When I was just starting out in my career a more senior colleague used to go to Birley’s to buy his lunch most days. That was at least ten years ago and when I went to a Birley’s recently I thought ‘wow, they’ve been going for ten years’. In fact, they have been around for more than 25 years, according to the company’s website – the secret to their longevity is perhaps partly that they do move with the times but aren’t built around trends. If you just want a ham sandwich (that isn’t pre-packaged), you can get a sandwich – but they also do things like Cajun spiced chicken focaccia.
I was on a course near to the chain’s Cannon Street location and didn’t have long for lunch, but didn’t want to take a sandwich back to the windowless basement room the course was in. I didn’t think I had time to eat in a café but tried Birley’s and was pleasantly surprised. I got a table, and had enough time to eat a hot toasted Cubano sandwich containing ham, pulled pork and pickles, and get back to my course in time.
You order your sandwich at one counter and go to another to pay, which keeps the flow of customers moving (and means you can browse what is in the counter without people being in the way), then return to the counter with your ticket and wait for your number to be called – this gives them time to toast a sandwich if you order something hot. You can definitely buy cheaper salads and sandwiches – even in the City – but in my opinion Birley’s is worth the extra money.