The Sandwich Box, Highbury
4a Gillespie Road
by Grease Witherspoon
Having only moved to my area fairly recently, I am still feeling smug about my decision. It's a place for parks, families, quirkiness, proximity, watering holes and local characters - and you just can’t knock it.
So it was with stubbornly high hopes that I decided to meet fellow new locals Min and Fe at The Sandwich Box, which I had already decided was a slice of Parisian quaintness. Every time I pass this tiny café-cum-takeaway with its striped awning and outdoor tables (spread over the pavement with an arrogance that only continentals can achieve), I am transported to the backstreets of Montparnasse. As we sat down I mourned leaving my sunglasses at home and instead pointed my nose upwards, trying to look like I had a certain je-ne-sais-quoi.
But instead of the Eiffel Tower straddling the horizon, our view was obscured by the cranes of the Highbury Square development; and instead of rubbing shoulders with would-be Serge Gainsbourgs, we were ogled by men in Arsenal shirts, perfuming the air with the smell of stale beer. I may have set myself up for disappointment.
Once seated, the friendly staff did their best to please, bringing a plate of toast cut from a proper loaf and completely smothered in salty butter. Très bien. But after a cup of strong tea my Gallic delusions quickly dissipated and all I craved was a proper British greasy spoon. Having arrived earlier, Fe was already tucking into a plastered together vegetarian, wheat and dairy-free option: beans, eggs and hash browns. Min had settled for a cheese toastie, a not unfeasible substitute for a croque monsieur, which I was told hit the spot. I eagerly awaited my full English, feeling my bets were aptly hedged.
There I went, setting myself up for disappointment again. The sausage was reheated and cold in the middle, the bacon was an odd mix between crispy and tough, the eggs - rubbery. Admittedly the hash browns fell apart in a flaky way that hinted at a kind of home-made domesticity, but perhaps this was only a wishful projection.
However, I did spy some homemade cakes on a counter, waiting to be sliced. Next time I might give the full English a miss, although for £3.95 you could do worse, and come back for tea and cake. So perhaps it isn’t so much "goodbye" to the Sandwich Box, as "au revoir".