Magazine article The New Yorker

On a Roll

Magazine article The New Yorker

On a Roll

Article excerpt

The Eleventh Earl of Sandwich and his forty-year-old heir, Orlando William Montagu, entered the catering trade in 2001, establishing a chain of sandwich restaurants called Earl of Sandwich. Their partner is the guy who founded Planet Hollywood. They have outlets at the Downtown Disney Marketplace and in the Fort Drum Service Plaza, in Okeechobee, Florida. Later this year, they will open branches in New York, one in midtown and another on John Street. Let this be a sort of two-lantern alarm to the Katzes and the Eisenbergs and the Defontes of the city: the Montagus are coming, and, according to their literature, "we don't serve mere sandwiches. We serve The Sandwich."

The other day, in London, a concerned American sandwich lover performed some reconnaissance. Initially, the Montagus seemed clubbable enough, huddled over a sunny table toward the front of their shop in Ludgate Hill. The father was wearing a blue suit and a tie with elephants on it. The son was wearing a blue suit and a tie with an abstract print. The former's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather is said to have invented the sandwich sometime in the eighteenth century. The French traveller Jean-Pierre Grosley wrote, in 1765, "A minister of state passed four and twenty hours at a public gaming-table, so absorpt in play that, during the whole time, he had no subsistence but a bit of beef, between two slices of toasted bread, which he eat without ever quitting the game. This new dish grew highly in vogue, during my residence in London: it was called by the name of the minister who invented it." N. A. M. Rodger, the biographer of the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, prefers to believe that it was his subject's dedication to the Navy, politics, and the arts--he was a big fan of madrigals--that led him to demand a meal that could be eaten at his desk. Either way, the Montagus, like the "Bachelor" contestant Prince Lorenzo Borghese, are not shy about making new money from an old name. For around six dollars, a customer can obtain the Earl's Club, the Full Montagu, or the Original 1762: roast beef, Cheddar, and horseradish sauce. Time to eat, then.

"I can only have half of something," the Earl said to his son.

Orlando got up to see to the order.

"Paper napkins, Lando, please!"

Orlando returned to the table with a bottle of water and three steaming sandwiches, wrapped in foil. …

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