My friend Marwa who is the founder of the popular Wanderbeak tour told me about La Xampanyeria while we were sharing a botifarra sandwich at Sagas. Intriguing as La Xampanyeria Cava looks – the bodies around the bar are at least 3 deep by the time noon rolls about. This in a city known for late starts.
I devise a plan to get their early to grab a sandwich.
The yellow board lists hot or cold sandwiches in Catalan. A greatest hits compilation. Pernil (ham 3.20€), Cecina (air-dried beef 3.20€), Fuet (salami like French saucisson sec 2.40€), Xoriço (chorizo 2.40€). The pierced man next to me is grunting with pleasure as he ravages his warm sandwich. I order the same, bacon and cheese. It goes on the griddle just long enough to heat the bacon and melt the cheese but not colour the soft white bun. My inspiration for my order has finished his and between mouthfuls asks for another. And another glass of Cava. He smacks his lips together and makes small grunting sounds. This is only interrupted by enthusiastic slurps from his coupe of Cava. (Why did we ever switch from coupes to flutes?)
My sandwich is handed over to me. (No plate) “Cava?” the man behind the bar asks me. I glance around, it’s 10:30 a.m. but everyone is drinking. The couple next to me have ordered an entire bottle to share and are two-thirds of the way through it. “Ehh….Si?” I shrug. “Como lo quieres?” He’s on one foot, ready to shoot off. “Ehh….Seco?” (In Spanish my sentences are always questions.)
I’m the only one not drinking pink bubbly. The sandwich is worthy of the snorts and grunts of pleasures of my bar mate. And the price! My sandwich and coupe of the best Cava in the house (I have a knack for picking the most expensive thing available) comes to a grand total of 4.30€. I give the guy a fiver because -how could I not?
There are 3 guys behind the bar making the food or plating up olives. They don’t look like chefs or even cooks. They look like they’ve just come in off the street, in jeans. The one who has served me goes over to his station where the magnetic knife holder is affixed to the bottom of one of the shelves (genius that) and periodically slathers sobrasada on hunks of bread as he breakfasts between orders.
I swallow the last dregs of my Cava and totter to the facilities. (A drinker I am not) I pump the soap dispenser in vain then spot a small Font Vella plastic bottle filled with watered down soap which has had its lid pierced to let the soap out. Practical, matter of fact – it gets the job done.
As does this place. Cava and nourishment at an incredibly accessible price point.
If you don’t want to face the crowds, do like I did and have Cava for breakfast. Then (carefully) cross the large Passeig d’Isabel II and sober up with a coffee from El Magnifico.