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Thursday, 27 February 2014

A Celebration of Sandwiches

The gCounter
We are a nation of sandwich eaters. Every cafe, counter and hatch does its own variation, with ingredients ranging from withered lettuce to flash fried steak, from slathered 'spread' to flavorful aioli. But which is the best? Sally and John McKenna recently took this question to the streets of Dublin and the Twitterverse to find out. From an close-fought battle the Pulled Pork from Brother Hubbard was crowned the Capital's 'ultimate sandwich'.

Last year the Hellman’s Best Sandwich Competition saw food establishments asking their customers to vote for their favourite sandwich in Ireland, and the people of Galway people proved we were particularly fond of ours. The title of 'Ireland’s Top Sandwich' went to The Cellar Bar on Galway's Englinton Street. They won the day thanks to Chef Aidan Cleary’s tempting 'Cajun Spiced Chicken Ciabatta'. Not only that, the City of the Tribes also scooped a runner-up spot in the same competition with the Warm Toasted Ciabatta with Beef Medallions from McCambridge’s, proving that Galway is Ireland’s overall top spot for sandwiches. The three winners were awarded a trophy, and professional panini grills, which will come in handy for this year’s competition which is shaping up to be a lot tougher.

A lot of people wrongly consider a sandwich to be a simple construct of a sliver of processed meat or a square of processed cheese between two pieces of white sliced pan. They think that a sandwich is just a sandwich. Sadly, this tragic, flaccid excuse for a meal is a lunchtime staple for too many who will never know the magic of a lovingly made 'buttie'. Let's face it, no truly good sandwich is ever going to win any awards in the health stakes but then if you are looking for a low carb, paleo option you'd better have a salad.

If, however, you do like a nice sandwich now and again, what and where is the best sandwich in Galway? Like breakfast, sandwiches are a matter of personal taste. People feel strongly about the one they buy, they are closely linked to where they live, work or socialise. There are places that are new and cool and places that are institutions - my own extremely well-researched preferences are the long- running 'Hot Tuna on Foccacia' in Anton's, the newcomers G Counter Club Sandwich and the 37West Chicken Melt. McCambridge's is the place to go when you want to go off-piste. Here your sandwich doesn't have to follow any rules. It doesn't have to have any salad in it. Or cheese. Or ham. The menu board is just a list of suggestions. You get what you want, how you want it. Stuffing with beetroot? No problem! Sounds grim but hey, it's your sandwich.

From months of intensive testing and an incredibly close-fought battle, not including the franchise-type like Subway and O'Briens, who are a little lacking in both passion and personality. My crack team of sandwich connoisseurs have come to a decision. The best sandwich in Galway at this moment in time is... the Bánh Mì at the Bierhouse, Dominick Street where the boys from Entre-pans have been taking the art of sandwich making to a whole new level. From their tiny open kitchen in the Bierhouse, these master sambologists serve a short but brilliantly diverse menu of five sandwiches. A celebration of sandwiches in all their forms made to a very high standard, the others to chose from are - the three cheese grill; a smoked mackerel or tofu Po' Boy; their SBLPT, (a smoked bacon BLT with the genius addition of fried potatoes) priced around €6/7.

Bánh mì
A bánh mì is essentially the only sandwich in Vietnamese cuisine and it is quite a tour de force, with crusty baguette, hot seasoned pork, creamy pate, fresh coriander and a drizzle of mayonnaise. Entre-pans' take on it has a wonderful mix of flavours with an excellent crunchy fresh savoy cabbage 'slaw, studded with pear and apple and garnished with a perfect cucumber pickle. Each and every bite filled with intense and delicate layers of flavors, add a portion of house spuds at €2.50, potatoes sautéed in butter with onions and a tipple from the Beirhouse's extensive menu of craft beers and this sandwich will be hard to beat.

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