In search of London’s best sandwich since sliced bread
We were very flattered, last week, when The Guardian referred to the Sandwichist as “The sandwich reviewing wing of the Londonist empire”. So we’d better make sure that this edition is up to scratch.
We played around with a few themes for October such as scary sandwiches to tie in with Hallowe’en and Russian subs as a tenuous link to Sean Connery’s appearance as a tearaway Captain of a Soviet Submarine in the Hunt For Red October. But puns and sucking up to the Guardian got the better of us and we decided on a theme of “October-Lenghi”.
Yottam Ottolenghi has captured the imagination of the culinary cognoscenti. His column for the Guardian always seems to zag against the expected food stuff you read in the newspapers and his cookery book is widely regarded as being the best for a number of years. Recent reviews of his restaurant in Islington have been so effusive that you’d think he’d written them himself. So when we heard they did sandwiches, we scrambled down to Motcombe Street so fast we must have looked like Scooby Doo running away from a ghost.
Ottolenghi is a whizz at fish and meat and an expert baker. But it’s his ability to turn humble vegetables into food that could convert a carnivore that is really exciting. His scorched broccoli, alchemic use of spices like za’atar and sumac and wizardry with aubergines gives many foodies goose bumps. So we expected great things of their sandwiches.
Unfortunately the range of sandwiches on offer at the Motcombe Street branch were paltry. The range didn’t extend beyond pesto chicken, ham and cheese and egg. Admittedly, all the fillings were encased in fluffy white ciabatta rolls and from top class ingredients. But we had hoped for more imagination. We didn’t let this little set back get in the way. And decided to go off piste and see if the Sandwichist could put things right.
We asked whether we could make our own sandwiches and were dissuaded from the idea. So instead we bought a loaf of their lovely rye bread and three cartons of their most autumnal “salads” and took them back to the office to experiment.
Aubergine marinated in miso, mirin and soy and sprinkled with sesame seeds and spring onions made a very original filling for a sandwich. The aubergine was soft, salty and exotic. But it had a life of it’s own as it splurged out of the side as if suggesting it might be better if it was sandwiched between some less crumbly bread. We’ve also got a hunch it could do with some crunch.
A filling of mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and basil was inspired as well. The collection of mushrooms, both wild and tame, was deep and autumnal. The sun dried tomato added a much needed reminder of what summer was like. Again the filling was great but the bread was unsuitable.
The highlight was roasted butternut squash with cinnamon, tangy yoghurt and chilli. It was a revelation. If someone can find a more “Octobery” sandwich than this please let us know.
We also tried out their pre-made pesto chicken sandwich which was very good, but predictable. It highlighted the fact that ciabatta rolls are far better for gungy sandwich fillings than rye bread.
So we’d recommend you pay Ottolenghi a visit. Simply buy a ciabatta roll and a box of whichever salads take your fancy and make your own sandwich back at your office. In our minds you’ll struggle to find a more original sandwich in London.
There are four Ottolenghi sites around London - in Islington, Notting Hill, Belgravia and Kensington. Have a look at their website for more details.