Are sandwiches the nations favourite food? If they're are all as good as Max's in Crouch Hill then they soon will be. This weeks interview is with Max Halley.
Prior to setting up the sandwich shop, Max was the General Manager of LeCoq in Highbury and Islington.
Reviewing the restaurant Fay Maschler called Max “a true host” and under his leadership, the restaurant was nominated for ‘Best Front of House’ at the Tatler restaurant awards.
He worked for the Salt Yard Group for years, as a manager, a waiter and a chef. He worked at Arbutus and spent years selling Brindisa’s wonderful food. He has written for everything from Vice to the Guardian, Fire and Knives, Root and Bone and many other magazines. He also wrote a piece in the Salt Yard Cookbook.
Who inspired you to be a chef?
My Dad’s been a wine/booze journalist all my life so I’ve grown up in a very food and wine filled world. Holidays were always trips to visit wine maker mates of my Dad or little skirmishes out to find THAT restaurant famous for doing THAT dish. It was drilled into me that food and booze are two of life’s great pleasures from a very young age. That they are providers of joy, when treated with respect. How could I not end up running a restaurant?
What would be your favourite sandwich filler?
I’ve always wished some genius would put Ham, Egg, Chips, Piccalilli and Malt Vinegar Mayo in a sarnie…Second to that, this girl I used to work with called Vanesa Nieto Gonzalez, made me probably thebest sandwich of my life. It had: Mussels escabeche, Piquillo peppers and Foie Gras. Sounds weird dunnit?! But it blew my tiny mind.
When did you have the idea of Max’s?
I’ve always wanted a top notch greasy spoon or a banging sandwich shop but the idea was really honed by the site itself. It fell on me through a mate of a mate of a mate and forced me to think about exactly what I’d do specific to the site and the location. I think many people have great ideas for businesses that could really work well, but they open them in the wrong place. Understanding what the people around you want is the most fundamentally important thing. Having said that, hark at me! Who the hell am I? I’ve only been open a month! Things are looking alright, but there’s still plenty of time for me to cock it up completely.
Where do you see Max in five years?
I’d like to be the sandwich emancipator. To free the sandwich from the shackles of processed meat, egg and cress and rip off, stale, supermarket, pre-packed shite. I’d like to keep giving people sarnies that more falls out of than you get in most of the ones you buy. I’d like to have changed my surname to Sandwich and to be on the run from Governments angry at the sheer volume of sandwiches I’ve freed and all the trouble they’ve caused. Basically, I want to be the Kim Dotcom of sandwiches. But I’d like to be a bit thinner and not actually ever have to go to jail.
Why sandwiches and why Crouch Hill?
Sandwiches are the best thing ever. Nuff said. And I’ve lived in Finsbury Park since 2001. When I got my mitts on the site I knew I had to open something that as someone who lives here, (I thought) the neighbourhood needed/wanted and was somewhere that if I wasn’t working in it every bloody day, I’d actually want to hang out.
Which restaurant is your number 1 of 2014?
I had a FANTATSTIC joint birthday meal with my dear friend Tom Duffill (Head Chef of the Galvin Bistro) at Artusi in Peckham. Jack (Chef and owner) used to work for Tom and he cooked us the best piece of pork I’ve ever eaten in my life.
I have to say though, that my favourite restaurant of 2014 is undoubtedly Ciao Bella on Lamb’s Conduit Street. It’s massive, boisterous and very Italian, the embodiment of a neighbourhood restaurant. If they need to get through and you’re in the way, the waiters just shove you out the way. I love it!! The Calzone is off the chart and there’s always some bargains on the winelist. I go there nearly every week with my wonderful girlfriend Coralie (who owns Drink, Shop & Do in King’s Cross) as she’s been going there since she was a kid.
Thank you so much Max. A great interview and a great new venue for North London.