Believe it or not, there are awards for sandwiches, and this year’s winner of Best Independent Sandwich Bar of 2012 is Spianata – a chain of shops in the city (also opening a branch in Mayfair in July, and more to follow). Spianata, which means ‘flattened’ is the brainchild of Stefano Nicolai, an Italian with an investment banking background, who was fed up with ‘plasticky, tasteless sandwiches, always too cold to enjoy’.
I sampled the London Bridge branch (actually in More London Place – the development next to the London Assembly). You can’t argue with the views, sitting outside on a recent hot, balmy day – the Shard to one side, the Tower of London on another, and Tower Bridge on a third (see pic).
Spianata® bread is baked daily from scratch (they don’t buy in the dough and then bake it: they make the dough themselves – not many high street places do this, I am told). It’s about a foot wide and a metre long (mixing my metrics and imperials). The edges are cut off and then it’s sliced horizontally. As there is some wastage, instead of throwing it away, they give the offcuts FREE to customers, with olive oil and balsamic dip (see pic) or they can be enjoyed with the soups and salads. I LOVE this idea: nothing’s wasted and the customer benefits too.
Now I don’t eat bread but the sandwiches looked awesome. They’re displayed at room temperature, never refrigerated. There are over 20 fillings. Some are on multi-seed bread ie Roast Smoked Salmon, Baby Spinach and a hint of Butter (£4.55/£5.46 eat out/eat in price). Other combos that caught my eye were Smoked Ham, mild Cheddar and a hint of Mayo (£4.15/£4.98), BLT (£4.00/£4.50), Speck & Taleggio (cured, smoked mountain Ham with Taleggio cheese and walnuts), Bresaola, Rucola & Parmesan (with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice) – average price: £3.95. There are also salads. I was too early to have my all-time favourite Italian hot dish, aubergine parmigiana (it literally was going to take 5 minutes but I was starving), so I had Lasagne (£6.75) which was lovely, plus a Side Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette – also fresh and tasty (£3.15/£3.78), Freshly squeezed orange juice (£1.75) and – as it was a hot day – I really fancied Fresh Strawberries and Greek Yoghurt (£2.25/£2.70) for dessert.
I took a piece of Lemon Cream Cake (£3/£3.60) for later, which really is the owner’s mother’s recipe, I am assured. It was a shortcrust pastry pie really, with a lemon filling, topped with pine nuts and dredged with icing sugar. It was fine.
There’s plenty of eat-in space indoors or outdoors. Considering how much competition there is locally for the office workers’ lunch trade (Pret, Eat, Starbucks etc) Spianata is definitely a cut above on the sandwich front particularly.
A new branch opens in Mayfair in July www.spianata.com
*Spianata was awarded a platinum “Sammie” in the British Sandwich Industry Awards 2012