Photograph: Andy Parsons

Hype Dish: Quo Vadis’s smoked eel sandwich

We find out what goes into the London plates that everyone bangs on about


This smoked eel sandwich has been on Jeremy Lee’s menu, in some form, since the mid-’90s. It started when he was working at Blueprint Café at the Design Museum and found he had a load of smoked eel and Poilâne sourdough to use up. Now, in its current iteration at legendary Soho restaurant Quo Vadis, it’s become a modern classic. We asked the formidable head chef to break down what goes into the much-loved London dish. 

The bread

‘It’s from Poilâne, in Paris. There was a time when you couldn’t buy sourdough here, so we’d import it. I’ve worked with many bakers, but Poilâne refuses to surrender its crown.

The eel

‘We buy about seven or eight eels a week from the same farm in Lincolnshire. This bundle of eels turns up every Monday morning like contraband.’

The cream

‘We put fiery amounts of mustard cream on the bottom, but the horseradish cream on top is the jewel in the crown. It has a kick like a mule – it really knocks your socks off.’

The size

‘The original sandwich was massive. Back then one could afford that largesse. But it was so big that it was too rich. We’ve worked on the size for years. I think this is about perfect.’

The onions

 ‘To ensure the richness isn’t overwhelming, we steep thin slices of red onion in cider vinegar and sugar. Pile them on top of the sandwich, then scoff it all with your fingers.’

Quo Vadis. 26-29 Dean St. Tottenham Court Rd. £10.50.

Now find out what goes into Tōu’s inimitable Iberian katsu sando

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