 9/10