Sandwichist – Salt Beef Sandwich from The Brass Rail, Selfridges

By Browners Last edited 114 months ago
Sandwichist – Salt Beef Sandwich from The Brass Rail, Selfridges

Salt beef from Brass Rail in Selfridges

In search of London’s best sandwich since sliced bread

Another month. Another theme. We’ve been obsessed with the election that is unfolding over the pond. It all seems very familiar and a foregone conclusion. But maybe that’s because Obama is simply copying Santos from the West Wing!

Over the last month the US has barely been out of the news. The Masters of the Universe haven’t exactly been flavour of the month. With this in mind and the US election coming to a head, we thought we’d try to find London’s best American sandwich.

We asked scores of friends and colleagues to recommend the best Yanky sandwich in town, but didn’t have a lot of success. American sandwich shops are thin on the ground. The guys on Chowhound suggested that it was impossible to find an authentic American sandwich in London because the ingredients aren’t available. But other suggestions included Bodeans (which is amazing), the Brick Lane Beigelry, Fatboys Diner, Whole Foods and the Brass Rail at Selfridges.

Inspired by the passionate response of the Chowhound crew we decided to test out the much debated salt beef sandwich at the Brass Rail in Selfridges. Critics such as Marco Pierre White have raved about it. Others have scoffed at its ersatz qualities and the dent it makes in your bank balance. It seems that within the foodie community that this is quite a delicate and emotive subject – enough to make the US electoral chatter seem like a disagreement about what type of coffee to have at Starbucks.

We queued up with our school canteen trays and watched as the sandwichiere aggressively sliced our warm salted beef before smearing it with mustard and wedging it between two slices of rye bread with caraway seeds. Curiously it is weighed on the spot to check it is just the right amount. We were asked if we wanted a gherkin to go with it and later found it this cost an extra 50p. In total the sandwich cost the best part of £10 which puts it firmly in the special occasion category!

Having recovered from the shock of the cost we tucked in heartily… wondering which side of the debate we would support. The meat fell apart and crumbled in the mouth like we’d hoped. Flaking in the way that pulled pork does. But we couldn’t help thinking it could have been more moist. A bit like watching German comedy – a touch dry.

Then came the hit of the stinking hot mustard. Or did it? That’s what we’d hoped for. But sadly the tingling, Scarface-esque, nose burn never came. We peered inside the sandwich, like a mechanic checking under the “hood” to find only the merest lick of spicy yellow mustard. A real shame. But easily rectified.

The rye bread was delicious. Full of caraway seeds and far softer than we had imagined. It held up far better to the weight of the filling than expected. Which is no mean feat.

That simply leaves the gherking to be eulogized. Put up on a Presidential pedestal and praised. But that would be silly. It was more of a gherqueen to be honest. A bit cut off from reality and not entirely necessary. Purists will probably be horrified.

We left satisfied, full, and feeling like we’d had the closest thing we could get in London to an American deli sandwich. Was it perfect? No. Was it good? Yes. Will we go again? Definitely – but we’ll ask for more mustard!

Was it the best American sandwich in London? We suspect not.

If you know of a better place to have a classic American sandwich, please leave a comment so we know for next time.

The Brass Rail, Selfridges, 400 Oxford St, London, W1A 1AB

Last Updated 03 November 2008


that's a very yummy photo.


Bodeans? Seriously? Every time I've been there I've had 'bottom problems' the next day. This can't be a coincidence.


Bodean's is brilliant. I've always had a great time there. Their ribs are great and their pulled pork is pretty special too.


Yes, nice photo. Why is there more than one name for this kind of beef? Is it because it sounds better than corned beef as they call it in the US?


Thanks tf... not sure why there are mutliple names for Salt Beef... but it sounds a lot better than corned beef!

Here's the blurb from Wikipeida:

"Salt beef' in the UK and Commonwealth as a cured and boiled foodstuff is sometimes known as 'Corned beef' elsewhere, though traditional salt beef is different in taste and preparation. The use of the term corned comes from the fact that the Middle English word corn could refer to grains of salt as well as cereal grains."


Shame about the mustard. Could you not have complained then and there and begged for more? A holy triumvirate that, salt beef, mustard and gherkin... gah, am dribbling...


Hi Lindsey,

I guess I could have and should have. But I feel they should have got it right first time.

It is a truly epic sandwich when those three elements come together.


The best of all American sandwiches is the Reuben. It's a corned beef sandwich with an added portion of awesome. I haven't thought about Reubens since leaving NYC, but now I'm craving one. Is that an impossible dream in London?



I've heard many a story about the legendary Reuben. Apparently they do a good one at Reubens on Baker Street. I was going to go there but they were closed on the day...


I had my first hot salt beef sarnie at the Wolseley no less.
It was horrid.
(For the record, I complained - and they couldn't have been nicer).
SO thanks for this Browners - perhaps I'll give it another go.


That's a pleasure SallyB2... Disappointing that the Wolsley got it wrong first time round. At the prices these places charge it should always be perfect.


I had my first at one of the bagel bakeries on Brick Lane - aside from the fact I don't really like bagels that much, the salt beef was plentiful and delish, plenty of mustard but with mild gherkins that gave me joy. And mucho cheapo.


Good old Brick Lane... such a reliable and brilliant place.


I have just been back for return visit... this time I had more mustard. This time the meat was juicy and moist. This time it was perfect. Great sandwich.


B&K Salt beef bar in Edgware make the best sandwiches but don't take my word for it as I am related to them so you need to try it for yourself.

Personal Trainer London

How many calories I wonder?