It’s possibly the best ham and cheese sandwich in the world.
Toasted ham and cheese sandwiches have a special place in my heart. They speak of Christmas leftovers and work day lunches, when things are a bit rough.
They’re what my Mum makes best. And for me, they’re the only thing that really cures a hangover.
This brilliant specimen is within spitting distance of the Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona. It’s served at Tapac 24, the tapas restaurant of Carles Abellán. His other restaurant Comerc 24 is also worth a visit- it was host to a very romantic night at the close of The Hungry One and my honeymoon.
On that trip we never made it to Tapac 24.
It was a tactical error on our part.
On this visit we somewhere between brunch and lunch. We left London at an ungodly hour on a flight from City Airport. We may have had a late night the evening before, soused with a little too much pink wine.
We’ve scuffled with rental cars and eventually found our way into the centre of Barcelona. Later we’ll drive up to Girona, but that’s a whole other meal.
We’ve been blessed by the universe with an all day parking spot for free just outside Tapac 24. There are options to sit outside, underneath the down turned smile of Ronald McDonald yellow umbrellas. Instead we descend to the bar and perch happily on stools, peering at a range of Spanish sandwiches so good looking they’d shame Penelope Cruz.
These rolls are less of a meal than a necessity- the bread is crusty and the innards soft. More than anything, they’re about the ham- tresses of aged jamon, draped ontop of each other like careful piles of clean and folded clothes.
After that, things get serious. There are cortados to start- short and dark coffees, with a little cap of foam.
Then there’s their version of ham, eggs and potato, which is The Hungry One’s vision of hangover food. Crispy fried hunks of potato, eggs which leak are half scrambled and still leaking gold yolk, and wafts of lip sheening Spanish ham. All he needs is a juice made of berries and a dunk in the sea and he can take on the world.
From there we find a squat round of tortilla glossed in garlic heavy aioli. This one is a keeper, also.
There’s my life sustaining favourite of bread, soused in smushed ripe tomatoes with olive oil and a heavy sprinkle of salt.
There’s even churros, shiny with cinnamon sugar and fat little cups filled with gluggy hot chocolate.
But really, it’s all about the sandwich. A ‘bikini’ is how it’s listed on the menu- it might refer to the triangle shape of a swimsuit bottom. Or it might refer to the atoll erupting, cataclysmic effect that comes from eating it.
It’s lightly toasted and the innards ooze. The crusts are cut off. There’s the muskiness of aged jamon. And then, just to gild the lily into senselessness, there are specks of black truffle.
Run. Don’t walk. Get on a plane, a train, a bus. Battle with a GPS. Even pay for parking if you have to.
But whatever you do, don’t go to Barcelona and miss this.
It’s a sandwich that even makes a hangover worthwhile. And it goes very nicely with a glass of pink wine.
08007 Barcelona, Spain