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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 

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Madras Chicken at Blackbird Bakery, East Dulwich

15 Feb

LOCATION: Blackbird Bakery, 46 Grove Vale, East Dulwich, SE22 8DH [map]

PRICE: £3.50

BREAD: A good quality white (baked by Blackbird).

FILLING: Chicken mixed with madras curry mayo, lettuce, sliced tomato and finely diced red onion.

PROS: This is basically coronation chicken in disguise but my goodness, it’s delicious. The large, juicy chunks of chicken are plentiful, bound in a borderline indecent amount of curried mayo. Although this is made with a curry powder blend, it miraculously  swerves any danger of tasting like something one might find chilling in a motorway service station and instead plants itself firmly in the camp of luxurious; silky soft and dreamy. The sweet little nubs of red onion are the perfect garnish too, adding just the right amount of allium bite. For £3.50, it’s extremely good value, because this sandwich is an absolute giant. At the halfway point I almost considered saving the other half for later. I didn’t, of course. Blackbird are trying to revive a British classic and are doing so with style and taste.

CONS: The insipid tomato needs to go. Also, the second time I bought it there was no red onion, which upset me a lot; I’ll mention it next time I go in. Speaking of return visits, I almost didn’t make one after a particularly irritating morning about 6 months ago when I popped in to pick up a sandwich on my way to work. I asked if there were any sandwiches available and the lady there told me that no, they don’t make them until 10am. “Oh, you don’t have the ingredients yet?” I asked her. “Oh yes, we just don’t make them yet” she replied. That’s fine, but I took a quick look around, and considered the fact that there was only one other person in the cafe and two members of staff. I then asked very nicely if they’d mind putting one together, a request which was met with a flat ‘no’ delivered in what was, frankly, a truly arsey tone. Is it really too much trouble to make a sandwich when you’re not doing anything else and I’m a regular customer? Really? Hacked me off for months, that did.

Anyway, the sandwiches are good so I return. Sigh.

SCORE: 7/10

Double Candy Bacon & Chilli Burgers at Mother Flipper, Brockley

31 Jan

Let’s start with the Double Candy Bacon Flipper:

LOCATION: Brockley Market, Lewisham College Car Park, Lewisham Way, SE4 1UT [map]

PRICE: £6

BREAD: Glazed, slightly sweet, un-seeded.

FILLING: Double beef patty (from Marsh Produce); slappy cheese; lettuce; onion; ketchup; mustard; CANDIED BACON.

PROS: This is exactly the style of burger that floats my boat. Double patty and gooey American-style ‘cheese’ that stays melty right until the end of the burger. American mustard, ketchup, a sprinkle of iceberg for texture (no other lettuce in my burger, thanks), then that all important candied bacon. Did I mention I like candied bacon? It worked really well as a topping, the salty/sweet flavour serving to intensify the dirtiness of the burger experience. A dirty burger experience is a good burger experience, by the way. There was no weird chutney or silly ‘proper’ cheese or other nonsense. They also use the cloche method (briefly covering the finished burger and top part of the bun with a cloche) to get a nice juicy result.

CONS: The patties were over-cooked, well beyond the advertised medium rare (pic here) but then it’s obvious that these guys have yet to find their stride and I’m sure they’ll get up to speed over the next few weeks. I’m not entirely sold on the beef either; it did have fairly good flavour but was by no means the best I’ve tried. I bought some bacon from the same producer and it let out a huge amount of water when cooked, which makes me doubt their quality somewhat. The beef is the most important ingredient! Still, a fine burger experience and, CANDIED BACON!

SCORE: 8/10

And the Chilli Flipper:

LOCATION: Brockley Market, Lewisham College Car Park, Lewisham Way, SE4 1UT [map]

PRICE: £5.50

BREAD: Glazed, slightly sweet, un-seeded.

FILLING: Single beef patty; Swiss (?) cheese; salad leaves; chilli shreds; chilli chutney; micro shoots; mustard; ketchup.

PROS: This burger just wasn’t for me. The bun was nice though and held up well right until the final bite.

CONS: Having eaten the candied bacon burger, I just can’t understand their change of approach here. The chutney doesn’t work because it tastes overwhelmingly of star anise, which has no place – ever – in a burger. In fact, I really wish people would just calm down and step away from the star anise in general. The cheese melted well to begin with but solidified and became unpleasant after a couple of bites. We’ve been through this before. The leaves were all fancy and therefore pointless because they can’t be tasted in a burger and if they could, they wouldn’t work because their bitterness would be unpleasant. Also, MICRO-SHOOTS? I’m not even going there. There was no real discernable chilli heat. My boyfriend and I had planned to swap halfway through but I took one bite and asked him to gimme back my candied bacon double.

SCORE: 4/10

I feel bad for hating the chilli burger because these guys seemed lovely and can genuinely make a great burger. It’s called the Double Candy Bacon Flipper.

Chargrilled Caulifower Wrap at Mike and Ollie, Brockley

28 Jan

Yes, a wrap is a sandwich. Read my FAQ to find out why.

LOCATION: Brockley Market, Lewisham College Car Park, Lewisham Way, SE4 1UT [map]

PRICE: £5.50

BREAD: Home made flatbread with a touch of orange blossom water.

FILLING: Chargrilled caulifower with crispy garlic and cumin; hummus; red cabbage; rose hip molasses; home made yoghurt; Turkish chilli; toasted seeds; coriander; a little rocket.

PROS: I don’t know where to start because this wrap was just outstanding. The cauliflower was lovely and smoky from char grilling and was packed with garlic and spice. The whole wrap brimmed with wonderful contrasts; silky cooling yoghurt mixed with mild Turkish chilli heat; creamy soft hummus against bits of charred cauli, toasted seeds and sweet molasses. Cabbage added crunch. Coriander, freshness. It’s like a flavour explosion, barely contained within that beautiful home made flat bread, faintly fragrant with orange blossom, warmed through on a hot pan. Mike and Ollie are two chefs who wanted to do something different; they make everything themselves, going so far as foraging for rose hips, fruits, nuts, whatever is in season locally. From what I can tell, Ollie is the behind the scenes foraging guy, while Mike does the cooking and selling. Bloody nice bloke he is, too.

There are meat and fish options available. I tried the spanking fresh mackerel (pictured below) with beetroot puree; crisp apple (fab with the fish); caramelised red onion and rosemary; rocket; home made yoghurt; toasted seeds. This was also brilliant but eclipsed by the cauli.

CONS: I can’t think of any. So why does this get 9 and not 10/10? I suppose the best answer I can give is that, although this tastes INCREDIBLE, it didn’t make me start dancing on the nearest table. I’m not sure any sandwich can ever get a 10 but then, that’s the challenge I have set for myself. It might just be out there, waiting. One day. In the meantime, get your chops around one of these wraps.

SCORE: 9/10

Cheeseburger at The Crooked Well, Camberwell

25 Jan

LOCATION: The Crooked Well, 16 Grove Lane, London SE5 8SY [map]

PRICE: £8.75 with side salad garnish and small pot of chips.

BREAD: Glazed, unseeded, slightly sweet bun.

FILLING: Donald Russell beef patty, cheddar cheese (I think), lettuce, tomato and a sort of tomato relish thing (I asked for ketchup on the side).

PROS: The beef had excellent flavour and the patty was a generous size. Bonus points for it coming medium rare as standard. The crisp pickles were nice too, with a good sweet/sharp balance, erring on the side of sweet.

CONS: The bun was a bit stale, had taken on an unpleasant woolly texture and collapsed before I’d finished the burger – the cardinal burger bun sin. The meat was cooked medium rare but not very evenly so, as you can see from the picture. I found the scant smear of tomato relish on top superfluous and the cheese, for me, was wrong; I don’t want to be a Burger Bore but the fact is, I like cheap American cheese in my burger. Perhaps it’s hard for a chef to even consider using processed cheese? I would say to him/her that the best burgers in London are made using slappy yellow slices – at Meat Liquor or Lucky Chip, for example. The ‘cheese’ should be gooey and taste faintly of guilt; a proper cheese like cheddar is too strong – it jars with the flavour of the beef.

I’m sad I didn’t like this burger because Camberwell is just crying out for more decent lunches. For me though, the thinking behind this burger, with its fantastic beef but sad bun and toppings was just a bit, well, crooked.

SCORE: 4/10

Tsuru Chicken Katsu Sando, Bankside

11 Jan

LOCATION: Tsuru Bankside  (they also have Bishopsgate and Mansion House branches, see website for locations).

PRICE: £4.05

BREAD: Sliced white, nothing fancy. That’s the point.

FILLING: Breaded, deep-fried chicken thigh with tonkatsu sauce, mayo and shredded cabbage.

PROS: This is deep-fried meat in a sandwich so obviously it’s brilliant. The panko crust makes for a really crunchy coating on the strips of juicy chicken thigh meat (breast is also available but I went for thigh as it has more flavour). The chicken is drizzled with sweet, fruity and mildly spiced tonkatsu sauce, which I’m 98% certain I could drink a bucket of. Crunch comes in the form of shredded cabbage, which has the structural balls to stand up to fried chicken. The slick of mayo takes it beyond the deep-fried city walls and further into the nerve centre of  ‘filthy-good’ and the sliced white is exactly the right choice of bread; perfectly bland and ready to receive.

CONS: My most recent sandwich was a bit short on chicken and I would have liked an extra slick of sauce. Minor grumbles.

SCORE: 8/10 

Brindisa Chorizo Roll

4 Jan

There’s surely no better way to kick things off than with a true London classic, the Brindisa chorizo roll.

LOCATION: Brindisa, Borough Market [click here for map and opening times]

PRICE: £4.95 for two pieces of chorizo, £3.95 for one. Obviously I had the former.

BREAD: Ciabatta roll drizzled with olive oil and grilled.

FILLING: Chorizo, Piquillo pepper, rocket.

PROS: This sandwich is truly deserving of its place as a London stalwart (they’ve been firing up that grill for over 10 years now) and its success is down to the quality of the ingredients and the fact that the chorizo is grilled to order. A generous portion of freshly sizzled picante sausage (imported from Spain by Brindisa) oozes scarlet-paprika oil onto the scorched ciabatta bun. It really is some of the best Spanish sausage in London. Piquillo peppers serve to further ramp up the intensity with some sweetness. As for the rocket, this sandwich has the flavours to give it what for and quash any bullying tendencies.

CONS: Borough Market is a tourist destination and you’ll need to get there early unless you don’t mind queuing and spending 30 minutes trying to walk 10 yards in pigeon steps.

SCORE: 8/10