You might think it madness to set up a new sandwich bar chain, in this already saturated market. But when I passed Pardoe and Wood‘s second branch in Grays Inn Road a few months ago, I knew that this company was on a new track. The packaged wraps, sandwiches, salads and fruity dessert pots are set off dramatically against a black background in the chillers. This echoes the creativity and thought which goes into the recipes too.
The duo behind this venture have plenty of experience between them. Jennifer Pardoe opened twelve EAT shops during her five years as Area Manager with the company, and Georgina Wood was Head of Food at EAT for eighteen months before they decided to branch out on their own. It takes guts to break into an already established marketplace; you have to be convinced there is a gap which the rest aren’t filling, and find a good site at a reasonable rent. They found this in Houndsditch, at the Aldgate end, a premises which had been empty for two years, and were therefore able to negotiate a good deal with the landlord (recessions are good for some things), and opened in December 2009. Not a pair to rest on their laurels, the second branch opened in Gray’s Inn Road a year later, last December, and the third site is planned for this Autumn.
The minimal look, lots of white against an exposed brick wall, suggest Ottolengi with warmth. The attention to detail generally on the fit out is impressive. The faceted perspex stools in the window reflect the glass cake stands displaying mini Victoria sponges oozing cream and raspberry jam; the white customer tables reflect the corian of the kitchen and counter. But it is the special flavour of the food that brings people back : there are sandwiches, hand cut and displayed in New York style deli bags, and salads with interesting and delicious recipes (Smoked Chicken, strawberries, with Pimms dressing and cucumber/ Mexican Chicken with black barley and avocado tomato salsa).
Seasonality is a big feature here. While large chains pay lip service to this, perhaps introducing one summer sandwich into their repertoire, Pardoe and Wood have just introduced a range of their own Summer iced drinks (Earl Grey and Orange Iced Tea or Lime Lemonade for example) in simple unadorned bottles which shine like jewels in the chilled display, and lots of new salads and summery desserts. A large platter of homemade meringues with strawberries is tantalisingly displayed just under the pay point. If all this sounds a bit upmarket, a hot fish finger salad wrap is one of the best sellers, perfectly seasoned of course.
There is a substantial seating area too in the adjacent room in Gray’s Inn Road, making it a popular venue for meetings with coffee (from Square Mile roasters), and a range from Rare Teas. The Earl Grey, however, comes from the Tregothnan Tea estate in Cornwall (just because it happens to be the best). What attention to detail. Otherwise intelligent choices in the branded drinks include Luscombe and Chegworth Valley for the apple juices.
This is a takeaway lunch brand operating on a new level. Look out for a branch opening near you soon.