Legend has it that the curiously named bikini de tartufo was first introduced in the 1950s by the owner of storied nightclub Sala Bikini (which itself took its Cold War-era name from US nuclear testing site, the Bikini Atoll), who brought the idea of the croque-monsieur from France. General Franco, who was in power in Spain at the time, had banned the use of foreign names, so it became known as 'the house sandwich'.
As its popularity grew throughout Barcelona and Catalunya (where it is still ubiquitous to this day), punters would ask for 'one of those bikini sandwiches'. Eventually the name stuck. In its most common form, it is nothing but a cheese and ham toasted sandwich, but Michelin-starred chef Carles Abellan has succeeded in taking it to a whole new level at his playful, neo-traditional tapas bar, Tapas 24. 'Everyone thinks I invented this,' he laughs, 'but I stole the idea from Ferran Adrià when I worked at El Bulli. We served it at a banquet we were catering in the late '80s, and it was a huge success. You now see it everywhere, but it's important to get it right — you have to be generous with the ingredients. You can use regular white sliced bread, but we use tramezzino for the best texture. Buffalo mozzarella is expensive, truffle is expensive, jamón ibérico is expensive. This is an expensive sandwich. But the mozzarella makes it light, sweet and creamy, in a counterpoint to the saltiness of the ham. The truffle takes it to another level.' 'There are some dishes that are timeless,' Carles says. 'We had them as children, and the flavours stay engraved in your memory. They also taste as good now as they did fifty years ago. The bikini is one of these.'
Here's what you need
4 slices tramezzino (or 8 slices of white bread, without crusts)
200g buffalo mozzarella
Pinch of salt
Truffle oil, to taste
80g jamón ibérico, finely sliced
50g melted butter
How to make it
1. Cut the bread in half if using tramezzino. Thickly slice the mozzarella, patting dry with kitchen paper, and lay on half the bread. Lightly sprinkle with salt and drizzle with truffle oil.
2. Lay the jamón ibérico on top of the cheese, followed by the second slice of bread.
3. Brush both sides of the bread with melted butter and toast in a sandwich toaster until golden.