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.
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 considering Pret. The hot and cold options change daily, but they keep things 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 their wafer-thin salted homemade crisps. You know where to put ’em.
Balady is very good at putting or wrapping things in bread. Whether it’s aubergine and egg (the sabich), cauliflower shawarma, or their incredible falafel, everything at this quick and casual Temple Fortune spot 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 everything here is pretty great, notably their hand made chips, and the cauliflower starter. You should also know that getting a merguez wrapped in a huge, pillowy laffa from their next-door sister restaurant Alaesh is always a good idea.
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 is serving up 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 as well as the meaty filling, each sandwich is 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.
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.
Bánh Mì Hội-An
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 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, a university days and day of Come Dine With Me flashback, and, like a teenage boys sleepover, it stinks. It stinks good. This Dalston café doesn’t stop there. In fact, their melt-in-your-mouth pork bo ssam baguette - all crunch and coriander, fat and chilli sauce - is possibly even better.
Tou is from the team behind Tata Eatery and they’re the architects of London’s most precise formation of meat and bread. Aside from its flawless measurements, the katsu sando is neatly stacked with thick slabs of crispy Iberian pork that’s seriously good and smears of raspberry and XO sauce on each slice. There’s an egg mayo and brioche hot dog too, but the katsu sando is (and always will be) the star of the show.
N.B. Arcade Food Theatre is currently closed, but you can order a DIY katsu sando kit here.
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.
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.
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 - it’s so delicious, but also painful - think about heading to Morty & Bob’s in King’s Cross instead. Their grilled cheese sandwiches are some of London’s finest. The classic involves cheddar, Gruyère, and healthy handful of chopped onions.
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 & 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.
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.
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.
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.