Some things in life are better off melted. For instance: the Wicked Witch of the West, the Justin Bieber waxwork at Madame Tussauds (please, please) and cheese. Especially cheese. You know it – melted cheese is the best thing since sliced bread. So we’re pretty excited that the gorgeous lovechild of these two ingredients, aka the grilled cheese sandwich, is still one of London’s hottest food trends. Here are ten of the city’s best versions served in top-notch restaurants and by London’s finest roaming street food vendors.
London’s best grilled cheese sandwiches
Fromage fanatic Matt Carver uses sliced pagnotta (an Italian sourdough) for his sarnies, lavishly buttering the outside before grilling. His toasties have moved from a street food to a restaurant setting but the cheese and onion remains the best-seller, made with Keen’s cheddar, Montgomery’s Ogleshield and sliced red and white onion. Good job it’s a sit-down affair now – this toastie takes it out of us every time.
What makes a cheese toastie even better? Well, haggis, of course. Honestly, stay with us. The bonnie folk at Deeney’s stall at Broadway Market meld morsels of the Scottish sheep bits with cheddar and caramelised onions, plus mustard for an added kick in the classic Macbeth sandwich. Don’t worry, if you can’t handle the haggis, the Lady Macbeth – a veggie version of the grilled cheese sandwich – should also have you doing the highland fling.
Chef Dan Doherty’s late-night special is designed to preempt a hangover. They pan-fry the first slice of bread in browned melted butter, then layer in morsels of slow-cooked ox cheek, heap on the gruyère, then add another piece of bread and keep flipping the whole lot until it’s golden. Finally, it’s topped with a fried egg and served with fiery sriracha chilli sauce.
Self-confessed cheese geeks Nisha and Nishma base their creations on a mix of farmhouse cheddar, cow’s mozzarella and aged gruyère. For the GMC, it goes on organic sourdough with a good-sized dollop of béchamel. If you’re after something a little more substantial, try the Baby Got Mac which is filled with mac ’n’ cheese and barbecue sauce (£6, or £6.50 if you add pulled pork).
Not only does the Kappacasein dairy make its own cheese but owner Bill Oglethorpe helped develop Ogleshield, a sweet, nutty, alpine cheese that melts brilliantly. Here, they opt for eight parts Montgomery cheddar with one part Ogleshield and one part comté, on a base of Poilâne sourdough, with sliced leeks, minced onions and crushed garlic for extra oomph.
Feeling the guilt from all that grilled cheese? Don’t! Just opt for one of the toasties at central London caff Lundenwic. Our favourite is the greens-laden roast broccoli version, with almond for textural crunch and proper chunks of red chilli laced in for extra oomph. Oh, and cheddar, of course.
It was a sad day when Malletti, Soho’s number-one purveyor of pizza by the slice, shut its doors for the last time. But this tiny space has not lost its connection with gooey, molten dairy products. It’s now the home of Melt Room, which concentrates its attention on toasted cheese sandwiches. There are nine on the list, and the one we liked best was the simple ‘classic’ version made with three different good-quality cheeses giving a great tangy taste.
Don’t go looking for Morty (or Bob for that matter): they’re pushing up daisies. This caff is run by their grandchildren, Charlie and Jesse (one grandad each), who established it (first as a street food stall) in their honour. Go for the Straight-Up (a three-cheese blend sprinkled with mixed onions and grilled in artisan sourdough) or try the meaty upgrades such as crispy bacon (with tomato and avocado salsa, £7) or smoked ham hock and mustard (£6.50).
If you manage to find out which four or five cheddars go into the ‘secret mix’ for these bad boys, don’t tell the chef – he’ll be distraught. The aromatic blend is totally hush-hush, but we are allowed to know they deliberately leave the sourdough to rest for a day, for extra toastiness. Sample it in the cheese and spring onion version washed down with a fine glass of vino.
The focus is on sourdough at this Borough Market bakery, making its toasties all the more enticing. The bread’s chewiness works perfectly on the menu of pressed sandwiches, and the pick of the bunch has a gooey, cheesy comté centre with truffle oil adding a touch of luxury without overpowering things (a really delicate balancing act). If you’re a more straightforward sarnie scoffer, plump for the three-cheese option.
Sandwich fan? Fill your boots
Bread, filling, bread. It's one of the most simple equations in the world, yet one of the most satisfying when done properly. And that's exactly what these London restaurants, cafés and street food extraordinaires are doing – transforming your sad lunchtime snack into the best bit of the day. Put down the Pret for London's best sandwiches.