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Egg Mayo & Bacon on Wholemeal Baguette from Absolutely Starving, Tooley Street

11 May

snipped sarnie 2

This is a guest post from a guy called Jerry. I don’t know him or anything. We’ve never met. He’s done a review on here before though and then he sent me this and it made me laugh so I’m posting it.

LOCATION: Absolutely Starving, 51 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2QN [map]

PRICE: £3.75 (I think – certainly wasn’t over four quid).

BREAD: Wholemeal baguette, lightly buttered.

FILLING: Egg mayonnaise, crispy bacon (proper slices, not that diced shit), rocket and cucumber.

PROS: Absolutely Starving (or ‘A-starv’, as twats probably say) is a good 15 minutes on the 343 bus from my place of employment, but I try to make the trip at least once a week. I discovered it by chance one day when I was releasing a live otter back into the Thames and needed somewhere to shelter from the rain. That story’s not true, but it doesn’t matter because their food is so completely delicious.

It’s an enormous place, built into the warehouses, populated by a battalion of not unattractive young continentals serving hot and cold meals, pre-filled and made to order sandwiches  along with all the artisanal, gluten-free biscuits/cakes/sauces etc. that you could shake a buffalo mozzarella cheese stick at. Despite clearly appealing to an upmarket crowd, they don’t take the piss with prices – they do a pre-filled sausage, red onion and mustard baguette which costs only £2.75 and is the absolute testes.

Last week I went back for my favourite – both their wholemeal and white breads are excellent – crisp, quite sweet to the taste and with plenty of give on the first penetrative bite. Straight in with a very generous base of egg mayonnaise; not the bland orangey mush that you often find in deli trays, but rich, creamy, peppery and yet still replete with the eggy texture and taste. God, I’ve got a saliva on just writing this.

In with the bacon; cold, but still soft, retaining its meaty tang. Lastly, my own particular salad favourites – a rocket base with a cucumber overlay. Two or three slices of cucumber should be enough as the watery taste CAN dominate at the expense of the bacon and if you get it wrong the only sensible thing to do is throw it in the fucking river.

CONS: Only the fact that the place is full of braying, cone-headed besuited consulting types from PWC up the road, who in ideal world would be only allowed in two at a time.

SCORE: 9.5/10

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

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

Egg Mayo Bap at Sandwich Box, Borough

21 Feb

LOCATION: Sandwich Box, 9 Newington Causeway, SE1 6UD [map]

PRICE: £2.45

BREAD: White bap

FILLING: Egg mayo

PROS: One of the best things about writing a blog like this is that I find myself wandering into sandwich shops I would never have otherwise bothered with. Sandwich Box is a properly old school outfit, the kind you’d look at and think ‘huh’ and possibly ‘aww’ in a nod to its being so fabulously preserved in time, that time being about 15 years ago.

There are certain sandwiches that this kind of shop does extremely well however; the kind of  fillings people that are total dicks would term ‘retro’; fillings that more modern places attempt to pimp and embellish, thus ruining them. Some sandwiches have a nursery school appeal and should not be messed about with. Egg mayonnaise is one of them.

The bap (‘d’ya wanna sammich or a bap, luv?’) was really fresh with excellent chew; for some reason this type of bap seems to be a feature of the old school places. See Ed’s Diner in Camberwell. It’s so enjoyable. I’m bored of tooth testing ciabatta and too thick cut five seeded pumpernickel rye. Gimme a nice big white BAP. I like the way she took a hard-boiled egg and made the egg mayo there and then, rather than having it ready mixed in one of those metal trays where it forms a thick yellow crust on the top. Mmmm.

I really enjoyed eating in Sandwich Box; I enjoyed the sandwich, the price; the shitty tea that tasted like it came from an urn (it reminded me of a time doing voluntary work in a drop in centre many moons ago). I enjoyed Spandau Ballet on the radio (‘I Know This Much is True‘) and the mirror that fittingly read ‘nostalgia’.

CONS: Wellll, one must choose carefully in these places; like I said, this is about memory lane. It’s about craving an old time favourite that’s not been messed about with. No capers, no chives, no salad, no nothing but egg and mayo. I’d steer clear of anything more ambitious. The service is, well, what you’d expect from an old school caff in Borough. No nonsense. I said a cheery ‘bye!’ as I walked out the door and got a noise that sounded like ‘mm’ in reply.

There was nothing to particularly rile me; we must see this place for exactly what it is – a surviving sandwich bar hanging on in there, despite being just down the road from a Starbucks and a Pret.

SCORE: 7/10

Reuben at Monty’s Deli, Maltby Street

31 Aug

LOCATION: Monty’s Deli, Maltby Street Market, Bermondsey [map].

PRICE: £6

BREAD: Light rye.

FILLING: Pastrami, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, yellow mustard, sauerkraut.

PROS: As  my sandwich is built I stand, semi-catatonic, mesmerised; pastrami is sliced from wobbly hunks and piled into an ever-growing tower of protein. The Shard, overlooking the market, begins to look small in comparison. I’m offered a piece of the meat to taste as I wait, and….oh – it’s a little dry and chewy. Once pressed in the toaster however, which struggles to clamp its jaws around the beast, the fat melts and everything softens. Some pockets of fat remain intact (though I wish for more), begging to dissolve on the tongue and settle on the hips. The crust of predominantly black pepper and coriander seeds is really pokey; a revelation compared to the crap we usually get served in the UK. Russian dressing and sauerkraut are carefully applied in just the right amounts, too; their flavour and moisture is welcome and yet they do nothing more than big up the meat.

CONS: The pastrami could learn a few tricks from the salt beef, which is gloriously moist and fatty. As I wait for my reuben to toast I am distracted by the request of another customer, ‘one special, please’. One WHAT, sorry? What is this special of which you speak and why am I not having it? I am drawn to a frankly miniscule sign on the counter top. Turns out I could have been eating this reuben with an extra topping of salt beef. I try a piece. It is INCREDIBLE. This is lauded as the best salt beef in London by a man who really knows his salt beef. So, when I think about this sandwich compared to other reubens available in London it could easily have scored 9/10, but I’m knocking a point off for their failure to properly advertise their special.

SCORE: 8/10 

Banh Mi Special at Caphe House, Bermondsey

10 Aug

LOCATION: Caphe House, 114 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TX [map]

PRICE: £5

BREAD: White baguette

FILLING: Roast pork, ‘salty pork pate’, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber slices, red chilli, coriander, WEIRD ASS GRAVY.

PROS: Double pork.

CONS: WEIRD ASS GRAVY. Weird ass chicken tasting gravy all over my banh mi special. Sounds like a euphemism that, doesn’t it? Well, it’s meant as such. Use your imagination.

In all my banh mi eating experience I have never encountered this type of sauce. Chilli sauce? Yes. Mayonnaise? Yes. Sweet, shiny (yes, shiny) goop that tastes vaguely of chicken but mostly of something I can’t identify but which I definitely don’t like? No. Every time I take a bite it stretches out into alarming quivering strings which dangle briefly before flinging themselves suicidally against my chin.

The texture meets its match in the taste which is unique in its power to be so absent and yet so totally overwhelming. I try scraping it out with no success; the stuff has oozed into every available space. Becoming increasingly enraged at its presence I eat half the sandwich, pack the other half up in a huff and head towards home with plans to modify it once I get there. I am determined to salvage some enjoyment from this experience.

I extract as much WEIRD ASS GRAVY as possible and slap in some mayo, thinking that I might be able to at least taste the rest of the filling and judge whether or not it could actually be good sans WAG. Sadly not. The pate is barely noticeable. The pickled carrot and daikon need a lot more pickling. There’s a good amount of chilli but it isn’t hot which is baffling. Sigh.

I’m sorry Caphe House, but your banh mi isn’t up to scratch and that’s coming from someone who really tried to like it. Lose the WAG and while you’re at it lose the sweet yet ultimately pointless side salad of iceberg, carrot, sweet chilli sauce and um, prawn crackers. Mmmm dusty crackers on my salad…

SCORE: 2/10 

Burger at RAW and Elliot’s Burger Pop Up, Borough Market

2 Aug

LOCATION: RAW and Elliot’s burger and wine pop up, Borough Market [map]

PRICE: £9.50 for a burger with chips.

BREAD: Linseeded burger bun

FILLING: Beef burger,caramelised onions, Comté cheese, dill butter

PROS: People, especially food people, specifically London food people, have very fixed ideas about what does and does not make a good burger. It must have slappy processed cheese, it must have a light brioche bun etc etc bore bore bore off snooze snore sleepy time. I am of the opinion that there is room in the world for many different styles of burger and yet I was a little worried about trying this one. Comte? Really? Dill butter? Really? Am I allowed to like this? Really?

Well here’s the shocker: this was one of the most delicious burgers I’ve eaten in yonks. Really. The beef is from the Ginger Pig; it’s 40 day aged rib eye cap, which is nice and fatty and therefore tastes of awesome. It’s cooked properly medium rare too. Bollocks to this health and safety rubbish that some places are genuinely, actually taking on board and ruining everyone’s fun in the process. The Comté is, naturally, delicious. It’s salty and really works staggeringly well in a burger. The real stroke of genius however, is the dill butter. ‘Acidulated dill butter’ I am told. So it’s got lemon juice in it. No it doesn’t I’ve just been told it has dill pickling liquor, which they make themselves. Acidulated is a great word however. I rank it up there with other great words like ‘rotisserie’ and ‘blimp’. The bun is brushed with this butter before toasting. Like, really heavily brushed. I could see the butter line on the bun, almost a centimetre deep, like a BBQ smoke ring on meat. It’s a juice bomb. I had trouble containing the juiciness, actually, which reminds me to give special mention to the bun which did not fall apart despite being up against so much tasty. Pickles come on the side. Obviously they went straight into my burger. They’re quick pickled (like, 2 hours), perfectly crisp slices of skinless cucumber, rather than the trad gherkin. They rocked. Basically, I loved everything about this burger. Well, almost…

CONS: The pickles were a touch too salty. I don’t get the point of the linseeds on the bun.

SCORE: 8/10

So I ate this burger at the RAW and Elliot’s pop up which is running until 12th August but the burger is available at Elliot’s permanent site just across the road. The pop up however is awesome. Go, drink some natural wine with your burger. Pop in for a glass and then leave at 11pm having sunk a further 3 bottles like I did. Ahem.