London is a city replete with good sandwiches. One might have a decent one every day of the year. Even a simple bacon number in Cafe Verona, Moorgate, is worth eating, the meat crisp, grease settling nicely into sliced white.
There are the avant garde, too, and many have earned fame well beyond what some may come to expect of a sandwich shop. Below is a list of 12 fine places to find a great lunch. All manner of excellent fillings are slipped between baguettes, sourdough, pita breads and more.
Max’s Sandwich Shop
Max’s Sandwich Shop in Crouch Hill has been afforded cult status for a while. It is not only owner Max Halley’s inventive combinations that lure diners, but his zesty persona, charismatically centred on such things as ducks. Those fortunate enough to visit when Max is in town will be greeted happily by a sort of Willy Wonka of sandwiches before choosing from a precise but explosive menu. The must-try is the “ham, egg ‘n’ chips”, where in thick white bread ham hock is accompanied by a fried egg, comforted by piccalilli and vinegar mayonnaise and plumped up with shoestring fries. There’s a reason supermarkets copy Max, a man who was most probably the first to use gravy mayo in a commercial capacity.
19 Crouch Hill, N4 4AU, maxssandwichshop.com
Unless you’ve spent the last year lost at sea, you’ll be well aware of Miznon, the Tel Aviv-born restaurant group founded by a man obsessed with tomatoes. Owner Eyal Shani ensures pillowy (yes) pita breads are stuffed with all manner of fillings, each listed on a ridiculously worded menu written in Comic Sans. One dish is called “Roasted cauliflower’s inner parts,” another is dubbed “Deep satisfaction.” In the latter, slow-cooked brisket, melted cheddar, pickled green chillies and ribbons of gherkin are draped lusciously in garlic sauce. The dish lives up to its name. A more classic falafel number is equally affirming, while the “long, thick and juicy” lamb pita is gratifying too.
8 Broadwick Street, W1F 8HW. For more information, visit miznon.co.uk
Last year, celebrities and regulars clamoured to I Camisa’s defence after news broke that the near-hundred year-old Italian deli was to close. The shop, which in its original site on Berwick Street dates back to 1929, was saved, and its sandwiches — among countless other delights — given a new lease of life. One of the foremost pleasures is the blanket price of £5. It is perhaps impossible to find a more affordable lunch in Soho, at least one that uses such quality ingredients. At Camisa, choice is all — salumi, cheeses, and salads might be selected, slipped inside a chewy ciabatta and devoured before another Guinness at the myriad pubs nearby.
61 Old Compton Street, W1D 6HS, icamisa.co.uk
Banh Mi Aha
A banh mi is one of the world’s great fusion foods, marrying Vietnamese freshness and flavour with French indulgence. At Banh Mi Aha, the go-to is simply called “Aha!”. In a soft baguette goes homemade pate, three types of spiced Vietnamese sausage, ham, and the much-loved Kewpie mayo. Topped with pickled carrots, daikon, spring onion and coriander, and here is a dish of canon, epitomising a sandwich’s ability to be efficient. It is worth having a papaya salad on the side, and if the weather is warm, the shop makes for a perfect place to dine al fresco and watch the world go by.
39 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1N 3NG, banhmiaha.co.uk
There are numerous places for remedial subs in London. Dom’s, in Hackney, is one. Another is Mondo, which operates out of the White Horse pub in Peckham. There, among the pints and the pool, is a menu inspired by the food in Hidetaka Miyazaki films, Redwall novels, and Beano comics. Options change regularly. Right now is a sausage sandwich elevated by gumbo mayo, a Cajun-style corn salad, cheese, butter lettuce — called “shrettuce” by the brand — and American mustard. Another combines pastrami with “sausage-seasoned chickpeas”, charred broccoli, fried onions and pickles. Order the house-made hot sauce for dipping and a portion of moo krob pork belly on the side.
20-22 Peckham Rye, SE15 4JR, whitehorsepeckham.co.uk/mondo-sando
Sons + Daughters
Another commonality in London today is the mortadella sandwich, constructed in numerous ways and paraded on social media. Hackney outpost Ombra, one of the city’s best modern Italian restaurants, crafts them excellently, as does Sons + Daughters, which recently shifted from chunky sliced white to more affordable rolls, marginally reducing the size of its sandwiches but cutting the price in half in turn (from around £12 to £6.50). Sons + Daughters is a fine place to find an egg mayo sandwich, sprucing up the cress-studded classic with a miso element and truffle crisps. But by far the best is the mortadella, where the Bolognan staple is paired with taleggio, tomato relish — not too sweet — rocket, Thai basil, and a tempering cider vinaigrette.
Unit 119a Coal Drops Yard, N1C 4DQ, sonsanddaughterslondon.com
The best time to visit Beigel Bake is after the pub. There will be queues but there’s something faintly thrilling about the wait. A camaraderie. Indeed it’s rare that queueing for food is worth it. At Beigel Bake, the salt beef that flies the flag, a New York-level bagel where the bread is chewy, the meat fall-apart tender, the soft mustard a guiding force. This is the messiest of food and all the better for it - a legendary shop and one of the few times the word “institution” might be bestowed properly.
159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB, bricklanebeigel.co.uk/london/beigel-bake
Dusty Knuckle bread has become synonymous with London’s hip sourdough culture. That is a conversation best avoided. The point is, the bread is among London’s finest, and although there is argument to had that bacon sandwiches are most agreeable when made with sliced white, it would be foolish to ignore Dusty Knuckle’s version, where smoked back bacon is squeezed into traditional, flavourful sourdough and partnered with ketchup (correct) or brown sauce (the connoisseur’s choice, and therefore wrong). Go with a friend, hungover, for breakfast, and share. Because there will also be an egg chilli cheese sandwich — fried egg, spring onions, pickled green chillis and coriander — in focaccia, which is stunning.
Abbot Street Car Park, E8 3DP, thedustyknuckle.com
Over the last few years, it seems like almost everyone’s been hanging out in Portugal. Lisbon mostly. It’s the way of things, and understandable given British proclivity to heartening, sloppy sandwiches. A bifana is one — strips of pork, marinated in white wine, garlic, paprika, doused in chilli sauce and mustard, all inside a bread roll. Those who aren’t able to make it over for whatever reason should head to Little Portugal in Stockwell and savour one of London’s coolest neighbourhoods. At Sintra Deli, the bifanas are well put together and accessible, and ideal with a Sagres or a Super Bock. Those seeking out the higher-end need not look beyond Lisboeta, Nuno Mendes’ lustrous shrine to the cooking of his hometown. There on the specials board is where customers might find a bifana.
30 Charlotte Street, W1T 2NG, lisboeta.co.uk
If there is one sandwich that typifies Instagram in London, it’s the sando. Some of the best are dainty, like the wagyu one at Taka, Marylebone. Such juicy, juicy meat. But the first port of call must be the big-time creations at Panadera, Camden, a Filipino bakery from Florence Mae Maglanoc and Omar Shah. There is an egg sando of spectacular design, and another of American-style corned beef, which is made in house. First, brisket is brined for three days, then shredded, but loosely, so as to deliver a resourceful texture. The meat is then made into a croquette with potatoes and a rich bechamel sauce before the whole thing is fried, placed into Filipino milk bread — or pandesal — and jazzed up by lettuce and aioli.
83 Kentish Town Road, NW1 8NY, panaderabakery.com
Apparently the club sandwich originated at Saratoga Club House in Saratoga Springs, New York, in the late 1800s. Early recipes are simple, with turkey or chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and lots of mayonnaise between three slices of white bread. Today, slices of egg make an occasional appearance, as does cheese from time to time; ham has been known to replace crisp bacon. Anyway, at Chet’s, the club sandwich is a canny take on the New York classic: fried chicken, bacon, papaya slaw, jalapenos and red cabbage are dressed in ranch. It comes with a great number of French fries, as a club sandwich must. Crisps? No.
65 Shepherd’s Bush Green, W12 8QE, chetsrestaurant.co.uk
The vada pav, where a deep-fried potato dumpling sits on chutney and green chilli and served in a burger bun, has not yet fully made it into central London’s food hype arena, instead mostly cavorting around the periphery. Still, this is Indian street food (more specifically, Mumbai and wider Maharashtra) at its best — vegetarian, cheap, and filling. One prime location that serves classic vada pav is Amol’s near Alperton station in northwest London. Some recommend adding cheese. More central is Curry On NaanStop, a food stand with sites in Seven Dials, and a delivery site in Herne Hill. Of course, the vada pav has been enjoyed by communities across London for decades. It would be fun to see it get a little more mainstream limelight.
181 Ealing Road, HA0 4LW, amolsvadapav.com