By Julien Lepretre
It was a cold winter’s day, and I’d forgotten to pack a lunch. It came midday and, stomach yearning for sustenance, I wandered down to the Yum café hopelessly committed to the £3.95 meal deal. Confronted by the rafters of sandwiches, I stood there as if in a daze, paralysed by the choices that lay before me. I thought to myself, “if only there was some sort of guide I could consult to help me with this decision.” The article that follows is that guide. You’re welcome.
Before diving straight in to the rabbit-hole that is the Yum café sandwich selection, we must first acquaint ourselves with the complex tier system they employ in their pricing.
We need not concern ourselves with the paninis and salads, due to the discerning choices of the powers that be that one of the busiest buildings in the whole university should carry only a very limited and narrow stock.
As you can see, there is a rather large disparity between Band A-E. Band A contains the likes of the common ham sandwich and the mysteriously filled ‘Cheese Savoury’, whilst Band E contains the big-hitters, such as the BBQ Pulled Pork and Peri-Peri Chicken.
A stalwart of the sandwich world, the OED dates the first use of the phrase ‘ploughman’s lunch’ back to 1837. In its most basic form it contains cheese, usually cheddar, lettuce, and pickle. YUM’s incarnation of it did contain all of these, and its authenticity in this sense cannot be faulted.
However, the sandwich was greatly let down by its ratios. The proportioning of pickle to cheddar left me with a lactic mouthful, devoid of the sweet vinegary relief that a good ploughman’s should bring. The tomatoes were anaemic and flavourless, but that’s to be expected, and the state of modern fruit and vegetable farming is a matter for another day.
Didn’t spit it out but would not buy again.
BBQ Pulled Pork
The first time I had this sandwich, I was very happy with my purchase. There wasn’t too much pork in there, and it was complemented well with the amounts of BBQ sauce inside. The red onion provided a nice bit of crunch, and the roll was relatively good quality bread. With every purchase since I’ve been chasing this first high, yet seemingly the sandwich is never able to attain it.
The sandwich is usually full of bone-dry pulled pork with a paltry smattering of smoky BBQ sauce. The downfall of this sandwich then is its inconsistency, when you get a good one you’ll undoubtedly enjoy it, but get a bad one and you’ll be chewing for days, and being a Category D you have to question whether the price is worth the risk.
Cheese and Tomato Baton
This was perhaps one of the worst sandwiches I’ve ever had. It was a struggle to finish, just as it is a struggle to find any redeeming qualities. Rammed with low quality cheddar, in a 5:1 cheddar-to-tomato ratio, you’ll struggle to find any respite in your consumption of this sandwich. The bread was poor and finding itself in Category D, it is actually quite expensive.
Prawn Marie Rose
No complaints here. I expected an average Prawn Marie Rose and that’s exactly what I got. Always a safe choice, as long as you like prawns.
Falafel Crumble, Coriander, and Tomato Salsa
I was very impressed by this vegan-friendly delight. Seeing ‘falafel crumble’ on the packet I was very wary of its potential dryness, yet what I found inside was nothing of the sort. The salsa provided a lovely flavour to the sandwich and made sure it was far from the barren Saharan wasteland that I’d feared. Even the bread was good.
If I was a vegan I’d be very happy with this option, albeit even if it is the only option.
Chicken Tikka and Mint Yoghurt
Forming one of two Chicken Tikka sandwiches that the library stocks, I made the decision to review only this one, firstly because it looks a lot nicer, and secondly as I was starting to realise how much this article was costing me.
It is by no means a bad sandwich, the mint yoghurt provided a nice base, and the tikka chicken was very edible, if a little dry. But again, the YUM Café fall down in their ratios, with a little less chicken and a little more mint yoghurt this sandwich really would be up there with the best of them.
Peri Peri Chicken
Trying to capitalise on the flavours popularised by Nando’s, YUM have clearly done their market research, attempting to exploit the stereotypical Durham student’s love for all things related to a chain restaurant.
It wasn’t very nice, though packed a little kick as the beads of sweat that formed on my nose would attest to. The chicken was dry and the sandwich lacked moisture. It also doesn’t seem to be stocked very often, but that’s fine by me. You’re not missing out.
Buying this, I thought it’d be very hard to butcher this mainstay of British sandwich culture. I was right. It was all that I expected: uninspiring but very much edible.
Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil
A simple sandwich. One for the vegetarians and, all in, fairly pleasant. The ratio of this number was far more pleasing than that of its other cheese and tomato brethren, following a 1: 1 ratio of mozzarella to tomato slices. The basil gives it a nice touch of flavour, too.
A recipe conceived by the two principals of the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London for the banquet of the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, this sandwich’s regal roots haven’t dimmed in the sixty-years since. Though perhaps an unfashionable choice amongst the anarchist and anti-monarchist communities, its sensual flavours transcend these earthly political divides.
In its very nature, as the coronation sauce (mayonnaise mixed with curry powder/paste) is naturally integral to the sandwich, it defies the dryness that appears to be the unifying feature of the YUM sandwich range.
For me, at least, Coronation Chicken was the crown of the day.
I learnt a lot on my winding sandwich journey, but I have no qualms in saying that the most valuable morsel of knowledge I gained was becoming aware of the apparently secret competition that the YUM Café runs.
Photographs by: Julien Lepretre