Landmark Square was alive on Thursday at midday, filled with curious workers lured by live music and the promise of free eats, served by Hastings’ newest contenders for the lunch time market, the appropriately named Best Sammies in Town. Surrounded by public art — striking sculpture by Philipp Meier and grungy mural by Joe Rowntree — the purpose-built courtyard and container are finally being put to good use.
Proprietor Nick Ainsley served a selection of sandwiches from a vintage suitcase, free for launch day, to the lucky first forty customers. On the podium behind, local band, the Kawekas, performed a surprisingly broad range of sandwich-themed songs. The music was put on by the Hastings Vibrancy Fund, committed to enlivening the city centre as part of the Covid recovery plan. The vibe was certainly created.
Nick is a hospitality veteran of twelve years, a coffee aficionado with a palate refined from years on the ground in his London home. He and his partner, Sam, were drawn to the Bay in 2019 by her Council waste management job, and have found solace in a slower pace of life.
Living communally in a cluster of house buses in the Waimarama Hills, Nick, like many of us, discovered a passion for baking during lockdown. His focaccia perfected, the couple invested in a commercial kitchen trailer, dragged it onto their land, and embarked on a mission to bring the UK sandwich culture they so missed to the community they have grown to love.
His fillings reflect the diversity of the London food scene, marrying British staples — egg salad, roast veg, bacon and creamy chicken — fused with elements of world cuisine — miso, mango pickle, miso and dukkah. Four options on offer, like a cut-throat TV talent show, the least popular will be deleted every few weeks in favour of something new. His bread is a labour of love, fresh-baked daily requiring a twenty hour ferment and a 5.30am start.
His target market is the lunch hour crowd — he’ll be slinging sandwiches between midday and 1pm, Tuesday to Friday. With limited supplies and a waste management eye that might stem from his partner’s profession, he’s launching a pre-order system. Let him know by 9am to collect your sandwich from noon. Once they get off their feet they’re hoping to deliver too, for those too busy to leave their desks.
It’s a cosmopolitan business model with a rustic, roots in the earth feel that fits where Hastings is at in this place and time. It also helps that the sandwiches are genuinely delicious. Get them before they sell out.