Please note, Monty's Deli has now closed. Time Out Food editors, July 2019.
To say that Monty’s has a cult following would be a bit of an understatement. Once a stall at achingly hip Maltby Street Market – where many a street food star is born – it got itself a rep for serving absurdly good salt beef sarnies, long before the reuben became A Thing. Then came a Kickstarter campaign to fund a permanent restaurant. And here, at last, it is.
The compact, retro menu echoes those of New York’s kosher-style delis, serving sky-high sarnies – not quite as OTT as across the pond, but still generous – plus chicken soup, bagels, chopped liver, latkes, pastries, salads and sauerkraut.
It’s a handsome space, dominated by a long, L-shaped bar and diner-style booths that hug a wall of exposed tiles. Chalked up on the specials board is a turkey schnitzel, served, Holstein-style, with a fried egg. I was tempted. But if this is your first time, order one thing: the salt beef. Monty’s is one of the few places in London where they make their own, from scratch, and it shows. They choose the fattiest cuts of brisket, dry cure it for days with their own secret blend of sugars, salts and spices, soak it overnight, then simmer it for hours. It’s salty (but not too salty), fatty (but not too fatty), and soft enough to eat with a spoon. It’s impossibly moreish. It made me want to race into the kitchen, bundle a load into my handbag and run off into the night screaming ‘more for meeeee’.
Try some in the signature reuben: toasted rye, melted swiss cheese, a lick of mustard, ‘Russian dressing’ (a piquant mayo-ketchup), a pile of finely shredded kraut, and, finally, lashings of salt beef. It sounds like a lot, but it’s perfection.
The smoky, peppery pastrami (again, made in-house), is almost as memorable. I had it in a ‘classic’: soft rye bread (this time untoasted, all the better to taste the subtle caraway seeds), more Russian dressing, fresh coleslaw and a heap of thickly-cut pastrami. If you think that you can’t have sarnies for dinner, well, you’re wrong.
Salads are good: the modest potato salad especially. But on the night I went in, the kitchen was running low on supplies. Latkes? Sold out. Rugelach? Sold out. Blintzes? Oh, come on! The sweet waitress must have detected my inner #sadface, because a slice of substitute babka (chocolate bread, from the teeny bread-and-bagel counter) came unexpectedly ‘on the house’. And hey, now I’ve got a reason to go back.