London's best sandwiches to boost your lockdown lunches

From mortadella stuffed in focaccia to muffins filled with fried eggs, these sandwiches are worth a lunchtime pilgrimage, no matter the weather. You're welcome

London's best sandwiches | Norman's Cafe, Tufnell Park

We like to think we've survived lockdown, with its mediocre highs and, er, crap lows, pretty well. Our secret? Our weekly quest to find London's best sandwiches. Even in the snow, come lunchtime we struck out into the concrete jungle in search of the ultimate sando, from simple grilled cheese to leaning towers of mortadella and focaccia to a trusty bacon sarnie.

Given the abundance for spectacular sandos popping up, it became something of challenge, to try to bag the best baps and buns in the city. After all, everyone's at it. The sandwich is the most versatile of meals – there's not much that you can't stick between two slices of sourdough and it won't taste seriously good. So it makes sense that London's restaurants and cafés, closed for dining in, would pivot their menus to sling out sandwiches. 

These sandwiches are way more than you sad supermarket offering. Gourmet fillings are packed between proper bread, a simple and significant difference. And thanks to bakeries' burgeoning gluten-free wizardry, nearly everyone can get in on the action.

Pair your sandwich with a walk and a plus one, and you've got the makings of a seriously good day. From roast beef to the gooiest grilled cheese, here's your hit list of London's best sandwiches to go.

1. Norman's [pictured above]

167 Junction Road, Tufnell Park, N19 5PZ

Norman's menu reads as if it were created by our brain when we've got one hell of a hangover. Think Macca's, but gourmet: battered haddock and tartar sauce; juicy chicken escalope with a slice of cheddar, mayo and 'Wally' the pickle; sausage, egg, red leicester and brown sauce; all served in a perfect English muffin. Order an extra hash brown and stick it in the sando for a custom-built treat, then amble up to Waterlow Park and Highgate Cemetery to gawk at Karl Marx's grave.

Weds-Sun till 4pm.

2. Mangal II

4 Stoke Newington Rd, N16 8BH

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Stoke Newington Road's Mangal II has its roots in a traditional Istanbul ocakbasi, but done hipster: during more normal times, there's a natural wine list and the restaurant is packed out with the great and the trendy of East London – pork pie hats and Doc Martens abound. But this is far from your usual casual Dalston kebab joint: run by two enterprising brothers, it's become so cool that the team has even done a takeover at P. Franco. Get the menu to takeaway, or pop in for a lunch on the hoof – the charcoal-grilled mackerel pide with dill aioli is quite rightly spreading like widlfire over Instagram, as is the latest creation: the MangMuffin, with two sourdough grilled pides sandwiched around a Turkish sucuck patty (cured beef sausage), a fried egg, and hot sauce.

Open Tues-Sun 12-8pm.

3. Western's Laundry

34 Drayton Park, Highbury East, N5 1PB

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We're cheating here, and we going to write about three places in one: Westerns Laundry, Jolene and Big Jo all belong to the same North London restaurant group and have a similar vibe – great bread (made with Wildfarmed grains grown by Groove Armada's Andy Cato. Yes, really), great fillings, natural wines, beers and bottled cocktails. They do, however, all have different menus, which means you can hop from one to the other throughout the week and never get bored. The sandos are always excellent, but a recent fave has been guanciale, grilled hispi cabbage and mustard at Westerns Laundry, which has pivoted to become Westerns Market during lockdown. Warning: don't arrive after 1pm, otherwise you'll be out of luck (and sandwiches).

Weekends from 12pm.

4. Bright

1 Westgate St, Hackney, E8 3RL

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Part of the Noble Rot, P. Franco and Peg family, Bright is another East London favourite. We can't wait to pitch up at its outdoor seating area come April, primed and ready to eat plates of grilled monkfish, pumpkin and whey butter sauce, and drink too much cloudy white wine in the weak UK sunshine. In the meantime though, we'll be scoffing its fried squid sandwich – a tower of beautiful beigeness – before taking a turn around London Fields.

From 12pm Friday-Sunday.

5. Flor

1 Bedale St, SE1 9AL

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A trip to Borough Market these days is the equivalent of a holiday: most of the market stalls are operating (in a Covid-safe way, of course), and you can see a shadow of London's hustle and bustle in the food lovers queuing up for their gourmet cheese and Bread Ahead donuts. The main queue worth joining in our humble opinion, though, is outside Flor, the second site from the team behind Lyle's. Not only has it had a lockdown spin off in the form of ASAP Pizza (you can find out why you need to try its pizza here), but Flor is also doing sandwiches, a brioche bun stuffed with fried veal sweetbreads and gribiche among them.

6. Snackbar

20 Dalston Ln, Dalston, London E8 3AZ

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Another resto that has a takeout sandwich menu reminiscent of the Golden Arches is Dalston's Snackbar, where sandwich queen Freddie Janssen has devised a lunch menu made of dreams. Our vote is for the kimchi grilled cheese sandwich with Stichelton, or the fish 'happy meal' – a truly happy meal. Then there's the Doritos fried chicken sandwich with jalapeno mayo, American cheese, pickles on a Spence bakery brioche bun, or the Toastie Hawaii grilled cheese with nduja, pickled pineapple, Montgomery cheddar on Flor sourdough.

Weds-Fri, 11-3; Sat-Tues closed.

7. Ombra

1 Vyner Street, E2 9DG

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Ombra is usually a pastificio and alimentari, and it does both of those things exceedingly well. But what the restaurant also does exceedingly well is pork sandwiches. Prepare yourself for this: every Friday and Saturday the team bakes fresh focaccia (yes) and fill it with porchetta seasoned with sage and fennel (yes) and salsa verde (absolutely yes). On Sundays, the menu switches to serve a cotechino bun – potato bun stuffed with slow-poached pork sausage, grape mustard and pink radicchio. Now that's our kind of Sunday service.


8. Larry's Peckham

Unit 5, 12-16 Blenheim Grove, SE15 4QL

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How many sandwiches do you think you could eat in one sitting? We're going to say we can eat five, because as that's how many there are on the takeaway menu at Larry's, and there's no way we can choose between them. We'd start with the merguez sausage with sumac tahini and whipped chilli feta; then we'd definitely nail the ham, mozzarella and fermented chilli. We'd probably need a short break before the aubergine parmigiana and the egg sandwich with cheddar and chilli oil; and then we'd finish up simply with a grilled cheese. Look, there's not much else to do at the moment, OK?


9. Sons + Daughters

Unit 119A, Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, N1C 4DQ

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We have a rule for life, and it goes something like this: if in doubt, always, always mortadella. Especially when that mortadella is comes nestled with taleggio cheese (!), smoked Isle of Wight tomato (!!), rocket and Thai basil between two slices of focaccia (!!!). Stop it, we're swooning. You'll find this creation – along with many others, of course – at Sons + Daughters in King's Cross, an offshoot from the team between Magpie and Pigeon. It's conveniently placed for strolls along the canal, too.

Wednesday-Sunday, 10-4pm.

10. Kappacasein

No.1 Stoney Street, SE1 9AA

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We challenge you to walk past Kappacasein in Borough Market and not stop to ogle the ooey, gooey golden cheese. And if you manage to resist that, you're a stronger person than us if you don't order the toasted raclette sandwiches, made with Montgomery cheddar, Ogleshield, comte, onions and leeks on sourdough. It's simple, but it's very, very good.


11. 40 Maltby Street

40 Maltby Street, SE1 3PA

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Yes, 40 Maltby Street is good; yes its food is sublime; yes, the wine list is fantastic. Booooring. Said no one ever. So no one in their right mind would think a sandwich from the Maltby St kings is anything other than outta-this-world good. Case in point: a sando of warm roast beef, celeriac and mushroom fritter. Pick up one of the Swiss rolls while you're there and you're absolutely winning.

Sandwiches only available 12-3pm.