March 28, 2016 Cheese 2 Comments

Toasted Cheese Quest

Cheese toasties and grilled cheese sandwiches seem to be very much of the moment…at the moment. I’d enjoyed Jennie Stamp’s piece about them, from a couple of months back, so thought I’d explore things for myself. And here’s what I found…

Machina

Machina

Meltmonger’s

Total bill: £6.95

Rating: 2 stars

Item: Hamburger Haven

Meltmonger’s arrived to quite a level of trumpetting around the turn of the year. I visited in January and was hugely underwhelmed.

I sampled their Hamburger Haven, inspired by the original hamburger sandwich from Louis’ Lunch. It featured a small amount of tastless American cheese and a burger that was under-seasoned and consequently light on flavour. Weak, generic condiments rounded out what was a pretty poor first experience.

Surprinsing Costa goodness

Surprinsing Costa goodness

I made a note to visit again to see whether their more straightforward toasties were more appealing but this initial brush didn’t fill me full of confidence.

Machina Espresso

Total bill: £4.50

Rating: 4 stars

Item: goat’s cheese, spinach, walnut and honey

The toastie menu at Machina offers four options from which I chose the goat’s cheese one. It packed really good flavours but had two minor issues: it was slightly light on overall filling; and the peril of hot spinach leaves meant it was a touch treacherous to eat.

Roaster's

Roasters

Still I enjoyed it a lot.

Jeelie Piece

Total bill: £4.75

Rating: 3.5 stars

Item: simple toastie

Jeelie Piece is a great little arts space and cafe in Tollcross. Their cheese toastie brought together a pretty simple blend of cheddar, but had good pickle on the side and used really good bread. It made for straightforwardly satisfying eating.

Costa

Total bill: £3.95

Rating: 3 stars

Item: cheese and steak toastie

L'Echoppe

L’Echoppe

Costa surprised me with this decently put together toastie, which comprised melty cheese, chunks of steak and mushrooms. The bread was shit, but otherwise this was well-seasoned, warmly toasted stuff that hit the spot really quite well.

Roasters

Total bill: £5

Rating: 3.5 stars

Item: grilled mac n cheese

A revered Glasgow grilled cheese place, Roasters is right next to Partick train station so suited my needs for a quick lunch on the go in that part of town.

Their grilled mac n cheese was a bit of a mixed bag with peppers rather dominating, flavour-wise. As with the Meltmongers burger sandwich, I reckon I’d simply made the wrong choice.

Meltmongers Big Cheese

Meltmongers Big Cheese

The bread and overall grilling of the sandwich were very good, but the filling was sloppy and too strong on the bitterness of green pepper.

L’Echoppe

Total bill: £3.20

Rating: 1 star

Item: mushroom, tomato, emmental, bechamel croque monsieur

L’Echoppe’s croque menu is a great idea and I have a lot of time for this friendly little place.

Unfortunately, the “fun guy” mushroom croque that I tasted was dominated by a mountain of raw nutmeg in the bechamel to the exclusion of everything else. The bread was pretty poor, too.

Given that this made the thing actively unpleasant to eat, this was sadly the biggest toastie failure I came across in this set of adventures.

Meltmongers

Total bill: £4.50

Rating: 2 stars

Item: the big cheese

Castello

Castello

I returned to Meltmongers and tried one of their more classic grilled cheeses. Disappointingly, it was every bit as mediocre as the Louis’ Lunch sandwich.

The dominant flavour was a cloying sweetness from a sweet chilli sauce that packed little kick beyond a sugar hit. The cheese was melted in layers of tasteless goo rather than things coming together in a fruitful blend.

I think the verdict with Meltmongers in general is “not for me”.

Castello

Total bill: £3.50

Rating: 4 stars

Item: sourdough cheese and red onion

Mellis

Mellis

With too many of these grilled cheeses and toasties not tasting of cheese, it was really helpful to find one, simply produced, that was all about the flavours of cheese and good bread.

Castello has always been a great advert for nailing the fundamentals and their toasted cheese offering was no different.

All elements were delivered to a very good standard.

Cairngorm

Total bill: £4.95

Rating: 5 stars

Item: grilled cheese with chilli jam

Cairngorm!

Cairngorm!

For my final two cheesers in this piece, I returned to the traditional kings of the Edinburgh scene, as I’d previously understood the situation, to verify their credentials.

First stop was Cairngorm with their three cheese blend and Jones & Son chilli jam combo.

On top notch sourdough, this is a pearl of a dish: 5 stars, without doubt.

Mellis

Total bill: £5.50

Rating: 5 stars

Item: Ragstone goat’s cheese with caramelised onion

The final stop was at Mellis, where on my first visit I’d had a toastie that was the best single dish I had in 2014.

I had the same goat’s cheese and caramelised onion marmalade toastie on excellent sourdough. It was magnificent: another winning 5 star belter.

So overall, the continued rise of grilled cheese and cheese toasties is great, but some of the newer purveyors have a considerable amount of work to do. The established masters, Cairngorm and Mellis, remain well in the lead in Edinburgh, I’d say. I have others to sample – most notably at the Rabbit Hole and Smith & Gertrude – so I imagine there will be a follow-up post on them, in due course. In the meantime, go try some of these places for yourself and see what you find.

Written by BKR