Sandwiches, sarnies, baps, subs… whatever you’re calling your bread-with-bits-and-bobs-between-it, one thing’s for certain: the Earl of Sandwich would turn in his grave if he saw how we’ve come to treat his beloved namesake. Whether it’s wrapped in cling-film until soggy and limp, massproduced and left to sit, cold and condensation-speckled on supermarket shelves, or half scoffed, then forgotten at office desks, the sarnie gets a tough gig. And that’s without the help of megapixels, harnessed by Hollywood and the Cult Of Clean Eating to peddle their vendetta against our baps, casting them as the must-have accessory for deflated social rejects, burnt-out workaholics and overweight slobs alike. Rarely is the sandwich portrayed as fulfilling or the main event, and absolutely never a real, sit-down meal to cherish.
This is what brings me to Borough Market’s Sons + Daughters. One of the city’s new sandwich spots with a focus on big, chunky, creative sandwiches, the menu is also dotted with salads, a soup, fries, seasonal pickled vegetables, those posh but completely irresistible Torres crisps, and soft-serve ice cream. What really piques my interest, though, is the drinks menu, an expansive one, offering up beers and cocktails as well as a big list of red, white, orange, rosé and sparkling wine served from real-life bottles and in real-life glassware. Wine with sandwiches? Bewildering. Intriguing. This changes everything, surely? Unless you’re at pre-drinks and the Uber has just arrived, a glass of wine slows the world right down. It’s ceremonious, with the power to make the meal an event. Could this be the place to sit back, relax, make a meal of a sandwich and watch the world — okay, tourists — go by?
At first glance, the higgledy-piggledy navy, cream and marble-clad interior, with warm, soft lighting and an abundance of greenery, would suggest so. At the counter, I order the pickles, a small ‘soup of the month’, described by the man behind the till as ‘cold tomato soup’, the hefty sounding Merguez S+Dwich made up of spiced lamb merguez sausage, French fries, pink pickled onions, gremolata (a sauce made of chopped parsley, lemon and garlic) and the top secret S+D Mayo. I also order, to the staff’s apparent confusion, a big old glass of Schlehe Gruner Veltliner orange wine. I feel a little judged, but I suppose I can forgive their puzzled looks seeing as it’s 12.23pm. It all comes to a grand total of £26, £8 of which is the vino, which with its hazy, apricot tang turns out to be worth every penny.
I plonk myself in prime solo-diner position, at the counter by the window. It’s not exactly clean, but I’ve a brilliant view of the market, and in particular two glamorous elderly women pootling around drinking Prosecco from plastic flutes. I’m trying to drift off into a self-indulgent fantasy where I imagine myself doing the same, but there’s a suited man next to me on the edge of his stool scoffing a bag of Torres with the same vigour as I would… when I’m at home alone, where no one can see me.
This is food designed to be eaten quickly. The sandwich is a practical object, after all
The suited gent’s sandwich comes, he hurriedly eats it and leaves. Another man does the same. Then a third, but he pauses to read his book. My soup arrives on a speckled metal tray, but it’s less of a soup and more of a faintly tomato slush puppie. If only I had vodka, Tabasco, celery…
Luckily, the Merguez comes with it. It’s gargantuan (as it should be for £11), perfectly balanced and has all the fullbody comfort of a chip butty on a hangover. This is food designed to be eaten quickly. I realise, mid-mouthful, that the sandwich is a practical object, after all. Perhaps this is a food that is not made to be nursed.
And while the wine washes down the sausage and pillowy roll perfectly, I feel odd drinking it, alone, surrounded by office workers and tourists wearing their gilets indoors. There is something about sipping wine from a glass, slurping slush off a disposable wooden spoon and eating a sandwich over a metal tray that makes me feel as though I’m doing something I shouldn’t. Which would, of course, be far more fun with someone else…