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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

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Rare Roast Beef on Ciabatta at Street Kitchen, Broadgate

25 Aug

Rare Roast Beef

LOCATION: Street Kitchen, Broadgate Circle, EC2M 2BY [map]. This place also has one of those posho air stream van things nearby but that’s not where I went. The actual shop is about ten feet to the right.

PRICE: Various, see website for menu and prices.

BREAD: Ciabatta.

FILLING: Rare roast beef, caramelised onions, horseradish mayo, salad leaves.

PROS: Street Kitchen sell sandwiches by the inch, which sounds like a swizz until you realise that they might only be an inch in width, but the length is very substantial. Arf. Or is it the other way around? Anyway, the sandwich is rare roast beef in a whacking great ciabatta bun, which they’ve had made by someone on spec. It’s quite hard to find two foot long ciabattas, apparently. The excellent meat is from a Welsh farmer called Tom Jones (yes really), and it’s very thinly sliced, then layered up like pastrami. This gives the sandwich a very satisfying texture, making it tender and easy to eat. There’s some carefully layered leafage, horseradish mayo and caramelised onions which I normally CAN’T STAND *goats’ cheese tart flashbacks* but in this case I think they work. I suspect this is all down to their attention to detail.

I spoke with the owner of Street Kitchen, Mark Jankel, and so I know that this is a man dedicated to the sandwich cause. They get their ingredients from many different suppliers, because they know that the best quality stuff cannot be consistently supplied by the same source; there just isn’t enough of it to go around. They circumnavigate the problem to ensure standards remain high. I was super impressed by this. I think they love sandwiches as much as I do. Okay maybe not that much. No one else loves them that much, right?

I shall give you another example of loveliness: the salmon bap. This juicy arrangement consists of Loch Duart salmon, just cooked, so it’s still a little wibbly. Over cooked salmon is a disgusting, mushy abomination. There’s beetroot, which doesn’t have even a hint of the granny sandwich about it, because it’s sliced so thinly and carefully stacked. There’s watercress, there’s home made mayo. No Hellman’s for Street Kitchen (although I am a big fan, in general). Like I told you, the devil is in the detail.

CONS: Well, it’s in the soul sucking suit-pit that is Broadgate Circle, which is a shame. There’s also a Yauatcha and a Franco Manca, so it’s not like the place is full of Pret and EAT, it’s just a weird corporate space, which is privately owned, I think, so it’s full of security guards. Anyway, that isn’t Street Kitchen’s fault, obviously, and they have plans to roll out further sites (there’s another in Battersea already). What I’m saying is, don’t let the prospect of eating amongst the T M Lewin shirted rat racers put you off. Unless you are one, in which case you’re lucky because you have a really sweet place to buy lunch.

8/10

 

 

Chicken Karaage Sandwich at Tsuru

26 Apr

LOCATION: Tsuru Sushi, various locations [see website for details].

PRICE: £5

BREAD: Sesame seeded brioche bun.

FILLING: Karaage chicken, cos lettuce, Japanese mayo.

PROS: What do you mean you don’t know what karaage is? Are you some kind of IMBECILE? Okay fine so it’s Japanese fried chicken. Fried chicken is now officially a good thing, by the way. No longer do we have to scarf KFC or Morley’s on the down low for fear of being ostracised by friends and family, now we can go to places like WishboneMama Lan’s and Tsuru, and eat really bloody good fried chicken. We can eat it inside while sitting down and everything, rather than loitering with it on the streets or worse – YOUTHS – on the bus. No. Do you know what is covering the roofs of most buildings in major cities like London? Chicken bones, that’s what. The kids throw them on the floor and pigeons pick them up and deposit them on the roofs of buildings.

Anyway. This sandwich is incredibly good. Firstly, the chicken is thigh meat, which we all know is much tastier, not to mention juicier, than breast. It’s marinated in mirin, soy, ginger and garlic, then given a good ol’ dustin’ in cornflour and deep fried. It is spectacular; greaseless and, importantly, craggy. A good craggy batter is where it’s at. It comes on a sesame seeded slightly sweet bun, which is golden and shiny and has your back right until the end. There’s cos lettuce and Japanese mayo. You don’t know what Japanese mayo is?! Okay so it’s made with rice vinegar and is a little sweeter than the regular kind.

Now here’s the deal with the karaage sandwich; it’s delicious as is and all but the thing you need to remember is to add copious amounts of Tsuru’s frankly fantastic ‘Eat the Bits’ chilli oil. It’s quite mild for chilli oil actually, but the flavour is incredible. The way to use it is to get plenty of the sediment at the bottom,  hence the name ‘eat the bits’; it’s packed with sesame, red miso, garlic and onion. Get it on there, basically. Also, buy a couple of pots to use at home.

CONS: I would say the chilli oil should come as standard but it’s nice to be able to control how much you put on. Perhaps it should come with a little bit, just to convert any non-believers. I also find myself wondering if the lettuce should be shredded. Perhaps not.

SCORE: 9/10

Tsuru also make an excellent katsu sando, FYI