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'They make the best jambons in the whole entire world': 6 top chefs share their go-to deli orders

Sometimes the deli is your only man. So what do the country’s most respected foodies order from theirs?

Image: milo-photo

BACK IN 2006, the biggest selling song of the year was Jumbo Breakfast Roll by comedian Pat Shortt.

Shortt’s tongue-in-cheek song charted the nation’s unhealthy obsession with the calorie-laden, mouth-watering food.

The song tells the story of how the main character ends up in the doctor’s surgery with heart pains, due to overindulging in a jumbo breakfast roll every morning. But breakfast roll man wasn’t alone. The reason the song rocketed to number one in the Irish charts was because Shortt had hit the nail on the head, identifying a craze that went on to become synonymous with Irish society in the Celtic Tiger years.

Nowadays, of course, things are different. With the rise of veganism as well as stocking organic veggie salads, sushi, soups and vegetarian options in Ireland’s delis, it is evident that a different ethos is sweeping through the food world. But the bread and butter of the Irish deli counter are still the sausage rolls, jambons and breakfast rolls.

Everyone eats from a deli counter at some point. We caught up with some of Ireland’s top chefs to uncover what food they really grab from the deli on the go.

Jess Murphy

Murphy says she like a good jambon. “The Cupcake Bloke in Rialto [in Dublin] makes the best jambons in the whole entire world,” she says.

She also loves McCambridge’s of Galway, a café and deli on Shop Street, and she can’t resist their ham. “It’s got a cult following.”

She doesn’t know exactly how they prepare it, but she thinks it involves a 48-hour process. “It is the stuff of legendary quality,” she says. “At Christmas time, people are all going – have you ordered your McCambridge’s ham?”

So, she regularly pops in there and gets the ham with cheese and chutney on a sandwich, they also do amazing organic fruit and veg and excellent coffee, says Murphy.

Chefs work long hours, so delis do come in handy, she says. “Because you work in a restaurant five or six days a week you don’t necessarily want to go to a restaurant when you’re off,” she says. “You might want to get a sandwich and sit at the Spanish Arch. You take any fresh air that you can get.”

Jess Murphy is head chef and co-owner of Kai in Galway City. 

Anthony Smith

Smith doesn’t go to shop deli-counters often, he says, but like many of us when he does, its because its the morning after the night before. In those instances, it would be to indulge in the guilty pleasure of a breakfast roll.

“Sometimes, when alcohol tells me to,” he says with a laugh – because it helps “to make the pain go away.”

But his favourite deli is close to work at 147 Parnell Street, he says. “It’s excellent, they do a lovely Reuben.” That is a sandwich with pastrami, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, he says. Smith once lived in New York, and misses having a large variety of specialist delis within close proximity, he says.

Anthony Smith is head chef and co-owner of Mr Fox on Parnell Square. 

Juha Salo

Salo also tips the Reuben as his favourite deli sandwich – it must be a chef thing! He thinks Fallon and Byrne is the best deli in Dublin. Although it is not a deli, he has a tip he wants to share for that lovers of all things pastrami. You should head to Airfield in Dundrum. It’s a farm with a restaurant but they make the best Reuben he’s ever had, he says.

Juha Salo is the head chef at the Legal Eagle, on Chancery Place in Dublin 7.

Steve Trew

Trew lives in Listowel and he frequents the deli at his local Spar shop, on the Bridge Road. After a night out, he goes for a breakfast roll, he says. “If I walked there and I was slightly hungover, then I’d have a breakfast roll with everything in it apart from eggs, but with loads of ketchup.”

More often though he stops there for a coffee on his way to work in Tralee. “Sometimes I’d get a wrap with chicken and salad mix, sometimes coleslaw and cheese.”

Steve Trew is head chef at Cassidy’s in Tralee, Co  Kerry.

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Paul McDonald

McDonald hails from Glasgow the land of the deep-fried Mars bar, and while attending school, he often had battered and deep fried pizza for lunch, he says. Nowadays, he doesn’t eat from delis very often – but when he does, he favours jambons or sausage rolls.

His favourite deli is called Deli Zique, back home in Glasgow, where his orders are roast beef, horseradish, cheese and rocket, and mozzarella and ham.

They sell focaccia sandwiches by the inch meaning you can choose the size.”In Glasgow or in Scotland, in general, a sandwich is called a ‘piece’” he says. Thus, the system of choosing your size gives rise to lots of risqué jokes. As in – “I’ll take six inches of your big piece,” he says laughing.

Paul McDonald is the head chef and owner of Bastion in Kinsale, which was awarded Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’ status last year.

Kevin Powell

Powell loves a good breakfast roll with sausages, bacon and hash brown, he says.

But brace yourself for this, he opts for an interesting selection of condiments to complete his ideal breakfast roll. “I’ve an awful love of mixing ketchup, mayonnaise and butter on a breakfast roll,” he says laughing. “I’d go for all three.” 

He has two favourite delis in Dublin. The basement in Avoca is a front runner for their tasty rotisserie chicken or rotisserie pork.

Then there is also the delicatessen in Little Italy in Smithfield. “They do mortadella – which is like billy roll, it’s a cooked salami,” he says. “I get slices of that from the deli any chance I get.”

“I have my own dream to someday have a New York style deli – with brisket and pickles,” he says. Powell recently launched a new wine and cheese bar, called Loose Canon on Drury Street, so he is halfway toward his dream of owning a deli.

Kevin Powell is the owner of award-winning brunch hotspot Meet Me in the Morning.

More: 48 hours in Galway: An insider guide to the very best of the city’s buzzing food scene>

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