Is there no shelf left at Waitrose that Heston Blumenthal won’t try to infiltrate?!?! Obviously not, as we enter the lowest of low aisles, the pre-packaged sandwich section.
We don’t generally shop at Waitrose. While the quality is fantastic the prices are quite high and it’s a 40-minute drive to our nearest store in Altrincham.
Occasionally we’ll stroll in and out of the Spinningfields branch in Manchester city centre, but it’s usually a futile endeavour since they previously didn’t tend to stock much Heston-branded stuff (our only real reason for walking in the doors).
Just recently we attended the launch of chef Robert Owen Brown’s first recipe book (with the wonderful title of “Crispy Squirrel and Vimto Trifle” – you can buy it here) at the Mark Addy, near to that Spinningfields branch.My mates and I have been going to the Addy for years and we love the place. Their Gourmet Nights are especially fun.
Seeing as Robert Owen Brown is one of Manchester’s most popular chefs (rightly so, here’s a glowing review in the Guardian by Jay Rayner) the place was rammed with punters for the book launch. Our hopes of getting our hands on the free canapés became a distant dream. In a hungry sulk I snuck down the street to Waitrose to pick up a sandwich and stumbled across these god-damned things. The Heston from Waitrose Salt Beef Sub Roll and Heston from Waitrose Prawn Cocktail Bloomer.
Seeing them was a bit of a surprise. There had been no hint anywhere online or in the press, about them being launched, it’s almost as if Waitrose were trying to sneak them out, as if they didn’t want me to buy them.
Too slow, Waitrose! I got both. Though I pretended I’d just buy one, then went out of my way on a return visit two days later to get the other.
Product:Heston from Waitrose Salt Beef Sub Roll, Heston from Waitrose Prawn Cocktail Sandwich
Price:£3.66 per sandwich
Availability: Poor (selected branches only)
There’s not a lot you can do with pre-packaged sandwiches. Both butties are wrapped in plastic with a bit of glossy black Heston from Waitrose-branded card.
The plastic isn’t very protective, but nor is it easy to open – I had to employ scissors for that job. Good luck if you’re eating this on a park bench.
They both look the business inside and outside of the wrapping though.
Salt Beef Sub Roll
Ah, look at him there. All proud and plump.
This is roughly what you’d expect from the traditional Nu Yoik combination – a good few slices of pastrami (sliced thinner than origami paper), Emmenthal cheese, sliced discs of pickled gherkin and an American mustard mayo, likely using that French’s-brand stuff or something similar. The whole thing comes in this firm and substantial submarine roll.
We’ll deduct authenticity points for not having paving stone-thick slabs of meat that oughtweigh the bread by a 3:1 ratio. But, apart from that, the fillings are of excellent quality. And cut / balanced in a way that makes them compliment each other perfectly. That may sound fussy, but it’s a crucial factor in the difference between a good and great sandwich.
The bread is where this production falls down though. The nearest equivalent I can think of is those New York bagels from the supermarket. Now, I like those (even if own-brand ones are bigger and cheaper), but I’d never eat one without first running it through a toaster. Otherwise they’re really dry and stodgy. Halfway through this Heston from Waitrose Salt Beef Roll it felt like I was eating a mattress.
And despite the fact that the filling is excellent the over-abundance of really heavy bread lets this down a touch. Toasted and with triple the fillings – or with a slightly smaller roll- it’d have been absolutely perfect.
Prawn Cocktail Bloomer Sandwich
Aha! The prawn cocktail – Heston’s notorious guilty pleasure. And, hey, a great way to get some more mileage out of the pre-packaged prawn cocktail pots Waitrose already sell.
This is the same Heston-Blumenthal-from-Waitrose-vanilla-seed-infused-marie-rose-prawn-cocktail-sauce that we’ve enjoyed before. This time they’re adding lettuce and thinly sliced cucumber then serving the lot between slices of brown poppy seed bloomer bread.
Presentation is good, a decent slice of bread looking as if it came direct from the centre of a loaf. Opening it up reveals even distribution of the filling – they haven’t bothered with the presentational lie of edge-loading, like most pre-packaged sandwiches do.
If you like prawn cocktail then you’d already be on to a winner with this. And there’s the right amount of lettuce and cucumber to add texture and backup flavour. The poppy seeds in the bread are wonderfully swish too, even if they will get stuck in your teeth and give you a dalmatian smile for the rest of the afternoon.
But, again, the bread is the let-down. The inside of each slice being really limp and soggy as it’s soaked up moisture from the mayonnaise. You can see they’ve made every effort to avoid this – cucumbers have had the watery cores removed – but you still end up with damp bloomer gluing itself to the roof of your mouth.
I kind of like pre-packaged sandwiches, and I eat far too many of them – even this horror show of “pulled pork” from Tesco, which won’t be giving Pitt Cue many sleepless nights.
But if we’re paying premium prices (excluding service stations), and having a fancy chef’s name slapped on the pack, then we’d expect to be eating absolutely the best pre-packaged sandwich you could possibly imagine.
Heston’s Salt Beef Roll and Prawn Cocktail Bloomer Sandwiches are both pretty good, but the bread lets them both down. Like all Heston from Waitrose stuff they’re better than 90% of the competition, as you’d expect for the price. But they’re not quite a rival to the king of all ready-made sandwiches, the Pret-a-Manger Chicken Caesar.