Chorizo Sandwich at Brindisa


The chorizo sandwich at Brindisa is one of the few Chowdown Showdown dishes that I happened to have eaten before embarking on this quest. Rather than being located in a restaurant, it’s served from a small kiosk attached to Brindisa’s shop in Borough Market (rather than Tapas Brindisa, their sit-in eatery). There tends to be a long queue, and many’s the time when I’ve been in Borough Market and vacillated between this sandwich and Kappacasein’s oozing raclette or sublime cheese toastie. Invariably I go for one of the cheese options (and it never disappoints!). So, having a good reason to go back and have the chorizo was excellent, and I’m pleased to say I didn’t shirk my duties!

“It’s even less imaginable that anyone would be crazy enough to fiddle with the formula!”

The thing about chorizo is that it’s so good at making just about anything better – toss in stews to add a little fatty heat; mix into you burger meat; add, along with brandy and manchego to make an excellent chicken dish (which I’ll put up a recipe for sometime!) – that it’s easy never to give it a chance to take centre-stage. And what’s a delight about this dish is that it really gives chorizo (and presumably Brindisa is offering some of the best examples of this sausage in the country) a chance to shine. Some bitter rocket plays off the sharpness of the chorizo, and a slice of char-grilled red pepper complements the heavy paprika in the meat. The sausage itself starts bitter, and almost shocking in its sourness, before giving way to a mellower, warm, nutty flavour, that is indulgent but not too drip-down-your-front greasy.

It’s easy to see the reason for the long queues that are always present at peak times (and when isn’t peak time in Borough Market?). I’m sure there are people who find it hard to wait for the Fridays and Saturdays when the stall is there! The sandwich really does seem a perfect example of the form, and it’s hard to see any alterations that would improve it. It’s even less imaginable that anyone would be crazy enough to fiddle with the formula!

You can get the sandwiches in either a single or double, with one chorizo, simply cut lengthways, and a single pepper, or two of each. I’d advise getting the single. But only because, if you’re particularly greedy, or have someone to share it with, you’ll have space to manage a cheese toastie as well!

Salt beef bagel at Brick Lane Beigel Bake


I’m surprised they don’t call this dish ‘salt beef with a bagel garnish’! As you can see from the photo, the amount of meat you get in this sandwich is beyond generous.

But have they compromised on quality in the process? I’d have to say no, since this is some of the most succulent, flavourful, almost mellow beef I’ve tasted.

Despite the size, you almost feel like you could line up another: rather than leaving you heavy and greasy, the salting process takes the edge off the fat, resulting in a meaty but not too heavy mountain.

“Some of the most succulent, flavourful, almost mellow beef I’ve tasted”

Of course, the bagels are the eponymous star of this outlet. I’ve made many a trip to Brick Lane to avail myself of a half dozen of these beauties, and until you’ve tasted the real deal, you’ve had a raw one. Supermarket bagels are a totally different beast to these soft but chewy toruses. I’d recommend investing in several: after a day or two they’re perfect to toast, and take on a crispy, light patina just right for absorbing melting butter.

Their smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel is also a bargain at just £1.70! Any Jewish mother could recommend!

But will I be back for another salt beef extravaganza? You bet I will be.

12/100 best London dishes

Shortrib French dip at Hawksmoor Bar


This sandwich was good. Okay, let’s be fair: this sandwich was very good. Sharp cheese matched to melting braised shortrib matched to a sweet, floaty bun. The meat had an almost sloppy Joe consistency whilst still being flaky rather than mush. The cheese oozed out the edges in an indulgent, bordering-on-too-much-of-it way.

“Shouldn’t a main be able to stand up to a side?”

But, if I’m being fair I’m going to have to say it straight too: about three seconds after I’d eaten the last delicious mouthful I can honestly say I hadn’t the faintest idea what the whole thing tasted of. Even trying to recall the individual flavours just evoked a sense of the melty, easy-eating nature of it, let alone trying to think what the combination amounted to.

Is this a criticism? I don’t know. I remember enjoying the taste as I ate it, as well as thinking that I had no idea what to do with the dip, which, being the consistency of a thin gravy quickly made the end of the sandwich I’d dipped into it dissolve and collapse. Perhaps I should have poured it over, but then I’d have just had a soggy bun and it would have been even harder to eat without squirting grease everywhere.

Perhaps it’s that I paired the sandwich with thrice-cooked chips, whose crunch and salt rather overpowered the insubstantial (in a good way… I think) sandwich. But then, shouldn’t a main be able to stand up to a side: especially one as standard as (yes, pretty damn good) fries?

Again, being fair, I couldn’t quite believe that this was one of Time Out’s Top Ten – give me a Meat Liquor / Meat Market burger in preference any day.

45/100 top hundred dishes in London

Lobster Roll at Burger and Lobster


Wow! Perfection! I genuinely cannot fault this dish. In fact, if anything, the complaint to be made against this restaurant is that it should ditch the flawed ‘Burger and Lobster’ craziness, rename to ‘Lobster Roll’ and be done with it! Oh, and move to a food van, because, frankly, this is blissfully simple, naughty fare, and could easily be sold out of a hatch at a festival.

Where to begin? Well, obviously lobster is delicious, we all know that. But it’s not without its issues.

Firstly, lobster is fiddly. I’m one of those people who fears having a meal of diminishing returns, where you have a delicious mouthful, but find yourself scraping around in claws and tendrils with less and less joy rewarding you. This meal solves this by doing all the hard work for you, and providing all the meat with none of the implements. And there wasn’t a mislaid shard of shell in sight.

“The result was crispy, but melting, delicate but flavoursome, subtle but with real wow-factor. It’s possible this is the perfect sandwich”

Secondly, lobster is just too damned delicately flavoured. Pair it with anything with more taste than soggy cardboard and it can be overpowered. But here they match it with a sourly-sweet toaster brioche roll, fluffy Japanese mayonnaise, and, well, nothing else. It’s paired with chips (or rather, fries), and a small Caesar salad, but let’s be honest, neither of these are what the queues are lining up for.

Thirdly, lobster is expensive. Okay, so I’m more of a seven-to-fourteen-pounds-per-main kinda guy. Well, actually, more seven-to-ten-pounds, but who’s counting? So I could easily have blushed at the £20 price tag attached to this (and the burger, and the simply-steamed lobster), in a way that the clientèle who I shan’t say anything about because, er, I was one of them yesterday, presumably wouldn’t. But along with the fries and salad this was a generous meal, and one that filled me up – so in fact I’d say it was pretty good value, and way above, say, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, where you’d pay the same for a similar amount of food.

The result was crispy, but melting, delicate but flavoursome, subtle but with real wow-factor. I pity the fools who’d asked for the burger (though I love a burger) or the lobster (though I love straight-up lobster), but will have to go back with others to order those so I can have a taste. It’s possible this is the perfect sandwich.

Cocktails, at £9.50 were strong and delicious, but £9.50. Service at the table was super-smiley, but sadly a little frosty before we were seated.

The only (small) criticism I’d level was that the desserts were a real let-down – disappointingly served in cardboard pots from the fridge. Chocolate brownie mousse was passable chocolate mousse on top of passable chocolate brownie served too cold to really taste, and I doubt it would have been especially thrilling even if it had been at a more appropriate olfactory temperature. Desserts, rightly, aren’t where the fireworks are supposed to be in the restaurant, and it would probably be a shame if they stole the thunder. In fact, I reckon they should just not bother with puds at all.

I’ll definitely be back. Potentially often.

10/100 of the best dishes in London.