Lunch

Lunch

By
Jorge Fernandez and Rick Wells
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781784880118

Lunchtime etiquette

Lunchtime signifies a break from work or whatever it is you are doing; a halfway marker in the day. Sandwiches are the Fernandez & Wells staple when it comes to lunch and from 11am onwards the counters are stacked with the current seasonal range. From the early days our mythical ‘shepherd’s knapsack’ was key to defining the Fernandez & Wells sandwich: a hunk of crusty sourdough bread, cheese and cured meat; robust food with flavour to keep you going throughout the afternoon. The original favourites have remained pretty much the same: simple to construct and relying on the best possible ingredients. English ham, thickly sliced, with cheddar cheese and piccalilli in a sourdough bun is the classic example, and the grilled Alejandro chorizo, with rocket and red pepper is still popular.

That’s not to say more subtle combinations are frowned upon; the 30 month-cured prosciutto di Parma with buffalo mozzarella is a match made in heaven. Add a glass of wine to the mix and a late lunch can easily drift into early evening.

Fernandez & Wells first opened one January, in the depth of winter, so the need for some simple hot dishes became quickly apparent. Soups and stews were rustled up in the tiny basement kitchen of Lexington Street, and as word spread among the Soho media crowd, queues quickly formed for the likes of takeaway cassoulet and Rabbit stew. In more recent years, the Fernandez & Wells version of Taktouka, a Moroccan-style dish of roasted pepper and tomato sauce served in a pan with a poached egg on top, has become a popular lunchtime hot dish.

With the advent of spring and summer, the menu varies according to seasonal availability of produce, and lighter cheeses and simple salads are added to the offer. Gazpacho, the Spanish cold tomato soup, is hugely popular on hot summer days, although, after much debate, what is served at Fernandez & Wells is actually Salmorejo, the richer, creamier equivalent from Cordoba, and has rightly been renamed as such.

The cult sandwich

It was never really our intention to sell sandwiches at Fernandez & Wells. Starting out with a collection of core products on the counter at Lexington Street, including Montgomery’s Cheddar, and salamis and buffalo mozzarella, it seemed a logical step to pack them in generous quantities into our sourdough baguettes in the hope that once experienced, albeit in sandwich form, people would come back and buy more, with perhaps a bottle of wine to take home. Much to our surprise and delight, the lunchtime trade boomed and daily sandwich production took off.

Our chief sandwich maker at the time, based in the tiny Lexington Street basement kitchen, was Marcelo, an Argentinian with Italian roots, whose many and varied skills, coupled with his unending affinity for all things Fernandez & Wells, over the years has led to his position today as the company’s finance manager.

Inventing new combinations was both a challenge and a pleasure, picking up ideas as we went along. Some were just reminders of timeless favourites, such as the home-cooked ham and cheddar in a bun encountered in a pub on a fishing trip to the Usk in South Wales. That and a pint of Uley Old Spot ale inspired our version, with the addition of the classic British relish piccalilli; a sandwich that has become a perennial bestseller.

As an aside, we like the idea of offering mustards and relishes to add to sandwiches as you might do at home. We experimented by making our own piccalilli, but with a local London supplier of jams and relishes of great quality in England Preserves, we are happy to remain purveyors.

Looking back, this style of rustic, market stall sandwich, so prevalent on the continent was, at the time, pioneering. And the fact that they came piled high on the counter, without refrigeration or any sign of plastic packaging, added to the appeal.

Other favourites of ours include the aged French Comté cheese and salami in a crusty flute, chicken with tarragon aioli in a sourdough bun, and the toasted cheese with English cheddar, chopped leek and red onion on slices of French Poilâne bread.

Recipes in this Chapter

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