From time to time those of us living on the wrong side of the Finchley Road like to make the trip over the road and up the hill into Hampstead Village. And so it is that I have twice recently found myself in Hampstead at lunchtime. Both times we were looking for something light with room for coffee and cake afterwards. A sandwich lunch doesn’t quite merit having an entire post to itself, so here’s a 2 for 1, Ginger and White vs. Gail’s.
For it’s mismatching tables and chairs, focus on British food and Square Mile Coffee, Ginger and White is for me Hampstead’s #1 coffee stop. I’m hard to please when it comes to brownies, generally comparing them disfavourably to those heralding from my own kitchen. Theirs are exceptional and give a reviving sugar hit after a long walk up Arkwright Road with Gastrobaby dangling from his baby carrier (he sports an impressively chunky pair of thighs and is not light to carry!). So it was my first port of call when my sister and I decided to take a break from window shopping one day in August. We were pleased to get a table outside on Perrin’s Court and decided to share the goat’s cheese, mango chutney with baby spinach sandwich (£4.95) and the feta, beetroot and bulghur salad. The salad was frankly quite bland, with too much cos lettuce and not enough bulgur. The feta was good quality though, with a firm meaty texture. The sandwich was low on filling and too dry; the tasty chutney only partially redeeming something that could have been knocked up in any Hampstead yummy mummy’s kitchen. From Gastrobaby’s point of view, Ginger and White has a baby change facility though it’s short on space for buggies. He’s looking forward to sampling their kid friendly fish finger sandwich when he has a few more teeth.
With memories of this disappointing lunch still fresh in my mind, we walked past Ginger and Spice at lunchtime today and headed for Gail’s, part of the expanding bakery chain. As Gastrobaby slumbered in the buggy, we settled down at an outside table taking it in turns to head inside to study the extensive array of tarts, pastries, sandwiches and salads. The salads looked tempting but small, and we were hungry. Instead Gastrodad chose the chicken and roast fennel sandwich whilst I made the uninspired but safe choice of a ham and cheese sourdough sandwich. Both were toasted and came to £10.75. Unsurprisingly for an establishment priding itself on its breads, the sourdough was excellent. The filling was a bit mean though with no cheese at all in the first few mouthfuls. Gastrodad’s sole comment on his sandwich was ‘it’s good’, but the speed at which he gobbled it down suggested that he was pleased with his choice.
As we finished our sandwiches, the beginnings of a cry came from the direction of the buggy, suggesting our down time was up! With no time for cake there and then, we pottered back to West Hampstead clutching a bag containing a raspberry bite (£1.20), a pistachio and chocolate bite (£1.20), and a pecan brownie (£3). The raspberry bite didn’t have enough raspberries in it but was moist. I enjoyed the chocolate and pistachio combination, but the brownie was too sticky for me.
So who wins? For superior coffee and cakes as well as a characterful interior, Ginger and White takes first place, but for a tasty sandwich at lunchtime, Gail’s will be my first port of call. Breakfast is still up for grabs, and judging from the enticing menus on offer at both, it looks like it could be a tough one.
Ginger and White, 4a-5a Perrins Court, London, NW3 1QS
Gail’s, 64 Hampstead High Street, London, NW3 1QH