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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

Salt Beef Bagel at Beigel Bake, Brick Lane

25 May

LOCATION: Beigel Bake, 159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB [map]

PRICE: £3. 70 (possibly)

BREAD: White bagel

FILLING: Salt beef, mustard, PICKLES (we’ll get to those shortly)

PROS: Ahhh Beigel Bake, you nostalgia arousing, late night vending, hangover soothing old friend, you…KISSES. Me and BB, we got history, see? I can’t begin to count the amount of times I’ve staggered over that threshold, drunk as a skunk. I’m in and out in a matter of minutes, clutching my beefy booze sponge. Efficient. I want to love it and hug it and squeeze it but mostly, I want to get it in my face. It’s best not to look directly at me while I’m doing that by the way, a bit like the way one shouldn’t look directly at the sun. That shit can get a little explicit. Beigel Bake is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for all your drunken needs. This of course means it’s also there for you when you’re hungover, which is how I found myself queuing up on Sunday afternoon, shuffling along, semi-catatonic, pawing at the wall for stability. I never order anything but the salt beef, which they cut into soft slabs of obscenely pink meat, gilded with glistening wibbly fat. Melty. There’s mustard of course and it’s proper gnarly – the kind that shoots up your nose and gives you a head rush; a bit like an Embassy Number One at 6am. In fact the mustard is one of my favourite things about Beigel Bake, largely because when you say that you would like some, they shout, “ONE WIV!” at the bagel assembly person down the front. He doesn’t respond; he just gets on with the spreading, the slicing, the wrapping, the twenty four seven churning…I’ve met only one person who lives in London and doesn’t like Beigel Bake. He’s American. Go figure. Over and out.

CONS: I always seem to forget (nothing to do with the fact I’m always inebriated when I visit) that pickles do not come as standard and need to be requested as an extra (for 50p). This means I ended up, yet again, with no pickles in my bagel. I was on the verge of calling Amnesty International. Why not offer them at least? Point. Lost.

SCORE: Nostalgia + booze = 7/10