Photo by Tara Stevens
Located on Via Augusta and Amigó, near the British Council, Xavier Sánchez’s gourmet sandwich bars may just turn out to be the Catalan equivalent of Starbucks. Certainly he’s got all the right moves from the décor—a bright airy space with wooden floorboards, custom-made tables and painted metal chairs made in Bisbal—to the food: a simple, satisfying menu of salads, sandwiches, juices and high-grade coffee that is fast becoming a daily staple for neighbourhood residents.
The lunch: SandwiChez*
Lentil salad with the Moroccan spice trader mix Ras al Hanout, couscous salad with roast tomatoes and pine nuts, Delhi ‘brick’ sandwich with chicken, ginger and cardamom and Mexican wrap with chicken, cheese, coriander and Chipotle chilli dressing. Chef ’s juice of orange, carrot and apple.
Have you always been in the restaurant business?
I studied hospitality in the US and started working for the Viena group in 1995. They are a big organisation with 30 restaurants across Catalunya and 1,500 employees, but I liked their very simple approach to food: good sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs. My plan was to stay with them two years, but I moved up the ladder to director general and ended up being there 12. I finally decided to start out on my own with the opening of SandwiChez* on Via Augusta in November 2010.
I wanted to do something very simple and easy. I’m not one for fine dining. I like good food, but honest food made with prime ingredients. SandwiChez* is a reflection of the modern lifestyle: fast food, accessibly priced, in a comfortable environment. I also wanted a heart-of-the-barrio kind of a place. Somewhere you’d go every day for a coffee, breakfast or lunch, not just once in a blue moon.
Where do you source ingredients?
We try to keep it very local so right now we use four different bakeries for the breads, we get the same oil that we use at home from a cooperative in Lleida, the yogurt and milk comes from a small dairy in Vic.
What do you think of the food scene in Barcelona these days?
You can get pretty much anything you want in Barcelona, but I’d like to see more places where you can go with children and the rest of the family and still have good quality food in a comfortable atmosphere. I’m not so much into trends; I like quality and places that have longevity. Somewhere you can go year after year and know what you are going to get is good.
Near here I like Casa Fernández (Santaló 46) for simple, wellcooked food. I have four kids aged between five and 15, so for a family get-together I like Casa Jacinto (Gran Via de Carles III 29-31) for excellent, unfussy Navarrese cooking.
SandwiChez* Via Augusta 117, tel. 93 209 3905 and Amigó 63, tel. 93 209 0707. Open daily, 8am-11pm. Approx €10 for a juice, salad and a sandwich.