What makes the perfect cheese toastie? Realistically its got to be oozy in the middle. This is the main feature which makes it so great and keeps us wanting more. I put together a few ideas and ventured to Central London to see which cheesy establishment does the best toastie for anyone in need of some comfort food.
But first of all, why do we love the toastie so much? Ultimately it comes down to the five C theory I have constructed below:
Cost – it’s cheap as chips: it will cost next to nothing, a standard cheese toastie will cost you quite literally the price of a loaf of bread and some cheese. Obviously it can be pimped up for more expense by adding ingredients, such as: onions and herbs.
Convenience – is key: it doesn’t all fall apart when you eat it because of that beautiful molten cheese in the middle and you can carry it with one hand. It also has the ability to fill you up but not to the point where you’re wandering around not knowing what to do with yourself.
Comforting – you can pair it with other things, it warms you up and brings back memories of simpler times.
Competition – Best or King of the sandwich world. I mean you could go out to a deli and spend £12 on a sandwich full of parma ham, pesto, aged mozzarella from the mountains and asparagus but the simple cheese toastie is reliable and will never get old.
Carefree – It’s easy to put together: who doesn’t have the ingredients to knock up a cheese toastie? – Two slices of bread, butter, a bit of onion (a personal preference) and then that glorious thing we call cheese. Now to toast it – put it in the oven, on a grill, in the microwave, you can literally cook it how you like it. As long as that cheese is melted it doesn’t matter how you got there.
Now that the chemistry or physics into why we love the cheese toastie have been explained, onto the experiment.
It’s a simple one: the establishments that I visited had to specialise in the humble cheese toastie. They also had to be based in central London and have a permanent site, for the purpose of this test I didn’t count market stalls. To keep a fair playing ground I also decided to stick too classic cheese and onion which after conducting research seemed to come out on top a lot of the time as the publics favourite combination.
The melt room claims to be London’s first grilled cheese restaurant so this is where the adventure started. The classic cheese was top of the menu so I added onions and waited patiently. To be brutally honest after the first bite I knew I could have easily made a better one at home. It was all because of the cheese – it was tasteless and left me feeling a bit empty inside. There was also hardly any onion in it which didn’t help the issue. I do love my onions.
It seems that the location of the Melt Room on the hectic Noel Street was a great area for this fast-paced restaurant to be situated. But the decor became a bit overbearing after a few minutes. It was just pure cheesiness (pardon the pun). For example, the chairs, walls, tiles, counter were all a buttery yellow colour and the walls were plastered with ‘punny’ cheese jokes. This meant that by the time I got my toastie I had almost entirely been put off the idea of cheese.
I had higher hopes for the newly opened Pickle & Toast which is around a week old now (one of my inspirations into doing this piece) and it has been a long time coming. For around two years it has had signs up on the empty shop front saying ‘Opening Soon’. The wait was worth it.
They promise to deliver “…huge amounts of mature West Country cheddar and a good dash of old-school New York grilling expertise.” And this is what I got. Sadly, they wouldn’t let me get any onions but it was still great. The cheese was really stringy and overall had a lot nicer consistency than the one I got in the Melt Room. They were also giving out free coffees to celebrate their recent opening, which was a great touch.
The generous price of £3.95 also seemed like a steal, especially in Soho, and considering I had paid £4.50 for the far less appetising toastie five minutes down the road.
Finally, the decor was a lot nicer and more welcoming with deep green…think the ministry of magic’s tiles in Harry Potter. One criticism, it has to be said, was that they were blasting out a Jamie XX playlist which made me feel a bit anxious, as though I was in a big cheesy boiler room. It resulted in me grabbing at other people’s orders as I misheard my name time and time again. Stress.
— hot-dinners.com (@hotdinners) November 6, 2017
The final leg of the journey was to head over to Borough Market’s Kappacasein who have been sharing their cheesy know-how to fromage loving fans since the year 2000. I got there at the end of the day when it was quiet. Tourists and locals alike were queuing up to get their hands on the establishments very own, cheeses. A variety consisting of Montgomery cheddar, Ogleshield and Comte cheeses. The cheese trio is then all mixed up into a toastie alongside five different types of onion and sandwiched between a couple of slices of sourdough.
It costs £6 though. I’ll repeat that £6. However, the cheese is all hand-made down the road in Kent and it’s oh so rich. It doesn’t look like much, but I struggled to eat this one due to its complex cheesy notes. The flavour however was the best of the day, especially when combined with onions and leeks.
After having a word with the staff they revealed the recipe:
8 parts Montgomery Cheddar
1 part Comte
1 part Ogleshield
Leeks, onions, garlic
As well as two slices of poilâne sourdough
This sparked a thought, could I produce a toastie which could compete? Stay tuned and you may find out.
Watch my adventures below…
Words: Harry Bourner | Subbing: Amelia Walker-Hall