Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
Of all the dishes to spend serious money on, dropping £250 on a luxury sandwich seems especially questionable.
For centuries, stuffing budget fillings into a cheap and cheerful bready package has formed the bedrock of the British diet. Paying the price of a five-course dinner for the privilege seems to slightly miss the point.
However, for one maverick Chelsea sandwich maker, bread and butter is no obstacle to overindulgence
We talk to Italian Andrea Zagatti about his viral range of luxury sandwiches, how £250 can possibly be justified and how you can bring a taste of the lux life to your own lunch.
The £250 Billionaire from Mr Z Luxury Sandwiches (Credit: Instagram/Mr Z Luxury Sandwiches)
Andrea Zagatti’s £250 luxury sandwiches
Andrea Zagatti certainly isn’t your average sandwich seller. As a classically trained cook who’s graced some of the most famous kitchens in the world, he certainly has some serious fine dining chops.
However, in the midst of lockdown, it seems he has found his calling away from Michelin stars. His new business, Mr Z Luxury Sandwiches, is a gold and caviar-covered middle finger to the worst economic crisis for 300 years.
Unashamedly ostentatious and gloriously luxurious, the menu boasts wagyu beef, Scotland’s finest smoked salmon and enough truffle to sink a battleship.
READ MORE: What is the best sandwich in London?
His latest invention, “The Billionaire”, features a blend of wagyu, caviar and 24-carat gold leaf and is priced at a cool £250. Small wonder he’s been turning heads.
“We went viral on Twitter on day one,” Zagatti explains to me over the phone. “The reception from the public has been beautiful.”
Everything about the Mr Z brand, it seems, is designed to make a statement. Zagatti tells me that he tested over 80 different couriers in London, for instance, before settling on the Mercedes Benz luxury fleet now in use.
However, the idea behind the brand isn’t all purposeless opulence. It’s clear from our conversation that Zagatti has a genuine passion for quality produce. He has also recently partnered with food-sharing service OLIO to reduce his own waste.
It might sound like the last days of Versailles, but there is also a method to the madness.
The Da Vinci – including deliciously creamy Buffalo Burrata (Credit: Mr Z Luxury Sandwiches)
Why should you spend £50 on a sandwich?
On the surface, sandwiches might not seem like the best way to make such a bold statement. However, as Zagatti explains, they’re actually a perfect medium for what he’s trying to do.
“I was looking for something ‘easy’. Easy to have either at home, in the office or as a snack.
“I’m a fan of amazing ingredients,” he continues. “For example, we have on the menu at the moment a buffalo burrata which literally has an expiry date of 48 hours.
“I get it shipped from Italy every two days for the Da Vinci sandwich because it is such a mindblowing product.
“I can tell you, with confidence, that everything I’m using is of three Michelin star quality,” he adds.
As Zagatti sees it, sandwiches allow him to combine the ingredients he loves with a product that can be easily distributed. It’s this mix of factors that make sandwiches such a perfect vehicle for luxury.
However, it’s been clear from some of the responses to his menu that not everyone agrees. Several critics have questioned whether spending such a significant sum of money on a sandwich can be justified, especially in the current climate.
Regardless, Zagatti certainly seems to be benefitting from the notoriety. However, he claims that the response to his menu was totally unexpected. As he puts it:
“I’m lucky enough that in my last six years as a private chef I have been around the ‘one percent’. So when I started selling sandwiches for £25 or £50, to me it didn’t sound like a very expensive sandwich.
“When you eat something of quality, it’s always at least £50 – even in restaurants. So I didn’t think it was a crazy price, but obviously the reaction was the opposite.”
The ‘Poseidon’ – featuring smoked salmon and caviar in a croissant (Credit: Mr Z Luxury Sandwiches)
What’s in a luxury sandwich
The price might make your eyes water, but Zagatti insists that his customers still get proper value for money.
As he reveals, the 30-40 sandwiches he sells per day rarely get anything other than rave reviews. One look at the ingredients list and it’s easy to see why.
His menu includes the infamous £50 ‘Millionaire’ – boasting aged rib-eye, gold leaf and king oyster mushrooms – and the £25 ‘Bunny Hop’ vegan sandwich. Zagatti’s personal favourite is the £35 ‘Poseidon’ croissant, featuring salmon and a thick seam of Oscietra caviar.
It’s fair to assume that most of these components are beyond the reach of the average home cook. However, Zagatti still has some top tips for anyone eager to recreate their own luxury sandwiches at home.
His biggest piece of advice is to focus on the ingredients. As he explains: “Try to look for the local suppliers. As always, the best way to choose food is to smell it, to look at it and to feel it.”
But there’s no point in overindulging if you aren’t enjoying yourself.
“Have fun with it,” Zagatti continues, citing a recent experiment involving smoked salmon, caviar, maple syrup and pancakes. “Try different combinations, see how crazy you can get and play with flavours.”
Clearly, Zagatti’s approach to cooking isn’t designed to cater to everyone. But, as he continues to cook up a storm across social media, it’s hard to argue that his approach isn’t having an impact.