The club sandwich is believed to have originated at the Union Club of New York, at the end of the 19th century. The earliest reference to it was as “two toasted slices of Graham bread, with a layer of turkey or chicken and ham between them, served warm”.
A ‘classic’ club sandwich consists of sliced turkey, bacon, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and mayonnaise on toasted white bread. The basic recipe has been unchanged for nearly a century, but many chefs are beginning to veer away from tradition. While some include a fried egg; others add avocado; many swap turkey for chicken; and most have a second layer, although it is not mandatory.
Some are served on white bread, others on wholemeal or even gluten-free bread. Club sandwiches are usually served with fries on the side and ketchup as a condiment, and are often served with coleslaw or a salad.
What should one expect from a modern-day club sandwich? According to Richard Ekkebus, the two-Michelin-starred executive chef of the Mandarin Oriental Landmark Hotel in Hong Kong: “The perfect club sandwich has to be triple-layered. It should be perfectly toasted white bread; two generous layers of two types of bacon — treacle-cured back bacon and applewood-smoked fatty bacon; one layer of turkey ham; slices of peeled vine tomatoes, fleurs de sel [salt] and a turn of white pepper; hard-boiled Japanese Taiyouran eggs sliced; and shredded lettuce mixed with Dijonnaise — Dijon-mustard-and-Worcestershire-sauce-enhanced mayonnaise. Any chef that says it should contain cheese, chicken or avocado is probably just making a nice sandwich, and should not call it a club sandwich. A perfect club is served warm with French fries, ketchup and mayonnaise on the side, and is cut in perfect triangles that are held together with bamboo picks; a well-crafted club does not fall to bits when eaten.”
But opinion differs. Executive chef Philippe Marc of the Plaza Athénée in Paris says a club sanwich is “a well-toasted artisanal bread that resists the filling and stays crisp; well-roasted chicken or turkey; and a homemade mayonnaise. It also needs to be meticulously stacked, in a triangular form, and cut only once.
He adds: “The club can certainly be reinvented using regional ingredients but the best version remains the classic. If I were to compose a British club sandwich, I would pick roast beef; English mustard; lettuce and, of course, a free-range egg; homemade mayonnaise; and home-cured bacon.”
Read our Club Sandwich Index here.