In search of London’s best sandwich since sliced bread
"Oooooooo-mar-meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee." It’s a great word. If you can think of a better one you can join us for the next sandwichist mission. It’s also, quite literally, the ‘quintessential’ taste. Umami was “discovered” around 100 years ago by a Japanese scientist, called Kikunae Ikeda, who was the brainchild of MSG. Umami is the fifth basic culinary building block after sweet, sour, bitter and salt and means “deliciousness” in Japanese. It is naturally found in anchovies, soy sauce, veal stock, fish sauce, parmesan and increasingly in the kitchens of the world’s top chefs.
Mega chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià weave umami into dishes by using seaweed and exotic mushrooms. And with the introduction of a new product called Taste No 5 you can now squeeze it onto your food from a tube. Inspired by this, we went in search of an umami sandwich and found I Camisa on Old Compton Street.
I Camisa, which has been around for eighty years, is one of the best delicatessens in Central London. They stock a phenomenal range of hams, bread, olives, pasta, sausages and assorted continental goodies that have been smuggled into the UK to put a smile on our faces. As you are engulfed by the store and start to hear the chatter of Italian voices it’s hard to resist its culinary charms. And impossible not to fall stomach over head for their sandwiches.
After a brief queue full of eager and astute ‘gastro-nados’, we asked for a sandwich stuffed full of parmesan, anchovy, rocket and aubergine, in a bid to create our own umami rich lunch. After being asked whether it was really what we wanted rather than some beautifully fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato instead they relented and prepared the umami masterpiece. They lovingly enveloped the magnificent ingredients in a perfect ciabatta roll that was light with a slightly crisp crust and proudly presented their immaculate creation and a modest bill (£3).
It was deeply savoury, salty and very moreish. The squide of aubergine gave way to the tang of parmesan and finished with the meaty fishiness of anchovy. Whilst being so weird they almost refused to make it, this is a sandwich that really works, not that we expect to see it on many menus.
We went in search of umami and undeniably, found one of London’s finest sandwich shops.
61 Old Compton Street, London W1D 6HS, United Kingdom