St Julian’s
Tel: 2138 0976

Food: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Ambience: 9/10
Value: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

The music is a tad too loud but there and then, right at the start of things, this is really my only complaint. I cup my exceptional cappuccino, sinking deeper into the folds of a leather-bound sofa and into the creamy thickness of the steamed milk foam. Located on a sunny corner on the way down to Spinola Bay, Crust is a recently opened deli-bakery. Gorgeously decorated with industrial chic style, the high ceilings and whitewashed brick walls lend a loft-like feel to this beautiful space.

At the back of the deli there is a long food counter and beyond that a gleaming open kitchen. I can spy the goodies and my mouth waters. As the name would imply this is a place for cakes and bakes, for pies, breads and breakfasts. We are sadly too late to enjoy breakfast but the refreshingly light lunch menu is an appealing one, consisting of salads, soup, pies, a selection of charcuterie and cheese platters and sandwiches.

Many tempting sandwiches. A sandwich can be unique, it can be unusual. Endlessly adaptable, sand­wiches are perhaps the most democratic of foods. Anyone can make one. It can be eaten anywhere. You can make a sandwich whatever you want it to be. It can be a meal in itself - and this is precisely what happens at Crust.

These are no ordinary sandwiches. Big, hefty, tempting things, there is nothing diminutive or delicate about these exquisite beauties. Crust’s B.B.P.L.T is no run-of-the-mill bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich; this is a bacon sandwich that has been taken up a notch. If you think that the BLT, iconic in its own right, is the best sandwich in the world, I strongly urge you to try this. It is pleasingly un-puritanical, sticking to the basic orthodox ingredient combination but tweaked with the most wonderful embellishments. It is a glorious layering of quality ingredients: sumptuous pork belly (sous-vide for no less than 12 hours), a tangy piccalilli relish and a bacon soy mayo. Oh, and lettuce and tomatoes, of course. The fresh in­gredients had been tightly packed into a golden-topped brioche bun. This sandwich is just so, so good. I demolish it greedily along with some crisp, thinly cut fries.

Crust’s menu aims to please absolutely everyone. And it does. Their secret is flavour

Satisfied, I am convinced that I have bagged the finest sandwich in the house. That is, until I am permitted a bite of another lovingly assembled, staggeringly good sandwich... a roast beef baguette. The entire thing is colossal, thick like a submarine sandwich and as insanely bulky as the arms of our delightfully charming server. After quickly assessing from which angle to best attack, I sink my teeth in. The beef had endured a lengthy process before finally finding its way into the sandwich.

The sous-vide machine seems to be a permanent fixture of the Crust kitchen and had once again been tirelessly working its magic on another lump of protein. The vacuum-packed beef had sat inside a bag, in a water bath for 10 hours before being roasted. The drawn-out cooking process had resulted in tender slices of beef that spilled out of the sandwich, glowing pink and cooked to perfection. It was the ideal match for the creamy dijonaise - the sinus-clearing spiciness of the intense Dijon mustard marvellously mellowed by a creamy mayonnaise, the two together bringing about a super stratospheric condiment.

The onion balsamic chutney added sweetness, and the wonderful whisky cheddar brought a creamy, robust richness. I chase every last crumb of crusty artisan bread, around the plate. Yum.

Warm, hearty and up there with the greatest of comfort foods, the chicken and mushroom pie proved an irresistible choice for dining com­panion no. 2. The short crust pastry casing of this classic savoury pie was quite excellent... crisp, buttery and golden. It was a crust worthy of being the namesake of the place. Any criticisms? While the flavour and texture combinations of the chicken and beefy mushrooms worked exceedingly well together, the pie’s characteristic creaminess was somewhat lacking.

Many of the good things in life are fattening and sinfully so. I surprised both myself and those around me when it came to my choice of dessert. The happiest of gluttons had picked the vegan loaf cake. Would veganism kill the charisma of cake? I wondered anxiously. Sans eggs, butter and milk was it possible to make a mound of something that could be even remotely classed as cake? I waited restlessly, tormented by the voice inside my head that was still shrieking for a doughnut.

Crust swiftly assuaged my fears. My slice of warm ginger bread vegan cake was absolutely fabulous. One bite and I was sold; my presumptions and reservations quickly torn down. Finished off with a fine sprinkling of brown sugar granules, the cake was sumptuously moist... the warmth of the ginger coming through nicely with a soft spiciness. It was served with some dairy-free vegan vanilla ice cream that was surprisingly all that ice cream is meant to be: irresistibly smooth and creamy. Another triumph. Desserts of the calorific kind do exist here too. The chocolate brownie was a thing of beauty... its bitter, dark lusciousness broken up with chunks of walnut. My final morsel at Crust is a fat mouthful ripped out of a hot, golden doughnut - the fried dough crisp and perfect, the fluffy and squidgy insides spattering out all the hazelnut, milk chocolaty goodness of the rich kinder bueno filling. What deep-fried bliss!

Crust is light-hearted and indulgent. Everything here is guided by taste. Today’s obsession with clean eating is reflected in Crust’s menu which aims to please absolutely everyone. And it does. Their secret is flavour.

Flavour is ultimately what makes food an absolute, abject pleasure... steering it firmly away from mere nutrition.

And they’ve got buckets of it here, whether you are a calorie counting clean eater or a shameless glutton like myself.