I know I’m not the only man to approach the barbers with some trepidation. The worry being that you just never know quite how things will turn out. Strange, because you’d have thought “err, just a bit off the side and make the top shorter but not too short” would always achieve consistent results.
Until yesterday, though, I’d never gone into a hairdressers and left with a toasted sandwich.
The sleek and stylish Sharps barbers on Windmill Street in Fitzrovia doubles as a coffee shop run by East London ‘Creative Coffee Consultancy’ types Dunne Frankowski. Now the flat white I had was mighty fine and I’m sure the hairdressers cut a mean line, but the One Good Reason I went, enjoyed and will return to Sharps is a humble toasted sandwich made by F.A.T. Or Freddie, as I think would be a politer way to address the blonde girl running the food counter.
You won’t be able to read the menu in the picture above, so I’ll give you some idea of it: options include Montgomery cheddar and pickled dill cucumbers; kimchi and Stilton; pork and fennel meatball with rocket walnut pesto and pickled fennel; duck pate with parsley salad, picked beets and chillies. All are priced at £4.50.
Any toasted sandwich aficionado worth their Breville will tell you that there are three things that make a good toastie:
- the quality of ingredients;
- the filling combo; and
- the crust.
F.A.T’s sandwiches pass each test with aplomb.
Ingredients need to be totally shit (cheap white, aggressive supermarket cheddar, tommy k) or top notch. F.A.T have gone for the latter approach: pickles are Freddie’s own, there’s a chutney from James Lowe in some of the sandwiches, cheese is from Neal’s yard and bread is sourdough from Bread Ahead.
A filling shouldn’t be too busy or fancy – something obvious with a little twist will do. Here, there’s just about the right balance between home comfort (the cheeses, meatballs) and innovation (the combo of kimchi and Stilton, pickled fennel in a sandwich, beetroot pickles with a touch of coffee).
The third factor is possibly the most important. Wars have been started because the outside of a toastie wasn’t crisp enough (remember that WWI causes bonfire diagram? Yep: pan Slavism, naval race, the Balkans, a soft toastie, and the assassination of Franz Ferdinand). I think the process at Sharps must be to butter aggressively, grill it till it’s done, then grill it for one minute more. Fantastic crunch.
I had the meatball and fennel option and it was spot on. The meatballs were flavoursome and soft, rocket and walnut pesto added earthyness and depth, and the aniseed fennel was sweet, lightly acidic and gave the filling a bit of bite. I will be back for the kimchi and stilton very soon. Maybe even today.
Three final things to note:
- Like good coffee, a good toastie is not quick. You’ll need to wait 5-10 minutes. Take a chill pill, maybe get your hair cut.
- Like all good toasties, the filling is initially hotter than the sun. Take a chill pill, maybe get your hair cut.
- Like many exciting and fun things, F.A.T’s residence isn’t permanent. Panic, drop everything, head over. Maybe get your hair cut.
Sharps, 9 Windmill Street, W1T2JFOne Good Reason
The toasted sandwiches by F.A.T