I grew up on Croque Madames living in Belgium. They were a staple in every bar, café and restaurant in the country and I've never been able to get enough of them.
The problem with this great dish though is that it gets bastardised and ruined around the world. At it's worst you'll get a ham and cheese toastie with an egg on top. At it's very best, it is a rich, delicious feast loaded with béchamel sauce, fresh ham with a runny egg providing additional dipping sauce.
You don't see the dish that often in Ireland but when I spotted it on the menu in HQ I had no hesitation and ordered it straight away. As usual, my expectations weren't especially high but I was very pleasantly surprised to be proven spectacularly wrong.
What arrived was a masterpiece. If they did Michelin stars for sandwiches this one would have 3. Big thick slices of bread were pulled back to reveal huge hunks of ham. Not shitty little sliced ham but big thick pieces of what tasted like ham hock. The whole thing was covered in cheese and then layered with a gorgeous creamy bechamel. The final piece of perfection was the runny egg which added to the richness of the sauce and which was perfect chip dunking material.
This was one of those meals where you savour every single delicious bite. Something so simple to make yet when done right can bring so much joy. You probably wouldn't want to know how many calories are in the dish but this is a treat.
It was my first time in HQ since they took it over from Ely ownership and the place was absolutely buzzing. Something between a bar and a restaurant with a real electric energy to the place. They've done an incredible job with the decor and actually vastly improved on what it was before. The service in particular stood out with lots of happy faces around the room and the staff helping the Friday office crowd get back to work as quickly as possible.
I'll be back here again and although the menu looked delicious and the photos below back that up I'll only be coming for one thing. When a sandwich is this good you simply can't look any further. Top marks.