Top 10 Sandwiches in London

city capheMarket stalls, food trucks and startup eateries obsessed with getting a single item right are making a huge impact on the London sandwich scene, putting authentic global flavours, country breads and rustic raps in the hands of a populace once triangulated by dainty white sandwiches.
number 2 of 10 top sandwiches in londonnumber 3 - top 10 sandwiches in londonnumber 5 of top 10 sandwiches in Londonnumber 7 on top 10 sandwiches in London

But lest you perceive any bias against the nation that invented the sandwich, the two highest ranking sandwiches on my top 10 list – toasted Cheddar and pork belly – are as English as was John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. Two others, bánh mi and falafel, are accessorised with pickled cucumbers. That might not qualify them as posh English cucumber sandwiches, but it does reveal these imports to be worthy descendants.

kappacasein, borough market, london

1. Toasted Cheese, Kappacasein

Bill Ogglethorpe and his beloved raclette and toasted cheese sandwich (US=grilled cheese) stall are back at Borough Market but not at the expense of the Saturday annex he now runs at his dairy under railway arches near the Maltby Street Market (see map). For his toastie, oozy Montgomery Cheddar, the world’s most famous Cheddar, plugs the holes in slices of pain Poilâne , the world’s most famous sourdough, in the world’s best-sourced toasted cheese sandwich. Oglethorpe’s mix of minced red and white onions, leeks and garlic adds zing to the melted Cheddar without camouflaging the cheese’s characteristic nuttiness. The crispy brown bits are pure gold.

Kappacasein Maltby Street, 1 Voyager Railway Arches, SE16 4RP, Saturdays 9am-3pm
Kappacasein Borough Market – Thursdays, 11am – 5pm; Fridays, 11am – 6pm;
Saturdays, 8am – 5pm  

o'sheas of knightsbridge

2. Pork Belly, O’Shea’s of Knightsbridge Due to helium rents O’Shea’s has closed its Knightsbridge butcher shop

You’d have to bring together David Crosby, Art Garfunkel, Brian Wilson and Stuart Murdoch to record harmonies as lush as those in this butcher shop’s takeaway pork belly sandwich. The condiments melt into the succulent pieces of meat within the warm embrace of the oven-fresh baguette. The percussive crunch of crackling keeps the melody line from getting too mushy.

O’Shea’s of Knightsbridge, 11 Montpelier St, Knightsbridge, Knightsbridge, SW7 – available most weekday lunches


photo by Jackie Lee
3. Goat & Potato Roti Roll, Mooli’s

Roti sandwiches come in different shapes and directions, from the dal poori (chickpea-stuffed) pouches of the West Indies to the layered paratha kati rolls of Eastern India to the Northern Indian-style wholemeal flatbread as fashioned at Mooli’s in Soho. This West End roti can be neatly rolled like any rap, yet its folds and pleats show it possesses the delicacy and vulnerability of the best pouches. The goat meat, shredded for easy chewing, is succulent, but its the potato chunks, laced with dry mango and cumin, as well as red onions and salsa that make this roti variety stand out.

Mooli’s, 50 Frith Street, W1D 4SQ


Brindisa Borough Market

4. Spanish Chorizo Roll, Brindisa

Deprivation? Anticipation? Pavlovian conditioning? Difficult as it is to say what it is about standing in a long queue that makes a sandwich better, two things are certain about Brindisa’s Borough Market sandwich line:
1) The longer you wait for this bun overstuffed with grilled chorizo, piquillo peppers and olive oil-drizzled rocket (arugula) the more you’ll relish it.
2) The longer you smell but do not taste the glistening chorizo the quicker you’ll devour the sandwich.

Brindisa, Borough Market, SE1 – Tuesdays through Saturdays



5. Bologna, Electric Diner

The bologna sandwich is so good it should be signposted outside the Ladbroke Grove Underground station. The bologna is homemade and then fried, leaving a delectably crisp skin on the outer surface of sausage. The sandwich’s overloaded composition might be what you’d expect from a deli counter in Chicago, a BBQ joint in Kansas City or even a street cart in Florence, with succulent, tender folds of thinly sliced meat laced with the crispy bits, of which there can not be too many.

Electric Diner, 191 Portobello Road, London W11 2ED 

argentinian steak sandwich6. Lomito, Moo Grill

The Argentinian lomito is the kind of steak sandwich that obsessions are made of. Its true character depends on an oval roll that’s soft and light yet sufficiently solid to bear the weight of a pounded steak, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, chimichurri sauce (predominantly but not exclusively vinegar, parley and garlic) and, for the obligatory completo, ham, cheese and fried egg. Jose Luis de Alzaa of the Moo Grill searched near and far for the right bread so lomito-loving Londoners, both existing and pending, wouldn’t have to.

Moo Grill, 4 Cobb Street, E1 7LB
city caphe

7. Classic Pork Bánh Mi, City Càphê

The bánh mi craze has outpaced London’s capacity to satisfy it. The popular market stall Bánhmi11 is limited to one location and one day – make that one hour, given how fast it runs out of baguettes for its Vietnamese sandwiches. But happily City Càphê is filling some of the void, its flaky-shelled baguettes compressing into its pork roll, stewed pork, homemade pâté and pickled fillings.

City Càphê, 17 Ironmonger Lane, EC2V 8EY – weekday lunches


mr falafel, shepherds bush market

8. Falafel, Mr Falafel

The most obvious difference between the Palestinian-style falafel of Ahmad Yassine – aka Mr Falafel – and other pitta-pocketed falafel you find around London is that the chickpea balls, once deep-fried, are mashed to fit the rolled format. But even left intact you’d find his golden crisp falafel is the lightest and loveliest around. Pickled cucumber plays a big role in this tahina-slathered roll, with an essential assist from pickled turnip.

Mr Falafel, Units T4-TF, Shepherd’s Bush Market, Uxbridge Rd, W12 8LH – Monday through Saturday until 6pm


brass rail

9. Salt Beef, Selfridges Brass Rail

If, (A), its meat supplier is the same as many other leading London salt beef bars, (B), its faux rye bread is nothing more than limp white bread with scattered caraway seeds and, (C), its price is too high, what makes Selfridges Brass Rail such an institution? The credit is shared by the more experienced carvers who know how to baby a brined brisket and the knowing regulars who jockey for position in the queue, sitting back as an untested cutter allocates the scrappier bits to others and pushing forward as an old hand cuts into pristine parts of a juicy new brisket. Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson wrote brilliantly about this moral minefield in this opinion piece for the Independent.

Selfridges, Oxford Street, W1


tsuru sushi london

10. Katsu-Sando, Tsuru

The best that can be said about white sandwich bread slices is that they serve as a blank canvas for fillings of great substance. Indeed, its virtual nothingness makes it an unassertive handle for katsu – golden goujons of delectably crisp, panko-crusted chicken breast, shredded cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and mustard mayo that fill this sushi eatery’s katsu-sando. It’s the Japanese equivalent of a fried chicken sandwich with ketchup and coleslaw, only infinitely more delicate and less greasy. £3.95

Tsuru Bankside, 4 Canvey Street, SE1
Tsuru Bishopsgate,  Broadgate Tower, 201 Bishopsgate, Ec2


Here me talk sandwiches on BBC Radio 4′s Food Programme – click here for podcast.

About Daniel

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

Comments

  1. Dave says:

    Much as it appeals, I’ve never had a sandwich from Kappacasein – I’m always been put off by the smell of burning cheese that engulfs Green Market.

  2. Catherine Phipps says:

    Great visuals – scanning through whilst listening to the programme!

  3. Daniel Young says:

    Dave – Think the only way to cope with that “offensive” burning cheese smell is to dive into the sandwich.

  4. Daniel Young says:

    Thank you, Catherine. Maybe should have gotten closer to the lomito sandwich, but didn’t want to get chimichurri sauce on the lens.

  5. Diana says:

    I’m drooling.
    The brindisi chorizo red pepper and rocket is one of my favourites!

    I’d add Reuben’s salt beef on Baker St,
    maybe the Shish taouk at Maroush 1
    or the grilled minced lamb on Church St paddington
    outside of Alfies Antiques. Mmmm…..

  6. Marcela says:

    I got your number 10. Try any of the toasted sandwiches at Opus, 89 Acre Lane, SW2. My favourite is the ‘R’, which contains Raclette cheese amongst other deliciousness. Oh God, I miss them. They serve thick Italian hot chocolate too!

  7. Daniel Young says:

    Marcela – Sounds great. Thanks for the tip.

  8. Daniel Young says:

    Diana – Not a fan of Reuben’s salt beef, but must try the others. Handy to have excuse to visit Alfies.

  9. Nicole says:

    Great, now my keyboard is ruined from all the drool.

  10. LaSu says:

    Mooo!! The best lomito ever!! just like at home. Melting in your mouth steak, not only the meat and bread are fantastic, the fries are just amazing! Well done there.

  11. Gastro1 says:

    Great list Dan

    Have not yet tried 9 and 10 .

    I like Mooli’s but not the Goat and Potato probably because I have philosophical and gastronomic problems with the combo of bread and potato be it pizza , chip butty or Roti Roll.

  12. Sig says:

    A comprehensive review of London’s sandwich offerings. I love the melted cheese one from Kappacasein, and will have to try the pork belly at O’Shea’s and the Katsu-Sando from Tsuru.

    But where is the club sandwich Dan. where?! ;)

    Used to get the most delicious sandwiches from a little deli called Belle Pepper in Portsmouth, NH. Generous quantities and rich flavours, contrasting textures. They made sandwiches for sandwich lovers!

    Otherwise have found the sandwich scene in London underwhelming at best. With the notable exceptions you mention above there aren’t many places that do a good sandwich which is a real shame.

  13. How about perhaps the greatest sandwich invention of all time – the wondrous, but slightly unhinged, Sunday roast dinner sandwich from Fuzzy’s Grub? Roast beef, yorkshire pudding, potatoes, and gravy on doorstep bread. Sadly their City branch closed down.

    Oh, how I miss the mighty British sandwich now that I am living in Norway!

  14. Browners says:

    Super list. Super list.

    I agree with all of it. But I can’t quite agree with Nordic Nibbler I am afraid. The Sunday Roast Dinner Sandwich I had two Decembers ago was very bland which was a huge shame as I had heard such great things about it.

    I wonder whether there is scope to, perchance, include the most awesome of all of London’s sandwiches, the bacon sandwich from St. John.

    Also, hurry along to the Brunswick House Cafe for their top notch sandwiches. Their muffaleta is superb. And I am still hankering after their bone marrow sandwich.

    Also, if you get a chance, you should consider the shawarmas along the Edgeware Road. Cafe Helen is particularly good.

    And whilst I am at it I can thoroughly recommend the toasties at the Canton Arms (haggis or foie gras in between your toasted sandwich loaf anyone). And spare a thought for the fantastic open sandwiches from the Scandinavian Kitchen.

    London’s sandwiches still aren’t in the same league as their cousins across the pond, but there are some fantastic examples in the big smoke if you know where to look.

    Loved the list. Inspired.

    Jonathan

  15. Daniel Young says:

    Browners – With a big assist from your suggestions the list will grow from a top 10 to a top 20, while my waistline will grow from a 32/33 to a 35/36.

  16. Daniel Young says:

    Sig – Bet there’s a London hotel that does a decent club. Did you know that Paris has a club sandwich bar or, rather, un bar à club sandwiches? It’s called 46 Avenue.

  17. Felicity says:

    Daniel – you’ve seriously missed a few sandwich gems there. At Charlicks on the Grays Inn Road (just down from Andrews…) they make the most incredible foccacia – and there’s an array of other interesting breads like black rye and mediterranean bread… you can choose what you like to go in – like smoked chicken, roasted peppers and arugula, or home made mackerel pate with pistachios, or tapenade, smoked mozarella and sun dried tomatoes.. organic sausages with hot pepper jelly.. anyway, you get the picture.
    Also pretty up there is De Gustibus (although of late the bread has been a wee bit dry) – again they have about 20 different breads and they really pile in the fillings. My favourtie is brie and ham with a little mayo and loads of cranberry sauce on date and pecan sourdough bread – but then I do have a really sweet tooth. The Black Forest rye is amazing too.. and I think they do hot salt beef which would probably be great with it.

  18. Daniel Young says:

    Felicity – I’ve posted about the De Gustibus salt beef sandwich here and here, but due to the meat’s inconsistency I didn’t give it serious consideration as a top tenner. I’m distressed to hear their bread has been a wee bit dry of late. I will investigate.

  19. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the tip on City Càphê: just had their classic pork banh mi and it’s great.

  20. Quizzee Rascal says:

    Excellent list. I have tried 6/10 so far but am working on the other 4.

    I would highly recommend a burrito from Daddy Donkey on Leather Lane (if a Mooli’s wrap counts as a sandwich, surely a burrito does too?) Filling, tasty and costs a little over a fiver. Definitely worth it.

    I’ve heard that Sporeboys do an impressive mixed mushroom sandwich in Leadenhall Market on a Friday lunchtime but haven’t managed to track them down yet…

  21. Daniel Young says:

    Quizzee – Burritos are in the running, I agree. Must try Sporeboys, who apparently do their mushroom medleys at several London markets. Thanks for the tip.

  22. Daniel Young says:

    Sarah – Be sure to go back for the grilled pork bánh mì.

  23. Sarah says:

    Ooh, might go back for it this lunchtime. Have you tried their pho?

  24. Daniel Young says:

    Not yet. Have you?

  25. Sarah says:

    No, I was going to but the grilled pork banh mi was too seductive. Really good.

  26. Great list. Particularly like the look of the Katsu-Sando! I don’t suppose you’ve come across any of these in London that use pork instead of chicken? I can’t get enough of the pork tonkatsu sandwiches they sell in convenience stores in Japan and need a UK source!

  27. Joshua says:

    Had even less of these than the burgers. Only managed 3 out of 10.

    Good to see a banh mi on there but surprised one of the Banh Mi 11 girls creations didn’t make it on the list too.

  28. Daniel Young says:

    Joshua – Fair point. Banh Mi 11′s sandwiches have the advantage of being prepared and assembled on the spot.

  29. Jez Watson says:

    Daniel,
    A salt beef sarnie that I don’t think can be beaten is served at “The coach & horses” on Bow street. I’ve tried the Selfridges one which is good, but this Covent Garden Pub version is heavenly.

    Any advice on a great Charlotte Street sarnie or close by? I’ve been working here 6 months but nothing blows me away?

  30. Clack says:

    Seeing as you’re around Shepherds Bush, you may like to try the most elusive and unpredictable Takeaway in town, The Roti Hut on Uxbridge Road, W12. When I ride past the bus I never know if it’s going to be open or closed. When it is, the service in equally hit and miss in terms of time. But that Goat Roti is amazing:

    Juicy pieces of curried goat, in a lovely floury roti, with a rich vein of hot sauce running down the middle. Just when you think it can’t get any better, you arrive at a layer of thick spiced potato. Amazing. It’s like a East Indian/Jamiacan cornish pasty. I have even had two at once. That was a tall order and probably not advisable…

  31. felicia says:

    Breakfast Club on D’arblay Street should be on here! Their Number 3 Wrap is to die for!!

  32. Crispin Finn says:

    I urge you to try the vietnamese sandwich at the railroad cafe in hackney, a serious contender to City Càphê… so addictive!

  33. Sam says:

    This is a good list, I’m a bit suprised by the inclusion of mr bagel, it provided many late night belly fillers for me and friends over the years but it used to be much better when they still made real bagels! My favourite hackney bagel is now the one near the police station up the road in stokie. Check out bly deli on the corner of curtain road and great eastern street – best sandwich selection I’ve seen for ages. Goodfellas in lambs conduit street was great but i haven’t been there for years. I’ve got to try the pork belly and selfridges salt beef.

    Does anyone know where I can try a beef on weck in London? This sandwich looks like a true great and when I finally visit the states I will definetly make a pilgrimage to try one, do you know where’s best in ny state Daniel?

  34. Julian says:

    @Sam When I was living in NYC we took a trip to Buffalo and tried a beef on weck, and it wasn’t all that great, so I wouldn’t plan your trip round it!

    Now how about a Philly Cheesesteak, that’s a truly great sandwich which I haven’t found over in London (other than the occasional trip to the Meat Waggon). Anybody know a reliable source in London?

  35. mike p says:

    Great roll call Daniel, nice

  36. dan bentley says:

    have to get luca italian’s meatball sandwich (ridley road market, dalston) in here somewhere, must be fighting for a top end spot in my opinion!

  37. Sam D says:

    I just tried one of the Kappacasein grilled cheese sandwiches today at Borough Market. Honestly it really doesn’t live up to the hype (though Londoners in general seem to have a habit of getting far too excited about things which really aren’t all that impressive such as the restaurant Meat Liquor). It wasn’t a terrible sandwich but it wasn’t even close to the best grilled cheese I’ve ever had; you could make one at home that is far better for far less than £5. I found it to be much too salty and the quality of the cheese not all that impressive. Nice they threw in a bit of chopped onion but really this sandwich is something even a 10 year old could manage to do. The main point of eating out is getting something that you couldn’t easily replicate at home and this certainly doesn’t meet that qualification.

  38. Daniel Young says:

    Sam – Very happy to read an alternative view on Kappacasein grilled cheese sandwiches. But knocking the quality of the melted cheese when the melted cheese in question is world-class Montgomery Cheddar? That, to me, is a stretch.

  39. Richard says:

    Brilliant list, thanks Daniel, have just found it. I’m with you on Mr Falafel and Mr Bagel. So many falafel’s are dry, Mr Falafel’s is one of the better ones. Any Lebanese deli should do a cracking falafel and a classic tabouleh with loads of parsley. I feel I should mention that I was as disappointed by Kappacasein as others have mentioned. I really wanted to love it as I enjoy any excuse to visit Maltby Street. Though I adore Montgomery unmelted, their formula of “the ‘best’ cheese on the ‘best’ bread = the best cheese sandwich” actually gave less than the sum of its parts. Such a shame. The day I find a toasted sandwich in London to rival the ones at Tartine I’ll let you know! Have you tried Tartine in Mission?

  40. Jocey says:

    Thanks for the shout-out to the chorizo roll. I’ve been touting it as one of the best London sandwiches, glad to hear others agree!

  41. Jess says:

    Currently in London for a holiday and is craving for sandwiches. Flight back to LA Wednesday, which sandwich should I try first? All the photos make me drool…

  42. Daniel Young says:

    Since you’re only here until Wednesday the pork belly at O’Shea’s is the one to try, as there’s likely nothing of the kind in LA. But you must call and make sure they’re serving it on the day in question. Otherwise pop in for a foie gras toastie or one of the other grilled sandwiches at Canton Arms.

  43. Scott Henderson says:

    I’ve only tried the Kappacasein cheese toastie from your list Daniel and to see it as number 1 gives your list huge credibility in my eyes. It is by far the most incredible cheese toastie I have ever experienced. Be warned though, it is no hangover cure. It’s saltiness is a guarantee for a day long thirst. Best enjoyed for a sunny summer lunch where the afternoon in a lovely beer garden is your plan. I look forward to working through the rest of your list.

  44. Siobhan says:

    I am about to open a sandwich shop and am going back to basics with the fillings. Obviously you can add ingredients if you want, but after reading this I am concerned as to whether people want new and complicated fillings, or just a good old classic on really good bread? I clearly need advice and opinions on this please…

  45. tyler says:

    i tried the jerk chicken bagel today…it was ok…but didnt seem worthy of top 10…maybe they have let things slide a bit…cool area to visit nevertheless. btw have you tried the salt beef bagels on brick lane? pretty good stuff…but must admit i havent compared them to others on your list..which i shall look to remedy in the near future.

  46. tyler says:

    ah just saw your comments on b lane in the other post…nevermind.

  47. Charles says:

    Great list. There is a Vietnamese joint at White Cross Market by Old Street Tube station. They do a range of ‘Banh Mi’ – Vietnamese Baguettes. Their BBQ Pork Banh Mi is to die for and is pretty much the best sandwich I have ever had.

    There is also a stall down in Borough Market that does a grilled fish and shrimp wrap. That is pretty tasty.

  48. Paul T says:

    Siobhan – My advice would be to do both and do it well. Offer quality classics & new filling combos. I’m doing the same with our new Vietnamese eatery in St Paul’s, http://www.chaonow.co.uk, check our facebook pics for ideas. Hope all goes well with your new venture.

  49. Frédéric Bach says:

    A few comments on the above. I find the Tsuru katsu-sando just amazing, better than most of the ones I ever had in Japan. Better than the chorizo sandwich or the banh-mi sandwich, which I find just good. I can recommend one particularly amazing, softly toasted and tasty club sandwich, but the location will make many a food-stall aficionado cringe: it is at the Ladurée Shop behind Harrod’s. Hardly a “joint” and pricey at £16, but quite frankly the best club I ever had.

  50. Hadley says:

    Please visit The Corner Cafe on Roman Road in Bethnal Green and order their Chicken Wrap. You will not regret it. THEN talk to me about sandwiches.

  51. Steve says:

    I have to second Charle’s comment back in October about the Cajun Fish and Prawn wraps he was referring too…They are from the folks @Ablebees and I often tend to find room for one. Just not enough out there doing seafood on the streets (it doesn’t always have to be deep fried folks).

  52. Hi,

    Regarding number 3 on your Sandwiches List, Mooli’s.
    Mooli’s website & twitter suggest they ceased trading earlier this year.
    News articles mention Iqbal Wahhab bought the business.
    Yelp has this business as closed. Qype has recent reviews.
    The Arts Theatre Club of the same address maybe a separate
    basement business.
    Any ideas on Mooli’s existence ?
    Phil

  53. Fred Bach says:

    Hey, I’m Bach. Another comment on these sandwiches, I just had Kappacasein’s toasted cheese and I must say: wow! Daniel’s written why it’s so good, and I agree. On top of that, you won’t be able to do this at home (and believe me, I have tried) unless you have the same kind of pressing hot plate. I’ll just add that the raclette they offer is good too, though it doesn’t beat the Swiss versions, and generously served, whether in terms of cheese, perfectly boiled potatoes or cornichons.

  54. Helene says:

    I’m a massive lover of sandwiches, and I also love your little round-ups as a guide to where to go. But it would be great if this could be updated. There has happened so much on the London food scene, so are these your top sandwiches in London now too?

  55. Cate says:

    Second that Helene! Was about to head to Electric Diner for the Bologna and just found out it’s no longer on the menu…..

  56. Jamina Ward says:

    Oh no! I just added the bologna sandwich to my list before scrolling down to see they don’t do it anymore.

    Also, gotta say that I don’t think City Caphe do the best banh mi out there – Banh Mi Bay, for one, is way better.

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