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.
Towpath is a seasonal canal-side cafe for seasoned table grabbers but if you come here on a sunny day, the sun gleaming and the water rippling, you realise why it’s so busy. Regardless of whether you’re pitching up or on the move, get a sandwich. The sausage sandwiches are gigantic things, reminiscent of Prince Charles’ fingers, only Spanish and full of hits of garlic and paprika. Our brunch move is ordering the fried eggs and a sausage sandwich ‘for the table’. The cheese toastie with homemade quince jelly on the side is also a go-to.
The chip butty from Norman’s is one of London’s lesser talked-about great side dishes. Beans on toast? Chippy butty on the side. Battered sausage with brown sauce? Throw in a butty while you’re at it. The bap is soft and crusty, the chips crunchy and fluffy—you can’t go wrong. The chicken escalope sarnie with melted red Leicester is also a must and, as with everything at this brilliant new-school British caff, the simple things like a bacon sarnie or a hash-brown stuffed muffin aren’t just done right, but perfectly.
Catalyst’s menu switches up regularly but its magnificent sandwiches always remain. A classic bacon number wedged between doorstop slices of pain de mie bread is a ketchup-sodden breakfast of the traditionally British variety, with a little onion and dill relish thrown in as well. But there are other things too: a homemade take on a familiar fish filet sandwich, only this one features chunky goujons big enough to make Captain Birdseye blush, a tangy homemade coleslaw, and a creamy slice of American cheese.
Bánh Mì Hội-An makes bánh mì that we enjoy so much we wrote a love letter to one. The little Hackney Central spot is only open in the week for takeaway but whichever option you go for, you’ll find that the char siu is sweet, the pork belly chunky, and the bread itself the perfect equilibrium between soft and chewy, and crisp and flaky.
We’ll be the first to admit that recommendation websites have biases. Everyone has favourites, after all. So you’ve more than likely heard or read or even consumed the falafel pita from Pockets little stall in London Fields at this point. But that doesn’t mean we won’t stop going on about it, nor eating one on a weekly basis. Living nearby helps, but we can’t stress enough how worthwhile the queue or journey for this gorgeously layered, heavily sauced, springily soft falafel pita is.
If you’ve never eaten a sandwich that felt more like a warm embrace than something between bread, then you may not be able to understand our excitement about this spot inside Shepherd’s Bush Market. This kiosk serves Algerian street food in the form of sandwiches filled with your choice of lambs' liver, merguez, marinated chicken, fish fillet, or minced meat. All the meats are cooked to order and each sandwich is also stuffed with chips, a fried egg, the perfect amount of salad, and harissa. The chicken is our favourite, but they’re all excellent so order with confidence.
We once had the best egg mayo sandwich of our lives at Bodega Rita's and you may well have a similar experience. Both the regular chopped beef and sloppy joe are complete and utter messes—these are the kind of sandwiches that keep the lemon wipe empire gleamingly rich—and, it regularly has guest chef sandwich enthusiasts in to create their own delicious, two-handed creations.
You won’t know that you’ve needed a corned beef hash sando all your life until the moment you take your first bite of Panadera’s corned beef hash sando. The Filipino bakery has created something wondrous between two slices of grilled Filipino milk bread. It’s soft and crunchy, thanks to the deep-fried corned beef patty, with lovely little chunks of potato flecked throughout. The sweet bread combined with a tart sauce, a wipe of mayo, and a bit of lettuce that’s there in spirit, combines to make a truly warming, generous double doorstop sandwich. Oh, and there’s an egg one too.
Much of what comes out of 40 Maltby Street is talked about in hushed, excited whispers. Word of cauliflower croquettes being on the menu will spread across London’s burgeoning beige-obsessed community like a molten cheese wildfire. It’s no surprise then that its weekly-changing sandwiches have the same effect. Whether it be pork schnitzel and artichoke, or pumpkin fritter, braised kale, and ricotta—there’s always one meat and one veg, and you’re always guaranteed to have one of the best sandwiches in London.
The sub is an unappreciated sandwich-type on this side of the pond. More often than not, there’s only one way to have a sub in London and it’s not the best possible way. You’ll realise this once you eat from Dom’s on Hackney Road. There’s ‘The Cold Cuts’ loaded with bresaola, salami, provolone, tangy peppers, and more. There’s ‘The Grapow’, a Thai-inspired sub that caused us to almost unintentionally amputate our right (sandwich-gripping) thumb. And most importantly after you finish, there’s the feeling that you and the menu have lots of unfinished business.
As sandwich classicists, we’re sometimes suspicious of places that serve their BLTs with homemade apple ketchup but in the case of Pophams, we are very much a fan of its creative flavours. This comfy and spacious Hackney bakery is responsible for putting the bacon and maple croissant on the map, and we’re just as obsessed with its chunky savory sandos as we are with its sweet pastries. The sandwiches change regularly but expect combos like house-cured salt beef with sauerkraut, porchetta slathered in wild garlic mayo, and coronation chickpeas with iceberg lettuce.
Balady is very good at putting or wrapping things in bread. Whether it’s aubergine and egg (the sabich), cauliflower shawarma, or the incredible falafel, everything at the original Temple Fortune location and its Leather Lane sibling is offered with a huge choice of salads, pickles, hummus, red pepper, and jalapeño schug, as well as tahini and amba. The result is a full-on assault of flavour. Sweet mango mingling with chickpea, red cabbage with pickled cucumber and sesame, the whole thing just working. We go for the falafel in pita (baked at local spot Taboon), but you should know that getting merguez wrapped in a huge, pillowy laffa from next-door sister restaurant Alaesh is always a good idea.
Rainbow Cookout’s jerk chicken sandwich is a carefully made labour of love. The meat from a freshly grilled leg methodically pulled off by Otis—the world’s most laconic and considered grill master—and its crisp blackened skin is carefully removed with Peking duck-like precision. It’s put between two thick wholemeal slices and topped with careful ladles of fragrant and spiced gravy with carrots, onions, and cabbage. You can find it at the Hackney Central end of Mare Street from Wednesday to Saturday. Or, as Otis says, “Whenever I feel like getting out of bed”.
Quality Wines is the wine bar attached to Quality Chop House and at lunchtime it makes the kind of sandwiches that will make you feel like a prat for ever considering Pret. The hot and cold options change daily, but things are consistently good. Pulled pork with kimchi and Japanese mayo is a serious KO’er, roast chicken and aioli is a classic, but the cold ham and mustard-heavy coleslaw is our favourite. Also, don’t skip the wafer-thin salted homemade crisps. You know where to put ’em.
You know those day-off sandwiches you make? The ones that require a blueprint and planning permission? Those are the kind of sandwiches that Dusty Knuckle, off Kingsland Road, makes everyday. Being a bakery, the bread (whether sourdough or focaccia) is seriously good and the fillings, be it saucy meatballs, roasted beetroot, or sticky tofu, are the same. In fact they’re so good that we wrote an entire ode to one: the go-to roasted beetroot and carrot number.
Crispy buttermilk fried shrimp, sweet brioche bread, top-quality honey mustard sauce. No you haven’t fallen into an M&S ad, we’re just letting you know what to expect from the seriously tasty and seriously hefty sandwiches from Poor Boys. A New Orleans-style street food deli in Kingston, this casual spot is all about po’boys. In case you haven’t come across a po’boy before, it’s a huge sandwich situation that was handed out to strikers in New Orleans way back in the 1920s. Now that we’ve filled you in on some essential sarnie history, go eat it.
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.
The best sandwiches stay with you. A drop of oil on your jeans. The stench of melted cheese in the room. A rogue bit of cabbage in your teeth. This is exactly what the stichelton and kimchi toastie from Snackbar does. It’s golden and gooey, an affront to your nose and your white t-shirt, and one of London's magnificent melted creations.
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 hook up 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.
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 the Camberwell and Elephant and Castle locations offer a choice of delicious £5.50 panuozzi, which are basically sandwiches made out of pizza dough, which is basically the smartest thing we’ve ever heard. The take on a tuna melt is a go-to, or the sausage with provolone is also great. As is that chilli sauce on the table.
An ale-focused 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. Its roast pork bap, complete with crackling and apple sauce, is a thing of tear-inducing, pint-soaking beauty.
If your sandwich maker was (or is) a George Foreman or a Breville then you’ll be familiar with the scalding a cheese toastie can give to the top of your mouth. So the next time you have an impatient craving, think about heading to Morty & Bob’s in King’s Cross instead. The grilled cheese sandwiches here are some of London’s finest. The classic involves cheddar, gruyère, and a healthy handful of chopped onions.
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 bagels 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 the menu since day one for good reason.
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, and pickled aubergines, to mashed broad beans. They’re seriously good.