Parallel’s sandwich guide to London

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Sandwich critic Alex Fletcher, aka the Xandwich, takes us to his favourite sandwich spots within walking distance of Generator London.

For as long as I can remember, the sandwich has played a vital role in my life. Whether it was a booze-fuelled tuna and Marmite concoction or a classic prawn & mayo from the local Tesco (a British delicacy, I assure you), the humble sandwich reigns supreme over all else. 

So over the past few months I decided to transform my private passion for all things sandwiched into a public service: I am now a self-proclaimed sandwich blogger/critic, munching my way through London’s finest cafés and delis in search of those perfect 10/10 sarnies. It’s early days – I’m no Jay Rayner – but I certainly know my way around a thick malted bloomer. 

I picked the worst day in recent British history to 007 it around London to visit my favourite sandwich haunts for you: it was about 30 degrees out and I must’ve looked like a sweat-drenched maniac, lumbering through the streets scattering breadcrumbs on the ground. But I digress – here’s a list of my top 5 places within walking distance of Generator London

Shrimp Katsu’ from Monocle Café, 18 Chiltern Street (£7)



 

Despite merrily whistling Gerry Rafferty’s saxophone banger every time I pass through this station, I still find Baker Street and the area around it bizarre. The throng of camera-wielding tourists who either fight to get to the Madame Tussaud’s queue or jostle each other for a photo in front of 221B never fails to perplex me. However, the streets south of the station are riddled with cute eateries, and Monocle Café doesn’t disappoint.

This sandwich was more like an upmarket take on the fish finger sarnie. I have a lot of time for a simple sandwich of this quality. The bread was thick, light and gently toasted on all sides. The prawns were battered in a delightfully seasoned crust, but the intensity and flavour of the prawns was preserved perfectly. The homemade tartar sauce balanced the fishiness entirely and the bursts of caper and gherkin brought a smile to my face. Lastly, the shredded lettuce was much appreciated for its added crunch and freshness, as if raising a glass to the 60s prawn cocktail of Fanny Craddock – RIP. 

9.5/10 – Bigger, please! I wolfed this down in a world record sub-10 seconds. I would have loved for it to last longer but given my hunger and my appetite, it was long gone before I could say focaccia

‘Beer-braised onion, kale + cheese’ from Lundenwic, 45 Aldwych (£5)



 

I always start off by analysing the bread. Why? Because bread does a wonderful dual job: mopping up juices while maintaining the structure and texture of the sandwich. This sourdough was toasted to perfection, exuding some delectable notes of caramel and molasses. A gentle smothering of butter – a must for any toastie – gave it that deep golden glow, similar to the saffron in your chicken korma, and the chew-to-crunch to ratio was spot on. 

I’ll continue with what’s probably my most favourite condiment ever: caramelised onion chutney. God, I could eat that stuff with a spoon (and have done so). It’s the best. This one was reduced in beer and blimey did it add some serious depth and flavour. To complement that intensity was a mixture of cheeses, I couldn’t say which ones but they hit the nail on the head by providing saltiness. Finally, there was the kale. Normally I’m not a fan of this trendy cabbage but I gritted my teeth and pulled through. It wasn’t bad, y’know. I normally find it has an off-putting tang – reminds you of the taste of your own blood – but in this case it acted as a great meat substitute. 

8.5/10 – I’d recommend including a stringier cheese, as I didn’t get that sexy ‘pizza-pull’ satisfaction you see on Pizza Hut adverts. That said, definitely worth a visit for a well-priced sarnie.

'Rare roast Dedham Vale beef and horseradish' from Albion, 63 Clerkenwell Road (£7)



 

Next on my agenda was Albion in Farringdon. Upon entry I was instantly overwhelmed by how cool it is, thanks to their Gaggia espresso machine humming away in the background and the scattering of Courier magazines over the worktables. The adjoining deli, teething with hangry clientele, made me feel pretty funky and signalled that it was time to chow down on a sarnie.

The bread, made in-house, was beautiful. It was light and fluffy with the chewiest of crusts. For those interested, chewy crusts are achieved by using steam in the oven, either by placing a tray of water in with the bread or spraying the loaves with water. The quality of the beef was sublime: pink and melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous. The watercress was so peppery and it really complemented the light smothering of salty butter on both slices. It’s yin & yang, folks – simple yet devastatingly affective. Additionally, the homemade horseradish was light and dainty but packed full of palatial creaminess. 

7.5/10 - Never in my wildest of dreams would I have thought to complain about this but, for me, there was too much meat and the sandwich proved difficult to swallow. The homemade horseradish could have been a little more potent, too. Nevertheless, a brilliant attempt at a classic British pairing.  

‘Unda Shami Roll’ from The Kati Roll Company, 24 Poland Street (£5.20)



 

Sweating a lot by now, I arrived at one of my most visited fast food pit stops. Using only organic, fresh spices imported from India, the lovely people at The Kati Roll Company know what they’re doing. Admittedly, they serve wraps instead of sandwiches but in my eyes they fall within the same bracket.

The unda roll was bouncy and chewy; the egg that hugged the inside was light and fluffy; and the meat was seasoned to perfection – my mouth has never had so much action. I’ve never even been to India but somehow the food felt ‘authentic’. The ‘Unda Shami Roll’ is beautiful: fiery, intense and incredibly meaty, perfect for when you’ve polished off a few pints at your local boozer. 

8/10 – Despite loving the wrap, the pancake this time around was uncooked in parts. On top of that, I feel a splash of herby greenery, or even lettuce, would add a much-needed element of freshness. As a whole I felt that it lacked refinement; but then again, this is a fast food classic and perhaps best not to be tampered with. 

‘Ground beef + bone marrow’ from Spuntino, 61 Rupert Street (£5)



 

Ah, trusty Spuntino, you never disappoint me. Not only are you the perfect date venue (for all your Casanovas out there) but you also serve up exquisite sliders. And before you smart alecs pipe up, I consider sliders to be in the sandwich category due to their size and manoeuvrability. 

This one is pure bliss. It seduced me the first time I squeezed my cheeks onto Spuntino’s raised bar stools and it’ll seduce me when I do again. The brioche bun is sweet and the interiors are marvellously toasted; the gherkin is crunchy and carries the right amount of sourness; the cheese is creamy and salty and the meat is, well, delightful. The bone marrows offers so much flavour. Pink in the middle, juicy beyond belief, this slider has it all. 

10/10 – Fit to burst, I awarded Spuntino the highest accolade available to a restaurant, and rightly deserved, too! Utter perfection. 

Instagram: @the.xandwich

 

I hope this gives you a flavour of what the streets of London have to offer. You might agree with my verdicts or you might not, and that’s fair enough. Taste is all about…well, taste. It’s up to you to try these places for yourself and see what you think.

And next time you’re in central London and your stomach’s groaning, you’ll know exactly where to go.