Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lully's Sandwich Bar | 732 Broughton Street | Victoria, BC

Update, March 28, 2012:  Lully's is no more, replaced by the Cleopatra Hookah Bar.  As of this writing the hookah bar is not yet open to the public but, according to a source, hopes to be soon.

Like any good origin story the beginning of the sandwich is the subject of some conjecture:  are they a super-intelligent race of aliens rendered mute by their entry into our atmosphere?  Ancient texts that have the misfortune of tasting like Montreal smoked meat?  Both tantalizing theories, both unlikely ever to be properly investigated.  

The origin of the sandwich is lost to time and that may be for the best.  Scholars everywhere would never have recovered from learning that all their lives they've been using their lunch hours to masticate what's left of the Alexandrian Library. What is known about the sandwich is that name itself comes from John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich .  An inveterate gambler & gourmand he demanded of his servant something that wouldn't require his Highness to shift His bulk away from his beloved card game.  A full-turkey is a bit unwiedly to eat whilst gambling away the manor house so a piece of salt beef, wait for it, sandwiched between two toasted bits of bread fit the bill nicely instead and soon Montagu's fellow gambling addicts would order "the same as Sandwich!".  That makes our most commonly eaten modern foodstuff named after an obese gambling addict.  

You may disagree with me as to its ubiquity but you are quite wrong.  Walk around the city and you'll see shop after shop whose display cases are full of sandwiches.  Sure, some of them are dressed up with names like "panini", which sounds like an Italian violinist and the "ciabatta" or "filone" both of which sound like supercars but it's all the same thing.  Maybe it's the six years I spent working in a delicatessan but whatever you decide to call it, "butterbrot", "manwich" or "Stanley", to me it is still just filling between bread; the sort of thing served in the rest home by nurses with soothing voices who, after feeding you,  tell you that your no-account grandson called to cancel his visit.  Again.  The sandwich I had at Lully's Sandwich Bar was miles beyond that, thick, filling and delicious, but on their own they wouldn't win my recommendation.  Couple that sandwich with Lully's homemade soup and it's almost enough to give a man religion.

Lully's opened in mid-October last year and has very quickly risen in popularity amongst the office lunch-hour set.  When I stopped in last week I wasn't sure what to expect as, for reasons already stated, I usually avoid soup and sandwich joints, and when I need my quick lunchtime fix it's hard to walk past La Fiesta Cafe without stopping.  In the bottom floor of the SoMA building, shoehorned between Japanese Villlage and the world's most high-tech parking garage, Lully's glass frontage & bright lights seem welcoming from the outside and that feeling stayed once I stepped inside.  The restaurant itself is small, three counters and a handful of stools separated from the kitchen by a chest-high tile wall, itself topped with jars of cherry peppers & pickles.  Everything very bright, everything very open and cheery, including the greeting I got from Scully White, owner and operator.

I ordered the "Rocknrolla Roast Beef Sandwich" on rye, the spicy potato & leek soup and a coffee.  I defaulted to a Coke after learning there was no coffeee.  With only two other diners in the place I had a fair amount of room although I'm sure that changes on a busy lunch-hour.  Above the front window there is a raft of Liverpool F.C. gear, a nice change considering that most European League football fans in North America are fixated on that pack of hooligans Manchester United.

There was also a television that was tuned, unsurprisingly, to a football game.  Despite spending 5 months of 2008 living in the U.K. I still think watching a two-hour football match is more boring than the driving section of the Times-Colonist so while I waited I focused my attention on the floor-to-ceiling windows rather than the television above.  "People-watching" is a fun way to kill a bit of time and you're forever learning new things.  It has taught me, among other things, that Victoria has far too many severe-looking career women with pulled-back hair who appear to have bartered away their breasts to God in exchange for a scowl that could curdle milk.  You can't learn these kinds of things in school.

When lunch arrived I was immediately impressed.  The sandwich itself, roast beef on black forest rye with horseradish, lettuce, tomato, pickle, cucumber & a cherry pepper, was enormous, fresh and delicious.  And the soup?  Oh the soup.  Hearty without being rich, nice big chunks of potato and just spicy enough that you notice, don't tell my grandmother but it was easily the best soup I've ever had.  Apropos of nothing, Scully brought the few customers in the place samplers of the other three soups he had on that day:  barley, pea & cream of broccoli.  Each of them was perfect, the barley for one had a strong but not overpowering taste of rosemary that set it off perfectly.  The cream of broccoli particularly impressed me because I don't normally like the stuff and I finished the entire cup that I was given.  By the time I was finished I was absolutely stuffed, so full and so pleased with the quality of what was on offer that the $16.57 I'd paid for soup, sandwich & soda seemed a great deal.  No, it's not cheap but it's worth it.  My only real complaint is the lack of a hot drink selection on the menu.  It doesn't need to be fancy, no one needs a latte with their smoked-meat sandwich but a straight-up cup of joe would have finished the meal perfectly. 

When your only complaint about a place is one item missing from the beverage menu you know they're doing something right.  In the case of Lully's Sandwich Bar they're doing a lot of things right and the fact that they're doing so after only having been open a few months is staggering.  I know I'll be back.  Hopefully there's a cup of coffee waiting.

Lully's on Urbanspoon


  1. You need to try the Sandwhich's at Red Barn Market, Valanalman & Glanford. AMAZING.
    AND only 4.50. All super fresh ingrediants, many local, the bread is also amazing and about 11 different kinds to choose from. Its made to order and the best i've had, and cheap!

  2. Thats funny because I've tried to eat there and its horriable! The girls behind the counter were getting mad at each other and then snapped at this white haired old man infront of me because he couldnt hear her. And as for the food, the lettuce was brown and the bread was stale. I eventually gave my sandwich to my dog that ended throwing it up. They need to stop hiring ex-convics and hire some nice people. People with food safe knowledge...

  3. If the staff had been throwing that kind of attitude around when I was there I wouldn't have bothered ordering. You're a more patient person than I am.

    Since I now have to walk past both Il Posto & La Fiesta in order to get to Lully's I haven't eaten there in months and it sounds like I shouldn't hurry back. That's unfortunate because I really enjoyed the food and thought the place had potential.

    Thanks for writing in!

  4. I had the chicken sandwich some time ago and was unimpressed. Hot/spicy without being flavourful, and way overpriced. For my money, Devour down the street is a far better choice. Consistently amazing food.