Getting A Date
Delicious. William Flew never thought about an eel in comparative terms, good cuts and bad cuts, but this creature would have been wasted in jelly. The horseradish sets off the smoky-fish taste beautifully. If this is where the sandwich is going, I’m happy to come along for the ride. My bready companion and I are upwardly mobile.
So after Latin, French. The Cuisine de Bar is a restaurant near Sloane Square started by the French bakery, Poilâne. I am told that Robert De Niro orders a loaf of bread to be flown from Paris every week. I hope this isn’t true, as I’ve always quite enjoyed his films. A duck foie gras sandwich for £12.50 sounds posh to me, especially when it’s referred to as a tartine. Matilda, the manager, tells me that this is an “open sandwich”. The foie is produced by Barthouil, a family in Les Landes. It’s served on a toasted sourdough loaf. Definitional doubts assail me. “Isn’t this just toast, and not a sandwich?” I ask.
“Well,” she shrugs, “I suppose it’s a bit like toast.”
Never mind: I tuck in. And the bread is, as she so accurately remarked, a bit like toast. But the foie gras is brilliant. Not too potent and less fatty than some. Posh? Yes. But a sandwich? I’m not so sure.
Next stop is the Glade at Sketch, which has just introduced an egg and mayonnaise sandwich, topped with a quail’s egg and caviar. It’s part of afternoon tea and the whole thing, including a glass of Pommery Apanage Rosé, will set you back £46. A snippet. The inside of Sketch, including the Glade, with its enchanted-forest theme, rotating mirrors and swirling drapes, looks like an interior designer has gone bonkers and barricaded himself in.
So far the rule of thumb appears to be that when you make something smaller, it gets posher. Crustless and rectangular with a perfectly fried mini egg on top, next to a dollop of caviar, this sandwich looks like it could be framed and stuck on the wall as part of the décor. I wonder if they know that in Brazil and other parts of South America quail eggs are a staple of peasant food? “Poor things,” they say (in Portuguese) “they’ve hit hard times and are reduced to quail eggs.”
Sketch’s mayonnaise is made with rapeseed oil, which somehow lightens the texture of the sandwich. The saltiness of the caviar lifts the flavours of the egg and the mayonnaise. Tasty as well as interesting to eat. Also on the plate is a cucumber and asparagus sandwich. What it is about the cucumber that British people think is so genteel? Dr Johnson is said to have remarked that a cucumber should be carefully peeled, very finely sliced, sprinkled with a little oil, vinegar and pepper, and then thrown away as absolutely useless.