Sarnies in Spain

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. Continue reading

Double espresso or flat white? My journey in search of good coffee

At university the teapot reigned. Many a nice cup of Yorkshire tea saw me through the tranquil hours of essay composition and private study. Especially during Neighbours. But when those halcyon years were suddenly over, I discovered a time called 7am. And something stronger was called for.

Coffee is my new best friend. While I can always turn to my old buddy Mr Tea Bag for a leisurely afternoon chat, coffee shakes me from my bed on my darkest days, props open my eyes and wrenches the foggy brain into focus; it moves my limbs in the required directions even when I’m in a daze. Watch the army of commuters staggering from house to office and you’ll see the same recurring movements everywhere, a set of well-practised actions which have become second nature by necessity as much as by repetition. Person A (let’s call her Coco [haha]) lurches from the tube station and takes her daily detour via Starbucks/Costa/Nero/Pret. Barely raising her heavy-lidded eyes, she slurs a multi-syllabic string of cocoa-related words at the apathetic barista. ‘Grande-skinny-cappuccino-widanextrashot-and-hot-milk-plus-extra-foam-and-chocolate-sprinkles.’ Coco stands trancelike until the receptacle touches the counter, at which, sudden, wild action is triggered. The cup is lunged for, seized, propelled to mouth, scalding bitter liquid is desperately inhaled. And there! There it is: a reverberating sigh of relief, and her entire being visibly trembles as the dregs of fatigue are sent packing.

She is not alone. This rite of morning passage takes place every day across cities all around the world. Millions of people haul gigantic cardboard cups from desk to mouth, from desk to mouth, from desk to mouth. Tongues are burnt, countless pennies are spent, all for a taste of that precious, gleaming, magical brown liquid with the power to shake us into instant action.

I’m an Americano with milk girl. No sugar. The cheapest option, but also the most unadulterated, gearing me up for stacks of invoices, difficult authors, endless meetings. Eleven o’clock and it’s time for another. Shameful as it is to admit, I depend upon this little luxury. I like my tea, but I need my coffee.

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