There have been some great inventions throughout history. Things like the spork, the Muji 0.5 gel pen, and the K-Swiss Tongue Twister all spring to mind. The greatest though is undoubtedly the sandwich. Because as anyone who’s ever entered the kitchen to find a packet of crisps, some salad cream, and a loaf of bread knows, the possibilities are endless with the humble sandwich. And sometimes it’s all you want. A classic sandwich. A hot sandwich. A sandwich bigger than your head. Here are the places to go to when all you want is a sandwich.
You know those day-off sandwiches you make? The ones that require a blueprint and planning permission? Those are the kind of sandwiches the Dusty Knuckle, off Kingsland Road, makes everyday. Being a bakery, the bread (be it sourdough or focaccia) is seriously good, and the fillings, be it saucy meatballs, roasted beetroot, or sticky tofu, are the same.
Quality Wines is the wine bar attached to the Quality Chop House, and at lunchtime they make the kind of sandwiches that will make you feel like a prat for ever going to Pret. The hot and cold options change daily, but they keep things consistent good. Pulled pork with kimchi and Japanese mayo is a serious KO’er, but the cold ham and coleslaw, is our favourite. Also, don’t miss their wafer thin salted homemade crisps. You know where to put ’em.
If you’ve ever looked at a main course and thought, ‘yeah, but it’d be better between two slices’, then you’re really going to like Max’s Sandwich Shop. This cult spot in Stroud Green serves many-ingredient and multi-condiment meals between two slices of homemade focaccia. The classic ham, egg ’n chips remains the best, but the guinea fowl caesar with garlic croutons is a close second. And yes, that is bread in bread.
A cash-only pub serving baps with half a pig in them sounds extremely ye olde England, but The Southampton Arms exists very much in the now. Aside from this little pub being both excellent and just five minutes from Hampstead Heath, it also serves one of the best sandwiches around. Their roast pork bap, complete with crackling and apple sauce, is a thing of tear-inducing, pint-soaking, beauty.
Going to a pizza place and not ordering pizza is very wrong, unless you’re going to Theo’s and getting a panuozzo, in which case it’s very right. Both their Camberwell and Elephant and Castle locations offer a choice of delicious £5 panuozzi, which are basically sandwiches made out of pizza base, which is basically the smartest thing we’ve ever heard. Their take on a tuna melt is a go-to, or their sausage with provolone is also great. As is that chilli sauce on the table.
There are doorstop sandwiches, and then there are St. John’s white bread sandwiches. These guys are like the unplanned but happy result of a hookup between the Yellow Pages and the Oxford English Dictionary. The fillings - cheese and chutney, egg and watercress - are British classics, which is very St. John, and although eating one can get a little bit messy, they’re very tasty.
The salt beef bagels at Beigel Bake are a national institution, and the wiping of English mustard induced tears is a national pastime. If chunky salt beef, gherkins, and mustard aren’t your thing, then hopefully smoked salmon and cream cheese is. Otherwise, you can always buy plain, and make your own creation at home.
Is a sandwich even a sandwich if its contents don’t fall out and become finger food? We think no. And if you do too, then head to Farringdon to get The Eagle’s steak sandwich. This enormous crusty Portuguese sandwich is big enough to have its own gravitational pull, but gravity means slices of marinated steak will definitely end up on your plate. This thing has been on their menu since day one for good reason.
Our favourite kind of sandwiches are generally the kind you look at halfway through and think ‘Jesus H’. This is how we felt when we first tried Monty’s reuben special: a salt beef, pastrami, cheese, mustard, and sauerkraut deck of cards that’s balanced in between a couple of slices of rye. If you can put this guy away without a moment of deep reflection (and deep breathing) then we should talk. A special mention to their pastrami, egg, and cheese breakfast bun as well.
If your idea of a proper sandwich involves thick sliced white and meat, without any greenery in sight, then the Bright katsu sando is the one for you. These four squares of soft panko crusted pork, with a bit of mustard on the side, are up there with the greatest bar snacks in London. Admittedly there’s a bit of white cabbage in there to give some crunch, but we said no greenery didn’t we.
If you want a tongue-twister, try saying: smoked eel sandwich at this Soho stalwart, ten times over. By the time you finish it’s the only thing you’ll be able to think about, which is a good thing. This is one of London’s most famous things between two toasted bits of bread, and once you try this smokey eel on a load of horseradish with some pickled onions on the side, you’ll know why.
In terms of amazing sensory experiences, Tokyo seems to be up there, along with a Yankee Candle shop, but we think walking into an Italian deli is one of the best. Luigi’s is an old-school deli in Chelsea that has all kinds of salads, pastas, cheeses, and hams for you to build your own sandwich from. It’s cheap (for the area), extremely cheerful, and the kind of place you’ll end up eating subs and paninis from for years.
Wraps are perhaps our favourite subcategory of sandwich. If you think about it (preferably under the influence) they’re like edible socks filled with food. Anyway, Mr. Falafel in Shepherds Bush makes one of the best wraps in London. There are about 12 different varieties, with guest appearances ranging from fried cauliflower, pickled aubergines, to mashed broad beans. And they’re seriously good.
You know the inquisitive-looking emoji wearing a monocle? Nothing to do with this cafe. But you definitely want to know about Monocle’s katsu sandwiches. The choice in this Marylebone cafe is between chicken and shrimp (we prefer the latter) and both come with a handful of crisps and gherkin on the side. Like every top sandwich should.