Ever peckish, in the latest of our features spotlighting the fantastic independents in our town, we make for the Thug Sandwich Company on Albert Street where Dan and Soph serve their sandwiches with a large helping of passion.
Chat to Dan for less time than he takes to produce a breakfast sandwich and you get a sense of his huge passion for the food he produces at the Thug Sandwich Company. He is a chef by training and marinaded in the ways of fine dining and he now applies that experience to produce sandwiches of a mouth-watering quality.
The Albert Street shop is small with white walls, simple blackboard menus and a pristine stainless steel kitchen area at the back. But this functional, organised space belies the flair and sheer hard work that goes into producing a Thug sandwich (and yes, we do find out about that name).
Thug offers breakfast, brunch and lunch sandwich menus, salads, snacks such as their own scotch eggs, sweet treats and drinks. And there’s also an outside catering service. But it’s the sandwich specials where Dan’s heart “truly lies” and you can tell.
He explains: “It’s all about techniques and flavours and making the best of each ingredient. We cook all our own meats right here and salads are freshly made on the premises. My heart truly lies in the specials.”
The pork shoulder is slow-cooked in a homemade BBQ sauce, the beef short-rib slow-cooked in a homemade sticky honey and soy sauce and lamb shoulder cooked in curry spices.
All the ingredients Dan uses are locally-sourced from the same suppliers he had when he worked previously at Rudding Park. While the bread is not produced on the premises, it comes from a trusted supplier.
Dan says: “I don’t cut corners with the ingredients. It’s local, best quality and fresh, not least because there’s less travel time involved.”
And for Dan and Soph, Thug Sandwich Company is all about time. They open at 8am so the office workers can get their traditional breakfast. Then there’s a slightly quieter brunch period before the lunchtime stampede when the queue is “out of the door” and then they close at 3pm. They are getting to understand the character of their working day and the character of their customers. “We already have our regulars who start at the top of the menu and work down.
“I like the chit-chat. I used to work front of house and then I moved into the kitchen and I missed the interaction,” Dan confesses.He acknowledges that opening Thug was also about time within the bigger picture of life – over which we probably all wish we had more control.
“I was working 12-16 hours a day on someone else’s dream. My ambition is to have time outside work, to step back and think about family and kids.
“My girlfriend and I were like ships that pass in the night and it’s not a healthy lifestyle,” he says candidly.
Then of course comes that moment when an idea starts to become a reality. Dan couldn’t find a sandwich which, with his culinary background, he would have wanted to eat himself.
“There was a gap in the market. I couldn’t find a sandwich. Sandwiches in the chain stores are bland and repetitive. For them it’s a numbers game, there’s no passion. We’re the opposite, how it should be,” he says.
And to emphasise his point, the home page of his website boldly carries his clarion call of “pushing for independence”. A blackboard in the shop window has the same statement.
Originally, he and another chef were going to set up a trendy pop-up catering company from the basement of a premises but, as Dan says: “It never happened.”
It was going to be called The Underground Catering Company but Dan liked the name and took the t, h, u and g to come up with the name for his own business.
He says: “It’s quirky. People ask about the name. It’s a good brand and it sticks in the memory.”
And for Dan and Soph, memory and time and a passion for food are what Thug is all about.
Thug Sandwich Co. website: thugsandwich.co.uk