I’ve never been able to get my head around the fact that the sandwich had to be invented by someone.
You probably know the story – posho with a gambling problem gets peckish, demands oik provides portable grub – but the fact that the concept of chucking miscellaneous food stuffs between two slices of bread is a piece of intellectual property blows my mind.
It’s like inventing spoons, or pants; I know on a rational level that someone must have done it, but at the same time they seem like they’ve always existed.
But that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the art of a great sarnie. Which is good, because I’ve just come back from judging at the Sandwich World Cup.
Legends in their own lunchtime
To answer the inevitable two questions that come next:
- Yes it is a thing.
- No, the sandwiches aren’t really from all over the world, just Cardiff. But if the yanks can call it the World Series of Baseball without inviting the rest of the planet, so can we.
My invitation came as a bit of a surprise – I’ve never judged anything before, unless we’re counting work colleagues, neighbours and people on Jeremy Kyle. But I guess I have (visibly) eaten quite a lot of sandwiches, and I’d not long finished a stint on @cardiffisyours, so it kinda made sense.
So, on a rainy Tuesday lunchtime, I arrived at the unlikely venue for this clash of lunchtime leviathans – the offices of Yolk Recruitment, just off Queen Street.
Soggy, yet determined to prove myself worthy of the title ‘Judge’ just as Reinhold, Dredd and Judy had before me, I rang the doorbell and uttered at least the 4th most ridiculous phrase I’ve ever said aloud: “I’m here for the Sandwich World Cup”.
Let’s do this.
This was the group stages, so three sandwiches were battling it out for a slot in the finals later this week and a chance to topple last year’s victors, Fresh, from the top spot. Here’s what I thought of the talent on show…
1. Thai 7 Spice Big Boy, Bomber’s Sandwich House (£4.20)
I’ve never been to Bomber’s Sandwich House, which is tucked away round by the ghost of Burger King just off St Mary Street, but after one bite of the 7 Spice I wish I’d checked it out ages ago.
The first thing that hits you is the sheer size of the thing; it’s like a slice of bloody birthday cake, not a sandwich. The Thai 7 Spice is so big in fact, that if you were to put a smaller sandwich nearby, it would start orbiting it.
The only place in town I’ve seen a more colossal sarnie is New York Deli, and it’d be a close run thing – put this and a Cardiff Devil Hoagie in the same room and it’ll be like the end of Godzilla all over again.
So how does it taste? Well, the massive chunk of raw carrot in my first bite was a bit alarming, but as soon as you get a bit of context – earthy, slow building heat from the marinaded chicken and spicy mayo, a bit of zing from the onion and a vinegary spike of fire from the jalapenos – it all makes sense. It perfectly nails the sweet spot between heat and freshness.
Part of me wasn’t sure if the cheese was necessary, but who am I kidding? Cheese is always necessary.
The only thing that even remotely lets it down is sliiiightly dry bread, but that might have been down to it sitting around a fair while before I arrived.
True, it’s the most expensive of the bunch at nearly a fiver, but it’s the size of a sofa-cushion and contains more bird than a nursery rhyme pie. I can live with that.
2. Mina Chicken Special, La Mina (£2.60. Seriously.)
Two things you need to know about this one;
First, it doesn’t really taste like any sandwich you’ve ever had before (in a good way), and second, it costs less than a large cup of coffee in most places.
How exactly La Mina can turn out sarnies this good (and big) at sub-Greggs prices I have no idea, but here it is.
Again there’s a hot, vinegary kick of pickled jalapenos, and more spicy chicken, this time with a good sized portion of fresh cucumber to cool it down. There’s also a generous layer of grated cheese dusted with a spice mix – unusual but a really nice touch.
The baguette itself avoids falling into the trap of being so impenetrably crusty that the filling flies out with every bite, without feeling insubstantial.
Top marks for originality and price, but not quite the same depth of flavour or quality of ingredients as the offering from Bomber’s.
3. Classic Ploughman’s, Milk and Sugar (£3.80)
Sometimes you’ve got to keep it simple.
The fanciest flourish in this pleasingly chunky monkey of a sarnie from Milk and Sugar is a sneaky sliver of apple to break up the cheese.
Unfortunately it clashes a bit with the tomato, and the cheese itself just hasn’t got the punch to carry it off. A good ploughmans needs a cheddar that slaps you round the head like that Tango advert they banned in the 90s.
Great quality ham pulls things back a bit though, and they certainly aren’t shy with the amount of filling.
Overall it’s a good, solid, hard working lunch, for a fair price (you get crisps with it for the asking price of £3.80 too), but maybe that’s its downfall; it’s the kind of sandwich you could take home to your mum and dad, rather than the other edgier, less respectable entries.
Three top notch sarnies, but, as Christopher Lambert once mumbled incoherently, There Can Be Only One. There’s a ways to go yet, but at this stage, it’s got to be Bomber’s.
For more #SandwichWorldCup action check out @cardiffisyours – and don’t forget to let me know about your favourite Cardiff sarnies in the comments below or on Twitter @fuudblog…