Decoding: Club Sandwiches

The club sandwich has become a ubiquitous staple on all hotel room service menus and cafes alike.  So what is a true club sandwich, where did it originate from and who makes a good one?  There is mush dispute over these questions, so I will give you the facts as I know them and let you decide for yourselves.

By definition: a Club sandwich, also called a club house or double-decker sandwich is a sandwich with two layers of fillings between 3 slices of toasted bread. It is often cut into quarters and held together by hors d’oeuvre sticks.  The traditional club ingredients are chicken, bacon, egg, lettuce and mayonnaise. Other common club sandwiches generally vary the bottom layer, for example a “chicken club” or a “roast beef club”. Variations might include ham (instead of bacon) and/or additional cheese slices. As with a BLT sandwich, the club sandwich is usually served on toasted bread. Mayonnaise and mustard and sometimes honey mustard are common condiments. The sandwich is commonly served with a side portion of either coleslaw, or potato salad, and often accompanied by a pickle. The coleslaw or potato salad is often reduced to a “garnish” portion, when the primary side item is an order of French fries or potato chips.

My version of a Club Sandwich

The most popular theory is that the sandwich first appeared in 1894 at the famous Saratoga Club-House (an exclusive gentlemen only gambling house in upstate Saratoga Springs, New York). Originally called Morrissey’s Club House, were neither women nor locals were permitted in the gambling rooms. In 1894 Richard Canfield, purchased the Saratoga Club to make it a casino.  Canfield Solitaire was originated in the casino’s gambling rooms and the club sandwich in its kitchens.

So now we know the guidelines and the history we need to determine what makes a good club.  I have my personal favourites when making one but I also managed to gather a small archive of clubs from around the world to demonstrate the versatility of this great sandwich.

  The Four Seasons “Georges V”, Paris: A nice looking sandwich; the use of 4 slices of bread made it very user-friendly to eat but I found you lost that club taste as you had the tendency to eat half the sandwich at a time.  Bacon was optional when ordering and fries were a supplementary charge.  Total for sandwich with fries: 51 Euro!! (the most I have ever paid for a sandwich to date……) 

  The Four Seasons Hotel,  Mumbai (Cafe Prato): A classic sandwich in terms of filling with the exception of chicken salad as opposed to sliced chicken.  Only two layers of bread but the homemade sour dough which used, offers a very unique flavour.  A rather big sandwich in terms of portion size so it can be difficult to eat, so have a napkin on standby…….

  The Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai (Fenix): While the overall taste was great (particularly liked the use of avocado); unfortunately all the filling was in the center of the sandwich (my pet hate!).  So when I got to the edges all I could taste was toasted bread, rather than relishing (pun not intended) all the flavours together in each and every bite.  Overall though, a good sandwich.

  The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai (Room service): A somewhat disappointing effort from such an iconic hotel.  Extremely poorly assembled; showing a complete lack of passion and effort from the chef.  The filling again, all located in the center of the sandwich.  Plastic processed cheese was used along with a very low quality ham instead of bacon.  For this gastronomic treat, I was put out-of-pocket almost 20 Euro….

  The Banyan Tree, Bangkok (Room service): I loved the use of the banana leaf liner and the lemongrass skewer to hold the sandwich.  It gave a nice local feel to the dish while not completely transforming it to a “Thai” sandwich.  In terms of content this version really packed a punch, measuring in at over 8 inches high it was the most generous by far, which unfortunately was also to its demise.  It was not possible to eat!  It required being broken down into sections which in turn lost that club charm, and gave the impression that it had been under seasoned.  It appeared rather crudely assembled but I think that is also just a result of over filling making it difficult for the chefs to handle.  

  The Raffles Hotel, Cambodia: I loved the simplicity yet elegance of this club.  The lemongrass skewers gave a sense of location yet in a refined manner.  The sandwich was assembled with care and the flavours complimented each other well.  The option of white or rye bread was offered, it was lightly toasted which again gave for ease when eating.  A great example of a good all round club sandwich.

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About chefcjcooper

A kiwi chef - food, wine and cigar aficionado; travelling the globe and sharing my tales of culinary discoveries.

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