For me, I associate Salt Beef with New York. It’s where I first tried it, and realised that beef could be made even better if you soaked it for a few weeks in salt. I didn’t think it was possible to make beef better… how wrong I was.
Unfortunately one of the main ways in which NYC kicks London’s metaphorical ass is in the deli department. New York seems to have a fantastic sandwich deli on every corner, serving incredible salt beef sandwiches, massive plates of hot, tender brisket and huge plates of cold cuts such as pastrami, salami and corned beef! I’ve already done this comparison before in my Shall I Compare Thee to NYC… post from last Summer, but that post is dated now, as since then I have discovered a place that gives the Big Apple a run for it’s money… and that is in Selfridges.
I make no secret of the fact that when I am a millionaire (one day.. when this blog really takes off!) that I will do my weekly shop in both the Harrods & Selfridges food halls. These are places that seem to make me the most happy (how am I not 20 stone?!) And so on one of my many trips to the Selfridges food hall for lunch, we decided that instead of opting for several different things from the various food counters, we’d treat ourselves to a little something at The Brass Rail. The only thing we could possibly want here was a salt beef sandwich… but who knew it could come with so much choice! What size sandwich, what bread to have it on, which mustard to coat it, what sides to accompany it? So much to make your sandwich personal to you. My choices, in case you were wondering, were a regular sized Rosemary Foccaccia bread with whole-grain mustard, with a gherkin on the side (obviously!) as well as two side pots, one of sauerkraut and the other pickled beetroot.
All of those extras make this a pretty pricey lunch, with each potted side costing £1.50, the gherkin 65p and the sandwich itself coming in at around £7.75 but you do get a lot of meat for your money, as each sandwich contains 200g of salt beef (they cut and weigh it in front of you) and it is somewhat delicious. The knife skills of the serving chefs are a piece of entertainment in itself. They somehow know how to slice the meat with such a speed without also serving up the tips of their fingers in your sandwich too. Skills. The focaccia was a bit of a mistake for my appetite, as there was a lot of it and it filled me up quickly, and so it wasn’t long before I was forced to ditch the bread and just eat the meat and it’s sides with my fingers (on my second visit I learnt from this and just went with brown bread which worked much better for me – the bread and meat were finally equally matched)
The taste of the meat itself, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of trying it yet, is extraordinary. The transformation this piece of beef takes in the minimum two weeks of curing is incredible. Now a glorious shade of pink, this meat is now able to be sliced with the most minimal effort – like a hot knife through butter. Even when you bite into the meat, your teeth are almost surplus to requirement, as it can all pretty much be broken down with your tongue anyway. That is how tender this meat is. And it’s juicy too. And not overly salty, as you might expect from cured meat, however, you’d do well to order yourself a drink to wash your meal down with anyway – for this, tap-water is your best bet as it’s free and will quench your thirst so much better than one of their £1.50 cans of coke! Extortion.
I don’t believe that the side of saurkraut added much to the salt beef experience, but I would definitely recommend ordering the pickled beetroot as it cut up the saltiness of the beef nicely. You can either add your sides and pickle (which really, you must have) into your sandwich or eat them separately. I’m a fan of the former – it ensure’s each mouthful is a nice tangy explosion in your mouth (although it does bring back the need for your teeth… swings and roundabouts)
And so for those looking for a meaty, succulent lunch in the Oxford Street area, this is the destination for you. And if you are yet to try a salt beef sandwich, this is also the destination for you. I am now a salt beef addict, and if I had £12 to spend on lunch on a daily basis, this is what I would have… luckily for my waistline, this is not the case… on the other hand, unlucky for my tastebuds… This will just have to remain an occasional meaty treat for me.