Beautiful Pastrami Spotted on London Pavement

The passing pedestrians on Blandford Street in Marylebone, an affluent area of central London, were all asking themselves various forms of the same question: What is that man doing taking photos of a pastrami sandwich left out on the pavement?

Wrong question, I thought. If you spotted a beautiful pastrami lying on the London pavement in its brown paper wrapper, open but uneaten, you’d want to take a photo of it, too. I’ve heard of pastrami on rye, pastrami on club roll, pastrami on pumpernickel, pastrami on white, pastrami on a bagel. But pastrami on asphalt? This was exactly the sort of phenomenon the late visionary Steve Jobs had in mind when he fitted the iPhone 4s with a superior camera.

To me the better question would have been: how the heck did that sandwich get there? I can answer that, if you will permit me to back up 25 minutes to where this all started…

The sky in London town was grey and I was hungry. In other words, an autumn day pretty much like any other. Just before 1pm I arrived at The Deli West One, a new New York-styled kosher deli. I scanned the menu posted behind the sandwich counter and decided that a home-cured kosher salt beef sandwich would do nicely. (Salt beef is the British counterpart to New York corned beef). But just to be on the safe side I also ordered a quarter-pound beef hot dog with sauerkraut as a side course. As for the home-cured pastrami also on offer, that would have to wait for a return visit.

Sadly the salt beef sandwich (£8.50) I consumed on the premises was somewhat smallish, as you can see from the photo below. The meat, though nicely rimmed with fat, was a tad tough and dry and the rye was limp, with no oomph in the middle and little chew-and-tear in the crust. 

The hot dog (£5) was plump and meaty, with the right quotient of garlic and what tasted like paprika. Its casing, natural or not, might have been crunchier, allowing for a juicy snap with every bite, but that’s maybe expecting too much from a kosher frankfurter in Britain. I would gladly walk a London mile for the Deli West One hot dog, as I might, truth be told, for its slim salt beef sandwich. I would not, however, run a mile for either.

Upon exiting I caught a glimpse of a cracked-peppercorn-encrusted pastrami brisket under the carver’s knife. It looked good. It looked very good. I pulled out my camera.

– No you don’t, indicated the man behind the counter, wearing his baseball cap backwards and his New York accent forwards.
– But it’s for my blog, I protested.
– Sorry, if you need photos you can take them off our website www.thedelilondon.com

I’ll show him, I told myself. I stormed out of the deli in a huff, but not before ordering a takeaway pastrami sandwich (£8.50). Once on the street I found a wind-swept patch of pavement, laid out the sandwich and began snapping away.

This is how a beautiful home-cured, hand-carved pastrami sandwich ends up on the London sidewalk, under the foodtographer’s lens.

So how was the sandwich? Fabulous! More flavour per molecule of meat than any Jewish deli sandwich I’d ever tried in the UK. True, the thinly sliced pastrami could have been a little more tender and melty moist to the chew. The rye bread was squishy, as before. But the Deli West One pastrami lying on the Blandford Street at 1:20pm on 7 November 2011 Kingdom represented a whole new dimension in, well, street food. As I bent down towards the ground and devoured that sandwich the passing pedestrians asked themselves more questions:

– Would he walk a mile for that sandwich? No.
– Would he run a mile for it? No.
– He (that is to say, me) would hail a cab.

[Wondering why they didn't want me to take photos of their sandwiches? I have a theory.]

About Daniel

Food critic and events leader Daniel Young is the "Young" behind young&foodish

Comments

  1. Gastro1 says:

    I’m keen on trying The Deli West One for all 3 items you have covered .

    In terms of the Salt Beef and Pastrami pictures my sense is that the meat to bread ratio is wrong it needs to be at least 9 meat to 1 bread – both do not have enough meat. This has been the fundamental problem I have encountered in the UK along with not very good Salt Beef , Pastrami or Corned Beef.

    If that dog does not have the necessary crunch and the casing is not natural it is nothing short of an imposter.

  2. sam b. says:

    Hmmm, I was going to amble down and try the salt beef given all the whispers I’ve heard about it, but I’m thinking I’ll give it a steer and perhaps give the pastrami a go.

    Although based on that pic you tweeted today, after this Thursday I think I’ll be ruined for any even semi-decent salt beef sandwiches here in the UK….can’t wait ;)

  3. Anand says:

    Daniel

    Just got done with their pastrami on rye. I concur with most of your findings vis a vis the rye bread, and the ‘dryness’ of the meat. However the flavour of the brisket was more than acceptable.

    I understand we’re in W1, however, at £8.50, those with bigger appetites will agree with @gastro1 and ask “where’s (the rest of) the beef?”

    An looking forward to increasing my HDL levels tomorrow with a taste of the hot dog …

  4. Daniel Young says:

    Anand – Your question – where’s the beef? – is not without justification. However, you must keep in mind that kosher brisket is more expensive than non-kosher. And since this is a certified kosher deli the proprietors have no alternative.

  5. Daniel Young says:

    gastro1 – Some great points in your amusing and knowing comment. Personally I think the 9-to-1 meat/bread height ratio made world famous by the Carnegie Deli is too high. Rather than one 9-to-1 sandwich I’d rather have a pair of 4.5-to-1s, ideally with Langer’s pastrami and rye. Langer's pastrami

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