Sandwiches have always held a special place in our hearts and on our plates. There’s something inherently comforting and versatile about them that makes them a beloved choice for any occasion. From simple combinations to extravagant creations, at GAIL’s we understand the allure of a well-crafted sandwich.
The best sandwiches are made with intentional bread choices to define character, and fillings chosen not only for their flavours and textures, but the sense of joy that they evoke. Here, with our Head Baker Roy’s expertise, we delve into what makes a truly exceptional sandwich.
The enduring allure of the sandwich
“If food is served to a room, people will always dive into the sandwich platters first, because it’s what people want,” says Roy. “There is something simple, relatable about them that people connect to. I can’t see an occasion nor meal that a sandwich can’t be a beautiful part of. In its own right, done well, a sandwich can be a proper meal. Because sandwiches can be many things – just bread, butter and tomato or an over the top lunch.”
What are the key components of the best sandwiches?
“There is nothing more joyful than having something as simple as a sandwich. My mum says sandwiches are the simplest form of cooking” says Roy. And when it comes to constructing the best sandwiches, the key lies in paying attention to each element.
“The first thing to think about, naturally, is the bread. Then it’s about assembling things that you love, that go well together, and are the best quality. Simplicity can be key – there is a place I go to in Paris, in late afternoon just before evening falls, where the only food they serve is two slices of bread, a slice of ham and a slice of cheese. And what else do you need? If you are spending the evening drinking a bottle of wine, that’s what you want. It’s such a nice civilised experience. But whether you are going simple or big with your sandwich, it’s about balance and quality.”
How do you choose the bread for a sandwich?
According to Roy, the first thing to think about when making a sandwich is the bread. “The best sandwiches start with good bread. So many people see bread as the vessel, but bread is everything.” Roy recommends seeing bread as an ingredient in its own right and using the best bread possible. “Two thirds of the meal is bread, so you have to make your sandwich with the best bread.”
“Every type of bread from flat to sourdough to brioche has its own sort of way of becoming an amazing sandwich or going with something, so when choosing your bread, it comes down to the experience that you crave. Sometimes you want crustless white bread, sometimes you want a dark, chewy, bitter-sweet crust. Sometimes lots of bread, sometimes less.”
Roy explains that your bread choices can transform the same ingredients into unique experiences. “You can take the same ingredients, put them with different bread, and create entirely separate experiences. For example if you take Italian flat bread, which is almost like a pizza base, it’s so thin and light, you can cut through it and fill it with say mortadella and cheese, and you will have very little bread. But if you take those same ingredients and pair them with focaccia, you will have a lot of bread. It’s about what you want.”
How do you select the filling ingredients?
Roy suggests that it’s about creating balance, and assembling things that you love, that go together, in order to build the best sandwiches. “People have lost the notion of taking a few products and making a meal out of them – good bread, butter, cheese, meat, vegetables. Even just bread, butter and pickles – biting into that is heaven. Lovely produce, that you know where it came from. It is no coincidence that at GAIL’s we have all the best suppliers – and everything goes well with bread.”
“Some cultures don’t even get to the sandwich making part. In Zurich, for example, you are served with a sausage and bread, the sandwich happens in your mouth. They just know the sausage needs to be eaten with bread. It’s a camouflage sandwich. The same concept applies to eating bread with your starters during a meal, you are essentially assembling a sandwich as you eat.”
How important is the quality of the ingredients?
At the heart of the best sandwiches lies the quality of their ingredients. “You start compromising the bread when you have too many stories in between your two slices. I always choose the simplest sandwich. And quality is everything,” says Roy. “I once had a pretzel roll, with delicious sweet and savoury bread, and inside was simply a slab of fridge-cold, salted butter. It was a statement. And you knew that the butter and bread had to be exceptional.”
“Our Heritage Tomato Bagel is like this. An Everything Bagel, with a thick layer of Quicke’s whey butter, pistachio and olive pesto, and the season’s best tomatoes sourced by Natoora, seasoned with Cornish sea salt. The simplicity showcases the quality of the ingredients. But then we also have the over the top one – our Mortadella and Ricotta Sandwich. Thinly sliced mortadella on white sourdough, with parmesan butter, ricotta, pistachio and olive pesto, Eaten Alive hot pickled peppers and rocket. It may be more layered, but again, quality is central.”
Roy believes that it is far better to have fewer ingredients and choose them carefully. “There is nothing more depressing than seeing a beautifully described sandwich on a menu – and then it arrives and the quality of the ingredients is bad.” For Roy, a sandwich is a thing of beauty, and the quality of the ingredients makes it.
What would be your perfect sandwich?
When asked about his ideal sandwich, Roy reminisces about his childhood. “When I was a very young boy, after going swimming with my friend, we would go back to his house and his grandmother would feed us. She would give us a thick slice of soft bread, cold butter and gribenes. This is a classic ingredient in traditional Jewish cooking – you take chicken skin and fry it very slowly, breaking it into pieces as you go, until you get these crispy, chickeny, salty nuggets – so delicious. Even today when I get out of a swimming pool, the flavour and texture, it’s all still alive, I can still sense and taste it. Anyway, I would mix those nuggets with egg mayo for my perfect sandwich.”
This nostalgia reminds us that the best sandwiches are often rooted in personal connections and cherished traditions.
And if you had to eat just one sandwich for the rest of your life?
As for Roy’s choice for a lifetime sandwich, he remains loyal to the timeless pleasure of bread and butter.
“I cannot overdo bread and butter. Good bread and a ridiculous layer of fridge-cold salter butter is just the best. On that note – you should never spread butter. It’s meant to be hard. You put it, shave it, slice it or place it on bread. Then you enjoy a whole experience.”
He also references that making a good sandwich is part art, and part science, “In one of her books, Nancy Silverton, my hero, showcases perfect anchovies on bread, atop a slab of butter. Because of course in order to really enjoy the richness of the anchovies, you need that much butter.”
GAIL’s sandwich platters
If you’re looking to elevate your next gathering or event with food catering, indulge in the delectable delights of our sandwich platters. With a wide array of sandwich options, each meticulously prepared with the finest ingredients and our signature artisanal touch, our platters are sure to impress your guests.
On the menu:
- Heritage Tomato Bagel – Classic Everything Bagel spread thickly with Quicke’s whey butter and homemade pistachio and olive pesto, topped with fresh, juicy tomatoes from Natoora. Seasoned with Cornish sea salt and garnished with rocket.
- Mortadella and Ricotta – Thinly sliced mortadella on white sourdough, layered with parmesan butter, creamy ricotta, and homemade pistachio and olive pesto. Finished with a crunch of rocket and Eaten Alive hot pickled peppers.
- Ham and Cheese – Delicate folds of ham paired with nutty Mayfield Swiss cheese on white sourdough, slathered with a generous layer of Quicke’s whey butter.
- Mozzarella, Pesto and Tomato Focaccia – Mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto on rosemary focaccia.
- Smoked Salmon Bagel – Smoked salmon, pink pickled onion, cream cheese, capers, cucumber and watercress on a plain bagel.
- Parmesan Chicken – Parmesan crumb-coated chicken thigh, with chilli aïoli, iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber pickles on a toasted sesame bun.