Little Portland Cafe, Fitzrovia
15 Little Portland St
020 7636 1439
by Malcolm Eggs
An email arrived from Catherine Carr, a reporter for the Radio 4 show You and Yours. A survey had found that the bacon sandwich at Claridge’s was, at £11.50, the most expensive in the country. Would I like to meet her there to discuss this in about half an hour?
My immediate response was to go and brush my teeth. I needed two minutes to think about it all: my toothbrush contains a timer and whatever I decided, I would need clean teeth. I started at the lower left, fretting that I would go on air in front of several million of my fellow citizens and come across like an oaf or a charlatan by nervously blurting out pompous, anachronistic terms like ‘oaf’ or ‘charlatan’. But by the top right molars, I was determined to give it a go. I figured there is only so far a man can go wrong when talking about bacon; and anyway, it sounded like a fucking good sandwich.
By the time I’d offered a response, Catherine had been turned down by Claridge’s, then the Dorchester, so the assignment had changed a little. She was to collect an almost as expensive sandwich from The Langham and I was to meet her at the Little Portland Cafe, all within sprinting distance of the BBC’s central London operation. I would sit down, try sandwiches from both places, and compare and contrast them in front of a large microphone. We met outside and she plunged in, recording the sounds of the affable owner, the beleaguered chef, the sizzling bacon and the chatting men (for they were all men). The room was packed. My sandwiches arrived.
To make a Little Portland bacon sandwich, they start the bacon in the oven then finish it off by frying it, before delivering it to the counter to be placed between two slices of white bread. The finished product costs £1.90. It’s a process replicated in greasy spoons across the land and it always makes something pretty delicious – the inherent divinity of bacon makes sure of that. This particular sandwich was at the top end of the spectrum, not a surprise after a wait spent observing table after table of incredible-looking fried breakfasts. As for The Langham, I'm afraid to say their £8.50 bacon and brioche number was dry and had a texture like Frazzles in a bath sponge. The sweet taste of the brioche fought needlessly with the over-crispy bacon.
I blathered something along those lines in the direction of the microphone. We thanked the owner and went our separate ways. I walked to the British Library, opened my laptop, and after an hour began Googling hysterically for some kind of public reaction. When none came, I think I was relieved.