Food consultant Nellie Nichols struggles to open Tesco Finest sandwich packs in her latest review, but finds the results are well worth it
I would like to think that a company employing over 360,000 people with 2,365 stores in 12 countries … which can insure your cat, home, car, holiday, oh yes and your life, as well as sort you a mortgage and furnish your house when you’ve got it, must be able to sell you a damn fine sandwich. With that kind of multi-tasking it surely goes without saying.
Tesco Metros are ridiculously busy places indeed. The sheer human traffic in the store in Hammersmith Station at 8am has to be seen to be believed.
There’s a kind of an invisible one-way system created by the regulars and if you don’t realise it when you walk in you’ll soon cotton on. Everyone is in a huge hurry. Having navigated the cumbersome flower display slap bang in the entrance, customers are beating a path to the sandwich fixture to choose their lunch at the same time as the large sandwich fridge is being tidied by a member of staff. Don’t you just hate it when customers keep getting in the way.
A wonderful display of toffee apples greets me nestling in amongst the sandwiches. This has to be the most charming seasonal impulse purchase item I’ve ever seen and when I get to the checkout I am served by a smiling lady with two wobbly purple Dracula’s bouncing above her head. Yes, Tesco’s take Halloween very seriously indeed and it’s very refreshing to see a bit of humour on the tills. Armed with my toffee apple I’m off to try my selection of sandwiches.
I’m not off to a good start with something called a Ploughman’s Wedge. It’s obscenely big and bready and no one has thought it might makesense to cut it in half. Never mind half, you could cut it into hundreds of bits and feed an army with it. It is impossible to negotiate and I’m glad no one can see my feeble attempt to bite into it.
I can’t find anything very worthwhile to say about it except it’s only £1.65. If you ate a whole one you wouldn’t need to eat again for several days and the tomatoes are very tasty. That’s as good as this one gets. This unfortunate wedge has a friend in the form of a very large Tuna and Sweetcorn White Sub Roll at £1.59. Again this one is for someone who hasn’t eaten in a long time and despite the roll being soft it’s managing to be dry at the same time.
The tuna is overworked to exhaustion and no longer has any texture. If all the tuna mixers in the country were turned off after one very quick blitz instead of churning away as if making butter, they would all look and taste a while lot better. Let me move on.
I’ve picked up a couple of wraps and the first one I’m trying is a Deep Fill American Style Club Wrap. This is incredible value at £2.15, brimming with Chicken and Bacon, good salad and a creamy dressing. It’s well made and the tomato tortilla is soft and fluffy unlike so many out there which are shiny and cardboard like. Under their Healthy Living label there’s a Moroccan Chicken Flatbread. Again, reasonable beyond doubt at £1.59 and a complex but interesting eat.
The spiced fruity dressing is full of surprises: honey, ginger, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, paprika, cinnamon and cayenne pepper – a lot of trouble and well worth it. Red and yellow peppers give it one of its many textures, along with romaine lettuce and a considerable amount of chickpeas.
Now I’ve got nothing against chickpeas but I know a few who do. I think it’s a bit presumptuous to think no one will mind not mentioning them on the front or even the back descriptor label but only in the very tiny small printed list of ingredients which, let’s face it, is not the first thing you read when you’re choosing a sandwich in a hurry.
Also under Healthy Living in the Limited Edition Range is a real gem of a sandwich and one that should be a hugely valuable lesson to every developer who tries and tries to do low calorie and low fat but very often at the expense of any taste at all: Chicken Tikka with a low fat yoghurt and mint dressing with spinach on Kalonji seed bread. It’s £1.55, only 270 calories, only 3.2g of fat and truly delicious. Come out whoever you are that developed this one, it’s inmy 2005 hall of truly great products. So last, but far from least I’ve got to try some of the Finest and see if, in my opinion they are. Well, firstly there is absolutely no way I can open these packs.
“Hold base and pull tab firmly upwards,” is written clearly along the side of the pack. This appears quite straightforward but why the need to give instructions in the first place? Ah, there are some other consumers who couldn’t manage it either.
If you do as you’re told you’ll find the pack slips out of your hand like a banana. After several attempts I realise you need to be a contortionist, or have a ridiculous iron grip in which case you’ll end up completely squashing the sandwich which I managed quite successfully. This is probably why others use a friendly tab with a cut-out around it to easily pull, or a sticker to slide your finger under and open. Sorry but this is way too fiddly and needs an urgent redesign.
On to the product though and that talented developer’s been at it again. The most tender and juicy Roast Beef with not only Horseradish but also Mustard – both so delicious, especially together which no one ever does. £2.49 and so worth it.
A really well thought through Goats Cheese and Chargrilled Vegetables at £1.99. The Goats Cheese made light and mousse like with crème fraiche. I think the veg need to be in bigger pieces and more of them, even if it would take the sandwich a little over the £2.00 mark. Just for that extra umph.
The best I saved till last though – the most cleverly constructed All Day Breakfast, £2.39. It hasn’t got anything new in it but someone has thought up the best visual for sausages I’ve ever seen. What looks like whole sausages cut in half are placed round side down, straight face up giving the most over the top affluent come and get me visual. Maple Sweetcure Bacon, Free Range Egg Mayo, Cumberland Sausages and a very good Tomato Relish. A lot of delicious fat.
So, all in all, I’m inclined to look at Tesco sandwiches in a new light – without doubt very good value and full of surprises. I’m sure Jack Cohen who started it all off in 1919 with a stall in the East End would be very proud. Nellie Nichols is a consultant contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org
Ploughmans Wedge 1.65
Tuna & Sweetcorn Sub Roll 1.59
Club Wrap 2.15
Moroccan Chicken Flatbread 1.59
Chicken Tikka 1.55
Roast Beef 2.49
Goats Cheese 1.99
All Day Breakfast 2.39