1. Reuben Special – Monty’s Deli
The daddy of all sandwiches, made by the people who know their onions (and their sauerkraut). Since the excellent Delancey & Co shut down (RIP), London has been crying out for an elite and readily available Reuben. Thankfully, the folks at Monty’s have found a permanent home in Hoxton and, well, need I say more? All the best Reubens require salt beef stacked so high you need to dislocate your jaw to eat it, and the filling that spills out of the overflowing sandwich onto your plate is another meal on its own. The Reuben Special has that, plus heaps of pastrami to boot.
Monty’s Deli, Hoxton Street N1. @MontysDeli
2. Short Rib Butifarra – Butifarra
The sort of place that you’ll walk past twice if you don’t know where it is (source: me doing exactly this), but when you get inside… oh boy. The tiny Peruvian joint makes a case for all sandwiches being slathered with homemade sweet potato mayonnaise, but the addition of juicy beef and all the trimmings makes for a meal moister than the Peruvian Amazon. Yes, I said meal. One sandwich and a handful of crisps means you need nothing else.
Butifarra, Rupert Street W1D or Edgware Road W2. @ButifarraSocial
3. Cheese Toastie – Kappacasein
A relocation from a temporary stall in Borough Market to a permanent shop front about a minute’s walk away has done nothing to temper Kappacasein’s quality. Proving that the concept of ‘too much cheese’ is a myth peddled by… I don’t know, let’s say ‘idiots’. Montgomery cheddar, Ogleshield and Comté cheeses come together between two slices of sourdough, tickled with a blend of onions. And there ends Kappacasein’s sandwich menu. They literally don’t need to make any others.
Kappacasein, Borough Market SE1. @kappacasein
4. French Dip – Hawksmoor
Are you really a connoisseur if you don’t dip your sandwich in gravy? Is it still class tourism if you’re punching up? These are both questions posed by Hawksmoor’s French Dip, with tender short rib of beef layered in a brioche roll and served alongside a jug of gravy. You can pour the gravy over the sandwich, drizzle some of it inside, or just pick up the whole thing and dunk it in like a meat hobnob. We won’t judge you.
Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar, Commercial Street E1. @HawksmoorLondon
5. Lobster Grilled Cheese – BOB’s Lobster
The best marriage of cultures since The Simpsons introduced tomacco, and just as addictive. American cheese should ruin the subtlety of fresh lobster, and fresh lobster should disturb the culinary kitsch of American cheese, yet somehow – and I’m not sure why – it works. BOB’s are opening their first ever restaurant later this year, and we’re crossing everything in the hope that it joins lobster rolls and lobster mac & cheese as a regular menu item.
BOB’s Lobster, stall at Giant Robot, Crossrail Place E14. Permanent restaurant coming soon.
6. Ice Cream Brownwich – Chin Chin Lab
Turns out you can put anything on the inside of a sandwich, and more or less anything on the outside. While this premise can lead to extravagances like KFC’s Double Down, it also allows for Chin Chin Labs’ Brownwich, so we don’t mind taking the rough with the smooth. Two chocolate brownie cookies holding a scoop of ice cream between them like a delicious vice.
Chin Chin Labs, Camden Lock Road NW1 or Hawker House SE16
7. Crunchy Nut Chicken Taco – Breddos Tacos
First things first – yes, a taco is a sandwich. Glad we cleared that up. Breddos make some of London’s best, and while this isn’t a regular menu item these days, perhaps they could do you a solid if you called ahead and asked nicely. Tender chicken fried in a crunchy nut crumb, married with a raspberry hot sauce that is like nothing else. As an aside, the legend goes that, when cooking chillies for their hot sauce ahead of a competition, Breddos accidentally created a sweet, syrupy, delicious run-off that now forms the basis for their trademark Chiliback: a shot of tequila chased with pickled chilli juice. Get one of those on the side. Or get more than one, we’re not your parents.
Breddos Tacos, Goswell Road EC1V. @breddostacos
8. Bacon Naan Roll – Dishoom
It’s tough to improve on the humble breakfast sandwich, something you can create a spot-hitting version of without even leaving your own flat. Far too many greasy spoon cafes have little function in this respect, aside from having you pay £3-5 to save on washing up. To make an impact, you need to reinvent the wheel while letting wheel purists go back to their original version when the time is right. Trade in the white bread for naan, butter for cream cheese and brown sauce or ketchup for chilli tomato jam and you have a delicious alternative, rather than a usurper. That’s the only way to do it.
Dishoom, Stable Street N1C, Upper St Martin’s Lane WC2H, Kingly Street W1B or Boundary Street E2. @Dishoom
9. Rib Roll with Holy F**k Sauce – The Ribman
Any good hot sauce needs to strike the balance between heat and flavour, and the Rib Man is living proof that what might ordinarily count as ‘too spicy’ can be tempered with a wonderful savouriness good enough to have you ordering seconds while your mouth is still, to use the technical term, on fire. A great sandwich normally needs to strike a balance between quality bread and quality filling, but here it’s all in the latter. Pork ribs cooked overnight so they fall off the bone, paired with a chilli seed-studded sauce that beckons you in even when you know better.
The Ribman, Truman Brewery E3, Brick Lane Market E1, London Stadium E20 (matchdays only). @theribman
10. El Pabellón – Petare
Don’t worry, gluten free friends, I haven’t forgotten about you. El Pabellón is a regular fixture across Venezuela, and no one in London does it better than Petare. A fried arepa (cornbread) filled with braised beef brisket, black beans, plantain, cheddar and an avocado salsa. It’s a whole meal in a sandwich. Their veggie option, the ‘Venezuelan chip butty’ (avocado, plantain, cassava, feta, tomato and spicy mayo) isn’t too shabby either.
Petare, stalls at KERB Paddington, KERB Gherkin, Hawker House or Model Market. @PetareUK
11. Bleecker Black – Bleecker Burger
There are few matches for a truly great burger, and this is a truly great burger. Bleecker adopt the less-is-more principle, keeping their menu to a handful of rarely changing options (although, if you’re reading, a return for that pizza burger wouldn’t go amiss). We don’t see enough black pudding in burgers, and when we do it’s all too often overshadowed by additional unnecessary ingredients or used to such an extent that it stops the beef becoming the main event. Bleecker have the balance down to a T.
Bleecker Burger, Old Spitalfields Market E1, Victoria Street SW1E or Southbank SE1. @bleeckerburger
12. Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato – Salvino
Salvino is a Kentish Town institution. Head in during the day and you’ll find owner Antonio chatting away to customers against a backdrop of authentic Italian produce, including one of the best deli counters North London has to offer. Every element is customisable, from the choice of fresh bread (cut to length), mixture of cheeses and deli meats, and pick-and-mix olives and vegetables – as much or as little as you want. Sometimes simplicity trumps all, so creamy mozzarella, sundried tomatoes and freshly made pesto is the way to go. You know that meme of the Italian chef kissing his fingers? This is his origin story.
Salvino, Brecknock Road N7
13. The Bronx – Delisserie
You thought the Reuben would be the only mention of salt beef on this list? Think again. Despite the American name, the Bronx sandwich is the closest you can get to North-West London Jewish food without the server interrupting their own coughing fit to ask why you haven’t qualified as a doctor, or married a doctor, or… well you get the picture. Salt beef, caramelised onions and more chopped liver than Eminem.
Delisserie, locations in Stanmore HA7, The Broadway NW7, Belmont Parade NW11, Shenley Road WD6, Allitsen Road NW8 or Uxbridge Road HA5
14. Pork Belly Buns – Kurobuta
It is a real challenge to make the perfect steamed bun, and even then it’s easy to ruin everything by fucking up the filling. Central London Japanese joint Kurobuta knows its shit, though, stuffing the pitch-perfect buns with slabs of pork belly so tender you feel as though biting into them should be a crime. Topped off with a subtle peanut soy sauce, these are worth booking a table for on their own.
Kurobuta, Kings Road SW3 or Kendal Street W2. @KurobutaLondon
15. Sichuan Chicken Biscuit – Bill or Beak
Originally introduced for National Burger Day in 2016, this delicacy asks one important question: why does a burger need to be in a bun when you can use an American-style biscuit instead? Sweet, savoury and hot in each bite, it might be London’s best non-taco chicken sandwich around, which is saying something. If we’re in the habit of asking people to bring back limited-edition foods, it seems as though those with ‘sichuan’ in the name have a better shot than most.
Bill or Beak, stalls at KERB on the Quay E14, Brockley Market SE4 or Street Feast Hawker House SE16. @BillOrBeak