The Best Sandwiches In London
Doorstop sandwiches to aubergine sabichs, and everything in between. In between bread, that is.
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.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Paul Rothe & Son Delicatessen
In a world full of towering, TikTok-ready sandwiches and frankly weird cheese-injected fillings, there is something heartwarmingly straightforward about the sliced white or wholemeal triangle sandwiches from Paul Rothe. The Marylebone deli has been around since 1900 and one can only assume that workers have relied on it for buttery bacon baps and coronation chicken-smeared lunches ever since. Your wish is their command at Paul Rothe so eye up the fillings behind the counter and see what takes your fancy—the egg mayo with anchovy is a classic.
Shree Krishna Vada Pav
There must be science behind why canapé and slider-sized bites are often so satisfying. Maybe it’s because they’re two, maybe three mouthfuls, and they’re gone. But it also relies on them being as delicious and as flavourful as the menu from Shree Krishna Vada Pav. The Maharashtrian mini-chain, with locations in Hounslow, Ilford, and Harrow, specialises in deep-fried bits in doughy white bread baps, alongside whacks of chilli and coconut chutneys. Onion bhajiya, potato bhajiya, a Sichuan samosa… you name it, they’ll put it between bread.
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The Southampton Arms
An ale-focused 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. Its 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 the Camberwell and Elephant and Castle locations offer a choice of delicious £5.50 panuozzi—sandwiches that are, yes, 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.
Secret Sandwich Shop
We’re not sure what exactly the secret is about this Notting Hill spot, but we don’t care when the sandwiches taste this good. This Japanese-influenced place has colourful walls, black booths, and a menu with 10 hefty sandwiches. They're aesthetically pleasing, perfectly formed blocks of Tokyo milk bread, with the perfect ratio of filling—whether that’s tuna mayo and lettuce, or the T.L.T (turkey, lettuce, tomato). There are fun toppings like bacon crumb, or crispy shallots that you can add as well. Our favourite combination is the tuna mayo with salt and vinegar McCoys crisps—because you can do things like ask them to add crisps here.
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 in Kentish Town, the simple things aren’t just done right… but perfectly.
Catalyst Coffee Roasters + Cafe
Catalyst’s menu switches up regularly but its magnificent sandwiches always remain at the Holborn cafe. 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.
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 about, 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 is for this gorgeously layered, heavily sauced, springily soft falafel pita.
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 lamb’s 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.
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 in Kentish Town 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.
40 Maltby Street
Much of what comes out of Bermondsey’s 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.
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 is 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.
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.
The Dusty Knuckle Bakery
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 every day. 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 spot in Kingston, this casual restaurant 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.
Max's Sandwich Shop
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.
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.
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, 10 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.
Wraps are perhaps our favourite subcategory of sandwich. And Mr Falafel in Shepherd’s 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.