Max Halley, London’s madcap sandwich king, sounds bemused as he describes his latest move. “I am fundamentally just a bloke from Finsbury Park,” he says. “Now I’m selling sarnies in Leicester Square.”
Wheeling a cart and cajoling tourists it ain’t. Halley has partnered with the Hippodrome casino — not widely considered a dining mecca — to refresh its bar menu, and so from June 1 will serve his cultsandwiches night and day. Given Halley’s eponymous sandwich shop in Stroud Green is (improbably) one of London’s must-visit restaurants, and given his Mad Hatter-schtick as popular with Vice types as it is with the Sunday Brunch crowd, heading into a casino feels unexpected. Eccentric, you might think, even for him.
No, no, he explains. “The opportunity to bring some of my sandwich-based deliciousness to Leicester Square without having to open a restaurant of my own was just too good not to do,” he says. “I mean, what do I know about renting sites in Soho and that kind of stuff?!”
The move is especially impressive given a decade ago he was waiting tables in Covent Garden, “where everything used to close at midnight, so we all used to go after work to the casino because it was the only place still open.” It also means the Hippodrome is the only place in the country serving Halley’s creations, apart from his N4 bolthole. Now his face is in the entrance, him grinning as cards fly.
His new menu will be plated from 10am until 5am, “served everywhere that isn’t in the Heliot Steak House, basically” and made up of “things that were referential to my fantasy of casino and sports bar fare”, Halley explains. There will be plenty of crushed-up crisps and lashings of mayonnaise — “my two signatures” — as well as the likes of a Coronation Chicken sandwich, because “it seemed such a fun opportunity to take a classic sports bar thing like a fried chicken sandwich and turn it into London’s version”. Other bits and pieces include a riff on the prawn cocktail — “without a doubt one of my favourite dinner party starters. How lovely to put that in between two bits of bread with some crushed up crisps, as is my wont”.
Elsewhere, there’ll be both a meaty and meat-free deli sandwich, a BLT and a so-called Meatball Bonanza, where the Heliot’s prime US beef will be re-purposed. Halley is a fan of sharing: “Anywhere we can hold hands and jump around together, the better.” Still, when he was wiping down tables in Covent Garden he can’t have thought he’d end up with his face on a Leicester Square billboard, gurning over a white loaf.
“If you’re going to be known for anything, it might as well be for putting things between two slices of bread,” he says, his chuckle settling into a silent pause. “You know, life is a frequent and unexpected joy.”
Max Halley’s menu will be served from June 1 at the Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square, WC2H 7JH. For more information, visit hippodromecasino.com