When Mr. Henson first set up his business in 1895 soaking cheap cuts of beef in barrels of brine and saltpetre to get easy protein to the masses, did he ever imagine his product would make its way to a ‘gourmet’ sandwich bar in the heart of Mayfair?
Café Mish’s gourmet title is self-applied, and upon first seeing the slightly tacky orange and brown sign I began to worry that this was going to one of those businesses assuming that a posh location is enough reason to double the cost and half the quality. Luckily I was wrong. Very wrong.
In fact Café Mish’s menu lives up to its gourmet billing and reads more like a high-class restaurant than a lunchtime café. Porchetta-style slow roast lamb saddled with red onion confit (I can’t help adding, “in a red wine jus” – damn you MasterChef), peppered roast rib of beef and marinated beef brisket with rose harissa. The unadulterated hunks of pastrami, beef and lamb are proudly on display and the smell that emanates from them is enough to get anyone salivating.
Despite the succulent looking choices open to me (the rib of beef was particularly difficult to ignore) I opted for Mr. Henson’s salt beef. After all, it was the reason I found myself down the warren-like streets of Shepherd’s Market.
Thankfully, it turns out Mr. Henson’s old barrels of beef were thrown over the dock sides to feed the pleading rats a long time ago. What came out of Mish’s hidden kitchen was a masterclass in buttery, melt-in-the-mouth premium brisket, more reminiscent of a top-notch New York deli than the sewage ridden streets of Victorian London. The salt beef, sweet gherkins, and ‘dijonnaise’ all fighting for room inside a caraway bloomer filled me up after only a few bites, and this was only a medium (£9.75). I pity the fool who orders a large (£12.75).
With my gargantuan helping came a side of spindle thin crispy fries. Every tiny twig was the crispy bit we all look for when searching through an otherwise flaccid array of oversized starchy chunks most places like to call ‘hand cut’ chips. Despite my swollen stomach I found myself scrabbling for the last few even crispier bits at the bottom.
The sandwiches were really good, but it wasn’t actually what struck me most about Café Mish. It hasn’t been there that long (it’s not even been street-viewed yet) and yet it already seems to have a whole host of regulars. For that reason it feels like an actual part of the community, a positive addition, rather than just another ‘gourmet’ offering. I think that’s a rarer thing nowadays and probably what they should lead with, rather than marketing themselves the same way every other half-arsed sandwich bar does. Oh and change the sign. I have absolutely nothing positive to say about the sign…
1A Shepherd Street