A few weeks ago I had a day off work. I had various errands to run, and calculated that I would be passing through Alton (Hampshire) at around lunch-time.
I actually went to sixth form college in Alton, and even worked there for a couple of years, but I hadn’t really been there for about 10 years, so thought I should check out what had changed when it came to food.
Back at college I had no money for food, so any purchases were from the college canteen. I remember eating Cadbury Creme Eggs with a teaspoon (I don’t think teaspoons fit into them anymore) and buying these bacon crisps in a pink newspaper-style packet that I still remember as the best bacon crisps ever (a bit like a thin version of Smith’s Chipsticks).
10 or so years on when I was working in the area, my favourite treat was a toasted ciabatta from Butties, a tiny sandwich shop. As I remember it, they only sold one type, ready-assembled and wrapped in foil to be toasted as required. They were crammed with ham, mushrooms, cheese and mayo, and were awesome. I think the liberal amount of mayo was the secret. That amount of calories can only taste good.
On my recent visit, I chose not to return to Butties (9 Market Street), for fear of disappointment that the sandwich would no longer exist. Instead I went to Bottega dei Sapori (8 High Street), and striding past the tempting looking cakes out front, I plonked myself at a small table. I had come armed with a book, but spent so much time eavesdropping on neighbouring tables and spying on their food, I actually did very little reading.
The selection is sandwich-focused, but there were some hot specials. However I was seduced by the possibility of having a free-range chicken sandwich, and so had a Chicken Milanese (I think that is what is was called…). This was fresh ciabatta enclosing a thin breaded chicken escalope topped with iceberg and lemon mayo. I accompanied it with an apricot juice.
Just the fact it was free-range would have made up for a lot. The bread was wonderful (I could have had it toasted but I wasn’t sure how that would affect the salad). The chicken was bland, and coated in orangey crumbs which lacked crunch. However cold breaded chicken is normally bland and non-crunchy, so I was okay with this. I’m not a fan of iceberg, and would have liked more lemon in the mayo to add a real punch, but I feel really guilty criticising as I don’t come across this kind of sandwich on a daily basis.
I would definitely, definitely return. They had the most amazing-looking cakes and other tasty-sounding sandwiches to try. And they had apricot juice!