7 of London’s Best Kept Secret Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Words: Helen Graves
Ah, the grilled cheese sandwich, or, as it’s properly known in the UK: the cheese toastie. Arguably one of the finest lunches, dinners or — let’s face it — breakfasts, of all time.
There are many spots to find a good one in London and there’s been a boom in the number of dedicated outlets serving them, particularly street food vans and market stalls. These places are mostly great but they are also very well-known. We wanted to highlight some of the more under-the-radar but still fantastic examples that you might not already be aware of. Sizzle on.
Nape opened in Camberwell at the beginning of 2017 and has now really hit its stride as a fabulous local wine bar. We go there for the wine, of course, but also the charcuterie, and we have a very soft spot for the snacking sausage with cumin seeds.
However, they also do a mean line in toasties. The one you’ll need to order is the Cornish chorizo, Cornish Blue and pickled fennel. You might expect the spiced sausage and blue cheese to clash here, but Cornish Blue cheese is mild and creamy, so they’re a match made in melted heaven.
The genius touch, though, is the pickled fennel, adding freshness and keeping you totally invested in the idea of that next bite.
Nape, 21 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
This toastie exploded onto the scene courtesy of recently opened The Wigmore, part of the super swanky Langham Hotel. In case you missed it, this is a new ‘modern British tavern’ with a menu written by Michel Roux Jnr., so, basically, it’s not the kind of place you’d be expecting to find a toasted sandwich.
It seems that Michel has applied some of his Michelin mindset to the creation of this beast, however, and the XXL Stovetop Cheese Toastie is killer. Apparently, it was over a year in the making. The cheese is a mix of Neil’s Yard Montgomery Cheddar for tangy savoury flavour, Ogleshield for creaminess and Raclette for the essential strings.
There’s plenty of Dijon mustard, chopped red onion, cornichons and chives to add bite and it’s cooked with a little-clarified butter directly on the stove top meaning there are plenty of crunchy, crispy edge bits where the cheese has splurged out. A hot Netherton Foundry press on top helps the whole process along.
The Wigmore, 15 Langham Place, Regent Street, W1B 3DE
Wine & Rind
Wine & Rind is, at the time of writing, newly set up at Sourced Market at King’s Cross, and anyone passing that way should be stopping by for a proper, traditional, Breville-style toastie. The Breville toasted sandwich maker will be a very familiar memory to readers of a certain age and so will memories of stuffing experimental sandwiches with just about anything in the fridge. We all learned not to add sliced tomato the hard way, which is to say we learned by way of a tomato shaped welt on the chin.
Wine & Rind stay away from vegetables, instead puffing up their bread with a classic house cheese blend (raclette and Cheddar) and either a splash of Henderson’s, a mixture of slow cooked and crispy onions, or (our favourite) a mix of cheese, ham, cornichons and Dijon mustard. Also, buy 8 toasties and get your 9th on the house! Easily achievable over a two-day period. Oh, just us?
Wine & Rind at Sourced Market, St. Pancras International, Euston Road, N1C 4QP
Cellar.SW4 is a fantastic little wine bar opposite Clapham High Street station that is, frankly, an oasis away from the horrors of, well, Clapham High Street. If you find yourself in the area, do not hesitate to make a beeline for it.
So yes, the wine selection is top drawer, but did you know you can also nibble on a toastie while you’re there? Our favourite is the French onion soup — onions are caramelised until sticky-sweet and heaped onto bread with loads of Comté cheese. The ingredient that makes it, though, is the Bovril that’s spread on the bread, for added beefiness. Just like French onion soup. Boom.
Cellar.SW4, 1 Voltaire Road, SW4 9DQ
These guys are fairly serious about their toasties, offering no fewer than six different fillings. We do enjoy the ‘classic cheese’ (which is so not classic, containing as it does herbs and béchamel), but our heart truly lies with the haggis version.
There are a few haggis toasties to be found around town but this is one of the most pleasing. Cheddar is the cheese involved, then there’s haggis, obviously, plus neeps (swedes to you) and then some very lovely punchy turnips on the side. The common mistake with a haggis toastie, and, in fact, any toastie, is that there isn’t enough acidity to cut through the richness. The turnips here do that perfectly, while also keeping on top of the Scottish theme. We like to take a wee nap after eating it.
Embassy East, 285 Hoxton Street, N1 5JX
Claw specialise in that finest of sea creatures: the crab. Yeah, some people like to sing the praises of lobster but we think the crab has a much better flavour, so there. Here, it’s toasted with super oozy raclette cheese and pepped up with a mixture of soft English herbs including parsley, chives and dill.
This is a rich one, make no mistake. Crab and cheese will finish you like the melty sandwich-seeking slave that you are.
Claw, Unit 1, Finsbury Avenue Square, EC2M 2PG
Brick House Bakery
Brickhouse Bakery recently opened a second site next to Peckham Rye Station and you’ll be pleased to learn that they do toasties here as well as at the original East Dulwich branch.
Their toastie comes on country white sourdough with a mixture of Isle of Mull Cheddar, Kirkham’s Lancashire and Ogleshield (all from Neal’s Yard), with some spring onion for bite.
These guys are serious about sourdough, and their Peckham Rye loaf (see what they did there?) has won awards. Their toasties would too if there were Cheese Toastie Awards, which there absolutely should be. Yes, we are available to judge, thanks for asking.
Brick House, Unit 5, 12-16 Blenheim Grove, SE15 4QL; and 1 Zenoria Street, SE22 8HP