sand·wich (noun) A food item, often consisting of two or more slices of bread with one or more fillings between them
The sandwich has to be the world’s most versatile and popular lunchtime food, although it’s funny to think that it’s origin is kind of sordid. The word as we use it today was born in London, when the infamous Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu was on a gambling bender in 1762. When he got hungry, he ordered a waiter to bring him roast beef between two slices of bread so he could continue gambling and not get his fingers greasy while eating his snack!
I’ve long thought that almost anything tastes better between two slices of bread, but I’ve also had my fair share of disappointing sandwiches. Earl Canteen believes that sandwiches should never be boring or soggy. Why shouldn’t sandwiches be restaurant quality too? Situated in Melbourne’s CBD, the café itself is quite small with only a handful of tables, where you can order a glass of wine or beer to go with your lunch, but I imagine they would do a roaring take away trade.
I start with a Long Black, which I had been craving since I’d left Sydney a few hours before. The quality of Melbourne’s coffee is generally miles above Sydney’s and this was no exception, definitely satiating my caffeine craving.
The decision of what to order is quite a difficult one, with almost everything on the menu sounding mouth-watering. Whether you fancy duck with caramelised figs and walnuts on ciabatta, trout nicoise on focaccia, or slow-cooked lamb and honeyed carrots on baguette, you’re covered. The vegetarian selections sounded delicious as well, especially the roasted mushrooms, goat’s curd, pesto and chestnuts on ciabatta. Amazingly, everything is cooked to order, which was impressive as the service was still quite fast.
I decided on the Wagyu Meatball sandwich – Moondarra wagyu meatballs in sugo, zucchini pickles, and shaved parmesan on baguette ($12.50). It was delicious, although there is definitely no ladylike way to eat it! The meatballs were very flavoursome, although I had expected them to have been simmered away in the sauce, which would have made them even more tender. I think the zucchini pickles were a really great addition, providing bursts of vinegar to offset the slightly sweet sugo.
Steve chose the Lime Poached Chicken – Lime & palm sugar poached Glenloth chicken with crunchy salad, coriander, chilli and nuoc nam on a baguette ($12). It looked rather stunning, although Steve thought that the sauce overpowered everything else and there wasn’t a lot of flavour in it. He’s also not a fan of cucumber which came in the “crunchy salad” so this was a bit of a miss for him.
We finish off with a couple of macarons from the display, Earl Grey and Salted Caramel. They were on the small side, but very well made, with signature feet and the perfect texture. Both were delicious, but I especially loved the strong tea flavour.
I really liked Earl Canteen, from the great coffee to the amazing “sandwiches for grown-ups”. It’s clear these guys care about what they do, from using the highest quality seasonal ingredients to even sourcing biodegradable packaging. I wish we had something similar near where I work in Sydney, so I could munch my way through the awesome menu! I’d definitely come back on my next visit to Melbourne, perhaps to try the homemade crumpets for breakfast or that pork belly sandwich that everyone raves about!
Earl Canteen – Ground Level, 500 Bourke St (Little Bourke St Courtyard near NAB), Melbourne