On a quiet stretch of Crouch Hill Road, a 10-minute walk north from Finsbury Park tube station, lies the unassuming Max’s Sandwich Shop. Yet, don’t let it’s self-effacing name lure you into thinking that this is a standard deli affair – for it is not. Max Halley, the man behind the eatery, has set out to revive and rejuvenate the British institution which is the sandwich; to lift it from its humble stature and help it transcend it’s status as a reluctant, lazy lunch choice.
I arrive around 7pm. ‘Hot sandwiches & booze’ reads the sign outside, a truly enticing prospect. Dim lighting, smooth jazz and the soft chatter of diners combine for a calm and cool ambiance. The walls are lined with a melange of trinkets and posters ranging from dismembered maneki-nekos to dog-themed Top Trumps. I deduce that this is the prerequisite level of eccentricity and hipness required to run a restaurant of this nature. We’re quickly sat down; a simple handwritten menu comprising of four sandwiches (each £8.95) is thrust before us. Every option is slightly unconventional and drenched in creativity. I opt for the signature ‘Ham, Egg and Chips’ – layers of ham hock, malt-vinegar mayonnaise, piccalilli and shoestring fries; all topped with a fried egg.
The bread of choice for each sandwich is focaccia and it soon becomes clear why. It’s pillowy soft, has a delicate flavour and holds its structural integrity right till the end; all whilst serving as a sponge for rogue meat juices. Slowly braised overnight and reheated in its own cooking stock, the ham hock itself is deeply meaty, lightly smoky and tender as can be. Each element of the sandwich has clearly been chosen thoughtfully and deliberately – the saltiness of the meat is cut through by both the sharpness of the malt-vinegar mayonnaise and the sweetness of the piccalilli. Shoestring fries provide texture and body. The egg yolk, when broken, serves as a sort of natural finishing sauce – coating the cross-section of the sandwich in molten, orange fat. The sandwich is delectable and rich yet remains somewhat delicate. What looks huge, perhaps unmanageable upon arrival, is quickly devoured, leaving you yearning for more.
Unapologetically obsessive in its quest to push the boundaries of what can be served between two slices of bread, some may say that Max’s delivers what could well be the finest sandwich in London. With its great food, good selection of reasonably priced beers and enthusiastic service, I would thoroughly recommend paying this charming sandwich-centric restaurant a visit.
Food – 8/10
Ambiance – 8/10
Affordability – 7/10