A rather fortuitous circumstance meant that Ritsy and I were able to pop in to EARL Canteen for lunch one day last month, and after all I have heard about EARL since it’s grand opening a little over a year ago, I was very excited.
Now, it may seem odd for somebody to get excited about a inner-city cafe that pumps out little more than sandwiches all day long – and I would agree, if the sandwiches were of the usual ham / lettuce / tomato variety. What you get at EARL is, effectively, a well conceived “restaurant quality” (their words not mine) meal in between two slices of bread.
The fancy-fillings-inside-a-sandwich idea in itself is not new – Tom Colicchio, one of America’s most notable chef’s, established his ‘wichcraft chain in the USA way back in 2003 – but that doesn’t mean it’s not a welcome addition to the Melbourne lunching scene.
As far as the sandwiches themselves go, EARL Canteen unfortunately suffers from the same sort of problems that restaurants sometimes have. Irregularly placed ingredients in my “Duck Confit” sandwich ($16) meant that the first 3/4 of the ciabatta-based dish felt like it was missing something – which turned out to be the Onion Jam and the Caramelised Figs, which were hiding away underneath the radicchio up the other end of the roll.
Still, I think it needed some kind of sauce – perhaps a small amount of duck gravy – as the sandwich, as a whole, was quite dry (Ritsy disagrees, and thinks I’m just obsessed with duck gravy!!!). And that’s not to say that it’s the bread’s fault either – baked fresh from the wonderful bakers at Dench Bakers, the ciabatta was fantastic – a highlight of the sandwich, in fact – and it shows a lot of thought has gone into the sandwich crafting process.
Ritsy had the “REAL Steak Sandwich” ($13.50), which came with a seriously big steak knife! The meat was super juicy, but as a whole, the sandwich could have done with some more of the balsamic baby onions.
After we finished our sandwiches, we went to the counter to pay our bill, and caught a glimpse of some delicious looking Macarons in the salad / sweets display cabinet. There were about 8 different flavours, but we couldn’t go past adding two of the Salted Caramel Macarons ($2.50 each) to our bill. I’d love to know who supplies them to EARL, as they were absolutely delicious!!
With 10 different sandwiches, a few salads, and some tasty treats on offer, you’re sure to find something to your liking at EARL. Best to arrive early if you want to nab yourself a (shared) table, otherwise, their takeaway service looked like it was reasonably quick. It’s currently open from 7.30am – 5pm Monday to Friday.