Once upon a time, when Selfridges still gave out yellow plastic bags with old style drawings of the elevation of its building; before it rebranded itself as a young and trendy department store, a salt beef sandwich at The Brass Rail was the best thing to eat. In fact, it was reknowned to be the best salt beef in London.
Now, with places like EAT, Yo! Sushi and Square Pie filling up the food hall, is the salt beef sandwich that has 33 years of history in Selfridges still the best choice there?
The menu is simple- only beef is served. We can specify every bit of the sandwich.
Size first- half, regular (equivalent of 2 halfs), large (equivalent of 3 halfs) or platter (just meat)? Then comes the meat: salt beef, tongue, pastrami or mixed? Choice of bread: rye, wholemeal, white, Focaccia or Bagel. Choice of mustard: American, French or English mustard. Final question: Gherkin?
The lady took out a big ox tongue which was longer than her arm and started carving in front of us. I like the fact the meat filling is measured by weight. There is something satisfying about seeing that everyone gets the exact portion, measured by a scale. This is contrary to some deli where you get served more if you happen to be the favourite- too much pressure to be the waiter’s pet!
We were feeling peckish so we went for large, mixed one on Foccaia. I know rye bread is supposed to be the classic combination but I do not like its texture. At least we went for American mustard and the gherkin, another classic combo!
Since we had 3 halfs of a sandwich, we decided to open one and tasted the 3 different types of meat one by one, while they are still warm. My favourite is the tongue, it is tender and succulent. The salt beef is moist and soft. It is not too salty nor too weak, which is great. The pastrami tastes just average by comparison.
For the best sandwich, I definitely recommend the mixed meat combination as it gives the best all round experience in terms of texture and flavour. Foccacia is soft and not oily (Focaccia can be too oily sometimes), with a hint of olive. A whole gherkin is served by the sandwich, sliced. I am not a fan of gherkins as they always seem to be soggy and super vinegary but this one is not like this at all. It is a great complement to the beef. It is definitely worth paying the extra 75p for!
This salt beef sandwich is better than the other famous one in Brick Lane. It is certainly the best one I have ever tasted.