On a Roll: Feast of the M60’s Best Barms and Marvellous Muffins

Feast of the M60 celebrates British Sandwich Week

The Earl of Sandwich has a lot to answer for; at a loss as to what snack he decides to have on his card table, he came up with this ingenious plan. Putting two slices of bread together between a filling, he creates a dish which enables him to play cards and eat at the same time.

Several years on, we do the same in front of our computers. Unwittingly, he created a multi-billion pound industry. Substantially more people are involved in sandwich making compared with extractive industries. Not only local sandwich shops, but multinational fast food chains. Also the makers of pre-packed sandwiches sold in supermarkets and off-licences – in factories rather than kitchens.

The glutton behind East of the M60 has eaten many a sandwich in his time. He has avoided many a sorry pre-packed example in favour of a beautifully crafted bespoke BLT. A great many in the Oldham and Tameside areas which form the basis of today’s entry.

Our latest instalment of Feast of the M60 looks at this week’s ‘must have’ sandwiches. Given that British Sandwich Week coincides with the Tameside Food Festival, there is some bias towards outlets within the borough.

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Best Mass Market Sandwich

I am probably courting controversy (or rather, accused of lazy journalism) with this category. In my honest opinion, the average mass-market factory-made butty is lacklustre. Sometimes they are too liberal with the mayonnaise (such as the grotesque chaos of a Cheese and Tomato sandwich having mayonnaise on – superfluous if you ask me!).

For me, the best mass market sandwich has to Greggs‘ Cheese and Tomato baguette, with the chargrilled chicken oval bite a worthy second. The former is the better of the two as the chunks of cheese are generous. For sheer indulgence (so long as you’re prepared to wash your hands afterwards) is Subway’s Meatball Marinara. Guilty pleasure!

  1. Best in Show: Greggs’ Cheese and Tomato baguette;
  2. Reserve Best in Show: Subway’s Meatball Marinara (on Italian Herby bread);
  3. Also commended: Greggs’ Chargrilled Chicken Oval Bite.

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Best Panini

What makes a good panini? Is it the quality of the ingredients? The depth? The cheese not burning the roof of your mouth too much? For me, quality is a massive deciding factor as well as reasonable prices.

One place which strikes this balance remarkably well is D’Oro café at Ashton-under-Lyne indoor market. Not only is the price affordable, its high quality ingredients are locally sourced. The meat is from Pearsons’ Butchers, elsewhere in the same building. Vegetables too are locally sourced. Just the thing with a mug of strong Yorkshire Tea.

Sorrento’s Café on Market Avenue is another good source as well as is Bake and Take on the corner of Mercian Way and Staveleigh Way.

  1. Best in Show: D’Oro, Ashton Indoor Market, Wellington Road, Ashton-under-Lyne;
  2. Reserve Best in Show: Sorrento’s Café, Market Avenue, Ashton-under-Lyne;
  3. Also commended: Bake and Take, Staveleigh Way, Ashton-under-Lyne.

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Best Breakfast Butty

Imagine it’s 11 o’clock: the last time to you chowed down was your rushed bowl of cereal at 7am prior to the train for work. Our area east of the M60 motorway has a commendable number of sandwich shops in terms of high quality breakfast butties.

Again the quality of its ingredients matter: a bad cheapo sausage could taint the overall experience of a breakfast butty. Neither the bacon nor the sausage should be swimming in grease (we at East of the M60 prefer our bacon grilled, thick, rindless and not too crispy). The fried egg should be dippy but, caveat emptor, the sandwich scoffer should be mindful of avoiding the spray of egg yolk onto one’s clothing/beard/shirt collar. To ameliorate these issues, we at East of the M60 prefer to devour bacon, egg and sausage muffins in a café rather than al fresco.

Our favourite one proves this point. Look no further than Portobello Café in Marple. Each bacon, egg and sausage roll is freshly done. No grease, dippy egg, and fresh rolls. Best enjoyed with a large Latte size mug of tea. The surroundings of the café itself are excellent and its position in the town centre is good for exploring Marple properly.

If your idea of a breakfast muffin is one the size of a bar stool, Wilberrys café on High Street, Uppermill is the place. Just a short saunter from The Commercial Hotel bus stands (184, 350, 353 and 354 services), you can enjoy your breakfast butty on a standard sized muffin, jumbo muffin, or on a soft torpedo roll. A choice of tea – including Yorkshire Tea – is available.

Whilst we remain with the 184 service from Huddersfield, we have found another good butty shop on the edge of Oldham. Situated on Lees Road, the double entendre-tastic Mi Julie’s Baps does a fantastic bacon muffin. Your £1.50 gets you a freshly done bacon muffin with nice thick – not too crispy – rashers. A real bargain – especially when at one time I used to think £1.50 was reasonable for a sausage muffin in 2003 (but that was central Manchester prices).

  1. Best in Show: Portobello Café, 35 Market Street, Marple, Cheshire;
  2. Reserve Best in Show: Wilberrys, 83 High Street, Uppermill, West Riding of Yorkshire;
  3. Also commended: Mi Julie’s Baps, 77 Lees Road, Oldham, Lancashire.

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Best Budget Sandwich

For this category, we refer to any torpedo roll or baguette which is under the £2.00 barrier, or any standard sandwich below £1.20. Please note, this figure is exclusive of Meal Deals.

Today, the budget butty market has been cornered by superstore chains and discount bakeries such as Pound Bakery. It is also worth noting that (yes I am stating the obvious here) cheaper butties would be like a healthy set of gnashers (low on fillings). As they say, you get what you pay for.

There is one place which breaks the mould: Sandwich Pound‘s two shops on the street level units of the Arcades (Ashton-under-Lyne) and Merseyway (Stockport) shopping centres. For £1.20, you could get a tuna or ham salad baguette – freshly done on the premises – with a healthy amount of salad and filling. Another delight of theirs is the sausage casserole style baguette.

One wonders how they can do it? Actually, it is possible as both units attract high passing trade: bus drivers and shoppers. If you’re doing a circumnavigation around Greater Manchester by bus, it is a cheap and cheerful lunchtime option.

  1. Best in Show: Sandwich Pound, Arcades Shopping Centre, Water Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire.

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Best Salad Based Sandwich

For me, no cold sandwich is complete without salad. Luckily for me, I have been taught/indoctrinated from an early age to enjoy a good salad either as part of a garnish or a full meal. Not least the joy of salad and chips with a dash of mayonnaise (thank you J.D. Wetherspoon for introducing me to the world of squeezable mayo on chips!).

Consistently, over the last decade, there is one place which has had the salad to filling ratio bang on. Whether on their soft rolls or oven bottom muffins, I can never fault the sandwiches of The Tripe and Sandwich Shop. Their chicken is always fresh and thickly sliced; the ham is leagues apart from any supermarket offerings; and the tuna mayonnaise, is always a joy to behold. That’s before I mention their pies and other tempting delights, and the tripe.

A worthy runner-up is the Ashton-under-Lyne branch of Sandwich Pound, winner of our Best Budget Sandwich category. Highly commended, and only a short distance across the bus station is The Prince of Orange‘s fish finger sandwich, with its nice balance of salad alongside the brown bread. Best enjoyed with a pint of Unicorn, or Robinsons’ seasonal ale Wizard (3.7%).

  1. Best in Show: The Tripe and Sandwich Shop, 69 Melbourne Street, Stalybridge, Cheshire;
  2. Reserve Best in Show: Sandwich Pound, Arcades Shopping Centre, Water Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire;
  3. Also commended: The Prince of Orange, Warrington Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire.

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Best Hot Sandwich outside of Best Breakfast Butty category

The weather may be pants, or you fancy a slightly more indulgent sandwich to your usual one. For this category, we could factor paninis or burgers into this one, but we shan’t. For the purpose of this category, a hot sandwich as in a hot pork or beef one.

There is only one winner in my view. It is J.W. Mettrick and Sons‘ butchers’ Pulled Pork muffin with barbecue sauce. Before you scoff at the £3.50 price tag, what you get is – seemingly – half a piglet’s worth of shredded pork on a muffin whose top and bottom clings on to dear life through the sheer weight of it all!

Owing to the weight of it, I suggest getting a paper plate and a plastic knife and fork from Quality Save. Failing that, enjoy it indoors on a proper plate.

  1. Best in Show: J.W. Mettrick and Sons, 63 Melbourne Street, Stalybridge, Cheshire.

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The Do-it-Yourself approach

If finances or time pressures hamper your ability to go to a good sandwich shop, bakery or butchers, the do-it-yourself approach suffices. We at East of the M60 recommend:

  • Eschewing superstore brand oven bottom muffins: they are a poor imitation (see also the Northern Soul purists’ line on Wigan’s Ovation’s awful “Skiing in the Snow”);
  • Instead of buying a pack of baguettes, a small French stick could be just as satisfying – and cheaper. Any self-respecting superstore or traditional bakery offers a range of French stick varieties from wholemeal to tiger bread. A foot long could be possible at less than half a certain chain’s prices;
  • Go to local markets for fresh salad vegetables: often cheaper as well as fresher;
  • Never skimp on the fillings: sometimes it pays to spend a little more on meat, fish or cheese. If you need to economise, why not use the rest of your Sunday joint for sandwiches the following Monday? Beats pre-packed reformed meats by a country mile;
  • Avoid reformed cheese slices: like Kraft Singles owing to the plastic taste. Go for the sliced cheeses you see inside sealed packs instead of cellophane wrapped cheese slices. Better still, buy some proper cheese and add a cheese knife and cheese board to your kitchen;
  • If travelling, moist fillings are best on baguettes and ciabattas: baps and mass-produced oven bottom muffins can go soggy in transit. The traditional bakestone style oven bottom muffins (available in Ashton, Oldham and Hyde markets) are a worthwhile alternative to baguettes;
  • Greaseproof paper, not plastic or tinfoil for sandwiches with dry fillings: they seem to be fresher with greaseproof paper. Tinfoil or food bags is best for sandwiches with moist fillings. Plus greaseproof paper is biodegradable.

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Your idea of sandwich heaven?

What do you make of our round-up of the Earl of Sandwich’s landmark creation? Do you agree with any of the selections made, wish to elaborate on them, or add a few more? All of the outlets have been carefully chosen from personal experience.

Before you do, could you please pass me the low fat spread and go easy on the Cheshire cheese? Thank you.

S.V., 11 May 2015.

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