Six years ago I was lunching with a bunch of my relatives in a posh hotel restaurant in Palm Beach, Florida. We were discussing food options in London, and I moaned that "I have yet to find a good deli sandwich in London." An elderly gentleman passing our table leaned in slightly, and without breaking stride, said sadly, "And you won't."
Hilariously well-timed as his response was, it rang (mostly) true for me for my 7+ years here. It would appear, however, that the tide is turning. The recently opened The Deli West One appears to have some promise (a mixed review here), and it's safe to say that everyone and his food blogging brother are eager for the imminent opening of Mishkins -- and based on the constant tweeting of menu-testing images from their kitchen, it looks damn good indeed.
Which brings me to last night. Daniel Young, of youngandfoodish.com, organises some of the most fantastic one-off food events, most notably his Burger Mondays (some great reviews of which can be found here (Burgerac), here (the fork & corset), and here (Burgerme). These sell out ridiculously fast; you snooze, etc. etc. He has other events, CoffeeSaturday, PizzaTuesday, and SpaghettiWednesday, but this was the inaugural WichThursday. The rundown was the following: get Dan from De Gustibus bakery to come and serve his amazing (and house-brined, not store-brought pre-brined rubbish) salt beef. Daniel's other specs:
- I asked that his crusty, twice-baked sourdough rye be used instead of ciabatta
- I wanted authentic New York-style deli mustard in place of English, Dijon or grain mustard
- I requested that Andrea, De Gustibus’ best carver, set up a pop-up carvery in the middle of Andrew’s and hand-carve all the hot salt beef sandwiches to order.
- I demanded that Andrea leave all the fat on the salt beef. No unnecessary trimming.
Note that everything is a request up until the last one -- kudos, Daniel for standing firm on that one, for as we know, fat = flavour.
We hadn't even removed our coats before chilled Pale Ales from The Kernel brewery appeared on our table. As I'm much more partial to bourbon than beer, I can't offer you an in-depth description of how its palate was redolent of a south facing hilltop meadow, but I will say that it had a slightly fruity taste, but not unpleasantly so, and that the 7.5% ABV became, err, more noticeable.
Starters were listed as "pork sliders" - there were 2 of these little fellas, one of which was a porchetta & salsa verde slider on a whole wheat bun, and the other was a chorizo version with a red cabbage salsa on a white bun. These provided a couple of tasty bites each - the porchetta was very tender and porky, and the salsa verde, whilst not the strictly traditional version with anchovies and capers, was fresh and a good counterbalance to the fatty little pig piece. The chorizo was also much closer to an Italian version, subtly spiced and almost pillowy soft. Cabbage salsa went with it quite well, although the salsa on its own could've used perhaps a touch more seasoning.
On to the main event. The carving station was in fact set up amongst the tables out front, and sadly I was not invited to pull up a chair and just have a go at eating it all myself. Andrea clearly had been around a brisket or two before, his knife flashing through the tender meat, a mound of near-identical slices piling up rapidly.
Here's where prose (well, mine, at least) fail to deliver. The rye, holding its own before finally yielding to my bite, the first hit of the subtly spiced mustard, and finally the soft, moist, unreal-oh-man-this-is-ridiculously-good meat....holy mother of jebus it was fantastic. No need for a pile of garnishes, this was a perfect balance of 3 ingredients having a very jolly time together indeed. There were some tasty bread & butter-style pickle slices on the side, and a plate of forgotten chips completed the lineup.
Finally we were served a brioche & butter pudding. My dining companion for the evening is not a cinnamon fan, and despite the liberal presence of said spice in the dish, he, too finished his. The brioche was very well made, light and airy and not suffering from the heaviness that afflicts those prepared with less care. It was surprisingly not heavy, and it proved to be a very tasty end to the night.
We sat for a bit longer finishing our beers before finally waddling out, sated and happy but not too full at all. I easily could've had another sandwich, but that's down solely to the fact that it was so damn good. I eagerly await the next WichThursday, and I am happy to alert the gentleman from Florida that he is in fact mistaken.
160 Gray's Inn Road