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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

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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 

Smoked Salmon and Dill Sauce at Opus, Clapham

2 Jul

LOCATION: Opus, 89 Acre Lane, SW2 5TN  [map]

PRICE: £4.20

BREAD: A white muffin.

FILLING: Smoked salmon, cucumber, tomato, dill sauce, rocket.

PROS: Well, dill tastes nice doesn’t it.

CONS: Opus only do toasted sandwiches. Bit annoying on a hot day but whatever. Also, every single sandwich, of which there are about 10, contains tomatoes. Stranger still is the fact that the ingredients list for every sandwich on the menu begins with ‘tomatoes’, like they’re the primary ingredient in any sandwich apart from a tomato sandwich. I stand for a minute or so trying to work out the reason for this but it’s a total dead end so I choose one of the sandwiches instead. There are normal options such as cheese, ham or cheese and ham together. And then, there is smoked salmon with cucumber and dill sauce. Toasted. That sounds like something which should be eaten cold, no? That will be weird, I think to myself. Won’t that just be really weird? So of course I order it.

It arrives in a paper bag with a piece of kitchen paper around it. She knows I’m eating in but perhaps she feels I can’t be trusted with a plate. I remove it from the bag and…MY EYES! The thing is stuffed to the brim with rocket. Shitloads of it. I hate rocket. I hate it primarily because it doesn’t taste very nice and it dominates everything with its gashness but also because it pops up sodding everywhere. Perhaps this offensive leaf invasion was listed on the menu; I wouldn’t know because I was busy thinking about why there were so many tomatoes of primary importance flinging about.

I press on. So the outside is blistering hot, right? Fair enough, that’s called toasting. Everything on the inside is cold though. The salmon particularly so. The contrast is unpleasant. As I make my way through the sandwich, the tomato, which is next to the bread, starts to warm up, taking on a fluffy, mealy texture. I’m frantically pulling out the rocket. Worst of all though is the fact that the salmon is starting to get warm too, but only in places. I do love eating a piece of fish that has both hot and cold patches, it’s not at all unnerving.

The thoroughly pleasant dill sauce has its work cut out trying to make amends for everything else, which is a shame. An ill-conceived sandwich, a baffling approach to menu writing and a waitress who couldn’t crack a smile.

SCORE: 2/10 

Croque Monsieur at The Delaunay, Aldwych

3 May

LOCATION: The Delaunay, 55 Aldwych, WC2B 4BB [map]

PRICE: £5.75

BREAD: Sliced white

FILLING: Ham and Gruyère cheese

PROS: Well, melted cheese is never a bad thing, although when I say melted…

CONS: …what I actually mean is, melted at some point, quite a long time before arriving at my table. Congealed. Bendy. This was, without a shadow, the worst croque monsieur I have ever eaten. So, instead of delivering a croque monsieur, The Delaunay decided to deliver a game. The game was called: ‘Find The Croque Monsieur Under a Big Pile of Salad Ha Ha Ha Sucker!’  What the actual piss take is a mountain of (under-dressed) baby gem doing on top of my sandwich? Oh and the sandwich is TINY, by the way. I put the two halves together and they did not amount to a full sized slice of white bread, even with the crusts removed. On the inside was a really generous amount of spectacularly poor quality ham; you know, the shiny kind. The Gruyère was a very poor example – apologetic, pathetic. The whole thing was blistering hot on the outside and stone cold in the middle. The bread was so greasy it reminded me of a caff I used to visit in Oxford where they deep fried everything, including the sausages and bacon. In short, I didn’t rate this sandwich. The Delaunay is a lovely room however. They can have one point for that and one more for the waitress, who was charming and brought me a Martini.

SCORE: 2/10