National British Sandwich Week

Apparently, according to Jonathan (aka @Browners) who writes a Sandwichist slot, its National British Sandwich Week this week. Right. Yes. You already knew that didn’t you?

Anyway Mr Browners is fed up with pre-packed sandwiches and I’m fed-up with look-a-like Pret’s all over the place. Pret was good once (honestly) back in the days when it was just starting and only had a few stores, it was a revelation as well as independent. Like many good things they expanded and expanded then they needed big corporate money. I guess there might a place for that kind of thing when you visit a town you know nothing about and are desperate to eat and have no time to find real recommendations – it makes acceptable food on such occasions, but day to day it get a little dull.

But there are LOADS of independent sandwich shops out there (some good, some bad) plus you could always try your hand at making something yourself. Browners asked for people to go in search of great sandwiches – so we did.

I decided to do not just one but two sandwiches. One from a shop, one homemade.

First up the shop one. Its from Caradell in Red Lion Street, WC2. Caradell is a nice little deli close by where I used to work so I’ve been there often but having moved on job wise I’d not been in nearly a year – time to try it again. What I always liked about the place is that its busy, service is fast, the sandwiches are made to order and, most of all, pretty much everything is a variation on the classic ham and cheese. Well that might not be quite right but in my view you can’t easily beat ham (or salami, or chorizo, or jamon etc etc) and cheese so maybe I just home in on those choices. On this occasion I went for proper British cooked ham off the bone with Emmenthal (no British cheeses in sight boooooo) with Cumberland Sauce – on bloomer of course. 

As you can see its pretty chunky and not for the delicate – its quite hard to eat (all their sandwiches are packed full of filling). It was a great combo but I’d prefer there to be some British cheese as an option. The Cumberland Sauce was nice and tangy, so good stuff all round. At £4.60 its pricey (but it is big and its quality ingredients) and in my view worth it.  I can also vouch that their other ham/cheese variations are also excellent.

And on to today when I decided to rustle up a quick sandwich myself. I went for all English using Village Bakery Pain de Campagne (sourdough), Hawkston cheese from Suffolk (a bit like mild Lancashire), glass grown tomatoes from the Isle of Wight (via Waitrose) and some Stokes Lemon Mayonnaise. Yum – and probably not £4.60!

Eating with 241

Last week I saw Pizza Express were running a 2 for 1 offer again (available until the end of February I think) and as I was meeting a friend for a quick lunch thought that in these credit crunched times we should give it a whirl. To get the voucher I had to register my email address (so that will be unending email traffic from Pizza Express for ever more I guess) and print off the voucher – all pretty easy. Then off to Pizza Express to enjoy the main course of my choosing (with friend in tow – I don’t think the offer was eat 2 main courses yourself and have one free but that might work for the very hungry).

Pizza Express is somewhere I go fairly regularly even at 
full price so this is not a tale of complete madness (ooooo look its on offer I’ll have one even though I don’t need, want or like the product…hey admit it, its happened to us all at some time or another).

We settle in, we peruse the menu, they no longer do my friends favourite main course salad, this could get difficult. The offer is ONLY for two main courses and she wants the salad (and I don’t blame her it used to be pretty good) so we negotiate with the waitress. She’s a little stern at first insisting that it’s only an offer on two main courses and even having a double portion of one of the starter salads won’t count. We wheedle a bit – she looks like she might relent and she disappears (presumably to check with the manager but maybe just to get away from us trying it on).

She returns and YES we can have a double portion of starter salad and use the offer. HURRAH.

The food comes, its good in the way that Pizza Express is always good, it does exactly what it says, and service was prompt – they allowed us off piste with the offer. Which, considering how busy it gets when these offers are on (be there at 12.30 or think again where you are lunching), was very fair of them, they could have said no and if we had gone then they would easily have filled our table.
It was pretty noisy because it was so busy; add to that the half terms crowds (big mistake by us picking half term week) and if it’s a peaceful lunch you are after then this isn’t for you. If you are looking for value though this is a pretty good offer; there are plenty around at the moment and signing up to Money Saving Expert or Money Supermarket will point you to them – just remember where ever the offer is for it will get VERY busy and they might not be as flexible as Pizza Express were on this occasion.

For the record we ate at Pizza Express, New Fetter Lane, London and had a La Reine pizza on a romano base with extra egg (soft cooked) and a double portion of mozzarella and tomato salad with a side of dough balls.

Very nice lasagne

Yesterday I met up with a good friend for lunch and a catch up and we went to Vine on Gray’s Inn Road. We have been there plenty of times before but not recently as it has been shut for a while due to a change of ownership. Time to see what had changed we thought.

The menu has a greater emphasis on pasta and risotto dishes than previously, although there are still a good range of starters, mains and specials.  I had the lasagne and my friend went for a risotto with courgette and gorgonzola. Service was speedy but when we arrived it was quite empty (it filled up pretty quickly though).  The lasagne really hit the spot – good meat sauce, pasta not too heavy (though not as feather light as you can get it if you make it yourself), right amount of bechamel. In fact I was enjoying it so much that I have no idea whether the risotto dish was any good!

The waiter said that the new chef had previously worked for Carluccio’s so I guess that might explain the shift to pasta/risotto. Certainly the lasagne compares very favourably. And the Chianti was pretty good too :)