London’s Best Sandwiches
Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Londoners are spoilt for choice when it comes to great sandwiches. There may be a chain on every corner but there’s no excuse to go in when handcrafted beauties like these are waiting to be eaten. Independent shops and street food stalls are the places to head for the best London has to offer. Here’s a round-up of our favourites.
The best… banh mi
Mrs Le’s Bánh Mì and Grill
We used to be devotees of Bánh Mì Hội-An in Hackney and while it’s still good, we’ve found a new love in the recently opened Mrs Le’s Bánh Mì and Grill. This Vietnamese barbecue restaurant and sandwich shop sits right next door to the owners’ original restaurant Mien Tay, a reliable neighbourhood restaurant beloved of locals.
The bánh mì really hit the spot and we love their grilled pork and ‘traditional’ versions the best. The baguettes are light and the crumb scooped out (as is right and proper) to make way for all the fillings; the grilled pork is sticky and sweet (we think a bánh mì really comes into its own when there’s some sweetness to play off the acidity of the pickles); there is rich paté and there are perky-fresh vegetables. Best of all, there’s decent chilli heat. As you’ll no doubt know, it’s when all of these contrasting elements come together that the bánh mì becomes more than the sum of its parts. Undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest sandwiches.
Mrs Le’s Bánh Mì and Grill, 178 Lavender Hill, SW11 5TQ
The best… cheesesteak
These guys pride themselves on serving authentic Philly cheesesteaks, and they’re completely inhalable. We’ve chased them around market stalls for years as The Liberty Cheesesteak Company, and now they’ve opened a permanent spot in Fitzrovia called Passyunk Avenue. Watch them fry, toss and chop thinly sliced steak on the hot plate, then add onions (providing you’ve ordered ‘wit’ onions, which you should), before piling it all into a soft sub roll and topping with your choice of cheese.
Now here’s the thing: the most authentic choice is Cheese Whiz, an intimidating American cheese-in-a-can product. Liberty Cheesesteak alleviates the fear by offering their own ‘Liberty Whiz’ – a sauce made to their own recipe, which gets all up in that sandwich, coating the steak and adding just the right amount of filth factor. Don’t even consider ordering anything else.
Passyunk Avenue, 80 Cleveland Street, W1T 6LU
The best… ham sandwich
The Quality Chop House Shop and Café
The Quality Chop House is undoubtedly one of London’s best restaurants and they’ve recently expanded their shop to include a café, so now you can eat your sandwich while sipping on an Allpress coffee and flicking through their library of recipe books. There’s nothing quite as pleasurable as eating while you’re also looking at pictures of food, trust us.
The ham is wonderful because it’s cooked by them in-house and it’s piled into a thick layer in the sandwich. One of the (many) things that Quality Chop do so well is to take very classic British ingredients and treat them with the utmost care, making each dish special, be it perfectly cooked langoustines served very simply or the smoothest of chicken parfaits. They pay the same attention to detail when it comes to their sandwiches and we love their old school combinations; bring back ham and coleslaw!
The Quality Chop House Shop and Café, 89-90 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3EA
The best… salt beef sandwich
The Monty’s team have moved on from their stall at Maltby Street Market, opening a permanent space in Hoxton. It’s a beautiful, traditional Jewish deli with plenty worth getting stuck into. First, though, you must try their Meshuggener – this behemoth is rammed with an obscene amount of salt beef, pastrami and coleslaw plus one extra special addition: chopped liver. It is the latter that makes this sandwich stand out – an earthy whack of rich offal to bolster the flavour profile. There’s a pickle on the side too, of course. If we had to choose though, we think the Reuben is our favourite with its killer combination of salt beef or pastrami, cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing.
One of the best things about Monty’s, incidentally, is that they make their own salt beef – something not many restaurants in London do. In fact, they make everything themselves, right down to the pickles and mustard. That’s dedication to the sandwich cause.
Monty’s Deli, 227 Hoxton Street, N1 5LG
The best… all-round sandwich menu
Max’s Sandwich Shop
Max Halley is a sandwich obsessive, and it shows. Everything on the menu is amazing, including the now famous ham, egg ‘n’ chips, a much fancier arrangement than the description would have you believe, consisting of pulled ham hock, a fried egg, shoestring fries, piccalilli and malt vinegar mayo.
We also love the ‘Et tu brute? Murdering the Caesar’ which is a brilliantly named riff on a Caesar salad, filled with guinea fowl, pickled grape and tarragon salsa, garlic croutons and anchovy mayo. It’s a salty, sweet, pickled, crunchy, creamy delight and it’s all packed within Max’s homemade focaccia bread.
Max’s Sandwich Shop, 19 Crouch Hill, N4 4AP
The best… toasted cheese sandwich
There are many places to find a decent toasted cheese sandwich in London nowadays (or ‘grilled cheese’ as people insist on calling them), but they tend to be over-filled, with not enough acidity to counteract the richness.
Kappacasein still lead the way, then, with their stall at Borough Market, where the queue quite rightly stretches around the market once that grill heats up. The secret is in the mixture of cheeses (Montgomery Cheddar, Ogleshield and Comte) but also in the allium three-way combo they use – leeks, garlic and onions – all of it on Poilane sourdough.
Kappacasein, 1 Stoney Street, SE1 9AA
The best… barbecue sandwich
These guys started out as a street food stall and now have a permanent restaurant in Shoreditch. They’ve always served brisket in a bun, and it’s now one of the main draws at their restaurant, too. The key to success here is consistency, and they even have a dedicated ‘brisket guy’, Roberto, who tends to them.
There’s nothing on the briskets while they’re cooking apart from salt and pepper, so it’s all credit to the method that they’re the best in London by miles. Served on a brioche bun with pickled red chillies this is one killer sandwich, the meat full of lovely wobbly fatty bits.
Smokestak, 35 Sclater Street, E1 6LB
The best… egg mayo sandwich
St. John do British classics so perfectly and their egg mayo sandwich is no exception. You’ll find it on the bar menu occasionally, and it’s a must-order. The soft white bread (baked by them, naturally) bulges with rich egg mixture, which we think is possibly enriched with extra yolks. There’s watercress too but it’s chopped so as not to pull from the sandwich and slap against your chin, and there’s mayonnaise, which is run through with a tickle of malt vinegar, to keep the British theme. It’s a perfect sandwich and the ultimate comfort food.
St. John, 26 St. John Street, EC1M 4AY
The best… ice cream sandwich
Blu Top’s distinctive ice cream sandwiches are all over Instagram come summer and they taste as good as they look. It’s the inventive flavours that win them fans, such as coconut and black cherry with brown butter chocolate cookies, or brown toast and jam, which is a brown sugar ice cream with raspberry jam ripple and crisp cinnamon rye bread crumbs. They’re messy but worth every dribble.
Blu Top, see website for locations
The best… bacon sandwich
Black Axe Mangal
If you want to shake up your BLT routine then head to Black Axe Mangal, a Kiss worshipping kebab shop in Islington that turns out food with serious punch. Their BLT is a made to order flatbread brushed with butter, filled with super fatty bacon, layered with tomato and black chilli, Romaine lettuce dressed with aioli and pickled red onions.
It’s seriously intense and impossible to stop eating. They only do massive flavour at BAM, which is why we love their work.
Black Axe Mangal, 156 Canonbury Road, N1 2UP
The best… falafel sandwich
This little shop tucked away in Shepherd’s Bush Market still makes the best falafel wraps in London. Watch as they fry the falafel to order (not many places do this), popping the dinky pucks of chickpea into hot oil until golden brown. They’re added to a wrap with very fresh salad for crunch and an absolute shed load of parsley. Together with tahini, chilli sauce, herb sauce and those brilliant day-go pickled turnips, this adds up to one seriously fresh-tasting wrap. There’s a level of care and attention to detail here that’s not found elsewhere.
Mr Falafel, T4-T5, New Shepherd’s Bush Market, Uxbridge Road, W12 8LH
The best… shawarma
Berber & Q Shawarma
We must thank Berber & Q for their modern take on the traditional shawarma. There are many places to get your fix of grilled lamb in pita in London but these guys really pay attention to quality, and it shows. They bring the lamb to the table along with those excellent, proper round pita bread, the like of which you rarely see in London and let you get on with stuffing it. There’s tahini sauce, herbs, sumac and a frankly brilliant range of pickles.
Berber & Q Shawarma, 46 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
The best… afternoon tea sandwiches
Claridge’s makes the best afternoon tea in London, hands down. Yeah, The Ritz is good but save your pennies and spend them in the main restaurant instead. At Claridge’s, everything is perfect, including, yes, the pastries, but also the perfectly cut sandwiches, with classic fillings like smoked salmon or ham, all with a very gentle twist. There might be a tarragon cream cheese with the salmon for example or a mustard-laced remoulade alongside the ham.
They also bring as many rounds as you like, which is wonderful but also a bit of a bold move in light of the scones and cakes that follow.
Claridge’s, Brook Street, W1K 4HR
The best… breakfast sandwich
Original Fry Up Material
There are lots of full English sandwiches around town but this is the best thanks to the quality of the ingredients. There’s a Blythburg pork patty made from pork shoulder, ultra-crisp streaky bacon, an egg which is consistently just the right balance of runny/gooey and – here’s the best bit – a slice of American cheese. Sometimes only slappy plastic cheese will do. Topped with their ‘brekkie sauce’ and heaped into a soft muffin it’s a lesson in breakfast sandwich design.
Original Fry Up Material, see website for locations
The best… sabich
The Good Egg
In case you hadn’t noticed, sabich is having a moment in London. It’s an Israeli sandwich consisting of a pita filled with fried aubergine slices, boiled potato, eggs, pickles and sauces. The Good Egg’s version has salted duck eggs which are still soft in the middle, plus zhoug, a powerful and transformative green herb and chilli blend, and amba, a sharp and sweet mango sauce.
The best part about this sandwich is the attention to detail in the assembly, as they carefully construct it to make sure there’s a little bit of everything in each bite.
The Good Egg, 93 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0AS
The best… lobster roll
Tricky one, this, as it all comes down to whether you prefer the Maine style (cold lobster with mayonnaise) or Connecticut style (warm, with butter). They’re both brilliant, of course, and, despite the fact that it’s a chain, Burger & Lobster does a good Maine version. The best in London, though? It has to to be the warm lobster roll at Hawksmoor, which you’ll find on the bar menu at Seven Dials. The meat is bound with garlic butter and heaped into a toasted bun, and we love the fact they serve a jug of bearnaise on the side, just to cover all buttery bases.
Hawksmoor Seven Dials, 11 Langley Street, WC2H 9JG
Featured image: Max’s Sandwich Shop