I suspect any Spaniards reading this are laughing. Why, they ask, would someone bother to write a review of Cervecería 100 Montaditos? It’s the type of laugh I’d give on discovering a foreign blogger had wasted 700 words describing Subway or GBK. But let them laugh; for its novelty value if nothing else, this place gets a write-up.
Now, who doesn’t like a good sandwich? The benefits of this simple snack are endless. It’s versatile enough to suit every appetite, from a dieter nibbling on a wholemeal tuna-and-low-fat mayo to a ravenous lad feasting on a triple club. The sandwich can cater for any occasion, posing one minute as a sophisticated cucumber-filled triangle, the next as a rough-and-ready doorstop with hunks of Cheddar cheese. It can sum up an entire meal in a single bready package – the egg-and-bacon breakfast sarnie for example, or the annual Christmas special, crammed with turkey and all the trimmings. There’s no better snack for munching on the hoof but it is just as often ordered sit-down with a side of chips.
And it is constantly reinvented, morphing into all manner of shapes and forms: rolls, wraps, baguettes, toasted sandwiches, open sandwiches, and even – for those who can’t (or won’t) eat wheat, breadless sandwiches, courtesy of Pret. Famous enough to be known by acronym alone (I refer of course to the BLT), the humble sandwich could perhaps be credited with bringing back M&S from the brink of insolvency. Finally, what higher culinary praise than this: the French – food snobs that they are – have adopted the noun le sandwich as a certified member of their very own language. Earl Sandwich would be proud.Meanwhile, I think it’s fair to say that Spain doesn’t really feature on the international sandwich leaderboard. Unlike its European neighbours, who offer up their instantly recognisable baguettes, panini and…(arguably)…kebabs, the Spanish words bocadillo and montadito probably send the majority of British tourists running for their phrasebooks. But with Cervecería 100 Montaditos, perhaps Spain has finally joined the party. The place is decked out to resemble a tapas bar, though it’s noticeably spicker than most traditional tapas grottos, where grime seems to come part and parcel. Here, the tiles aren’t chipped, the ironwork is rust-free and the chrome-plated bar is freshly wiped. Some could argue that the result lacks charm and character, but we weren’t there seeking tapas and tradition, we were just after some sarnies. And it’s a chain, so there’s only so much individuality you can reasonably ask for. Charm or no charm, it was infinitely more comfortable than a cramped British café or a lurid fast-food joint.
The premise is straightforward: grab a table, scan the menu/order form and mark your choices with a pencil. It’s the same concept as Asian restaurant Ping Pong except, instead of dim sum, you select from 100 sandwich fillings, arranged into different pricing levels, starting at around €1. The more expensive the option (though the top price tag of €2.5 hardly breaks the bank), the posher the bread and the more complicated the filling. Sarnie pic-n-mix. You then run the completed order form up to the bar, collect your drinks and wait for your name to be announced over the tannoy system. Service is minimal – customers ‘take’ their own orders and collect their own plates, but with these prices, who’s complaining? (The only evident tasks of the floorstaff are to pour the drinks and man the tannoy. The latter keeps them plenty busy. In our case, they thought it hysterical to announce ‘Duncan’ as ‘Dunkin Donuts’. Twice.)
A platter of mini sandwiches arrives fast: they’re warm, the bread is just the right balance of crusty and soft, they’re generously filled and they hit the spot. When confronted with 100 foreign words, we were bound to end up with a few wild cards, but generally we liked what we got. And that’s it. It’s quick, it’s pleasant, it’s simple and it fills you up. The tick-list style order form is a cute little gimmick, the tannoy system ensures a few laughs and the tapas-bar decor makes you feel like you’re getting more than you’re
paying for. Best of all, there’s no faffing around, which, when you need a speedy bread-based snack, is exactly how it should be.