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