The toastie is back, and popular as ever.
Bouncing from old school jaffle iron to sandwich maker, café press to grill-plate, the dynamic toastie has stretched across the decades only to reveal a more mature offering.
Could this latest resurgence threaten to topple the humble meat pie as Australia’s greatest bite or is it simply the perfect food in a time when nothing compares to affordable little luxuries and the comfort of melty cheese?
The heat is on – you be the judge.
Based on chef Andrew Bowden’s (AKA the magical Andy Bowdy) cake and dessert fame his Enmore café Saga might not be the first place you’d head to for a toastie – but perhaps it should be. Their gear is understandably next level and utilises artisan bread from Brickfields Bakery. Cruising for a Cubano? Look no further (well OK a little further as it’s called Raekwon on the menu, named after a chef). But brace yourself, this is one serious take on a Cuban – roast pork, glazed ham, habanera mustard, Swiss cheese, dill pickle and pickled chilli.
Any grating awkwardness over the cheesy menu names at Ghosty Toasty Diner melts away when you learn it earns a crust in a space shared with a film processing lab. When rotating specials like the Tuna Thurman (three cheese, tuna, kewpie mayo, dill, red onion, corn and pickles) and Bruce Brie (blackberry jam, mascarpone, mozzarella and brie with fresh rosemary) are kicked to the curb it’s up to blackboard staples like Salami L Jackson (Borgo salami, pickles and three cheeses) to save the day. Who said bread is dead? I ain’t afraid of no toast.
ST LEONARDS, SYDNEY
Itty bitty, brazened Cavalier 1.0 is one of those places Sydney’s northsiders speak of in hushed tones so there’s a perch available when they roll out of bed and into a toastie and coffee that gets them singing with the currawongs. Gucci cheese, if you please, contains a luxe combination of five melty European cheeses in Bread-and-Butter Project bread – but it’s the bolognese toastie filled with their rustic meat sauce and cheese-laden bechamel that has folks crying into their Italian loafers.
Spunky Project 49 is an extension of Rosella Bar in the backstreets of Collingwood (formally Project 49) known for its focus on north east Victorian produce and wine. Shelves are lined with noticeably excellent Italian staples, supported by locally produced baked goods and drinks but the piece de resistance is their toasted mortadella panini – containing layers of shaved, fat-studded mortadella and a slightly sweet, nutty pesto. Grab one with a coffee to go and drive just two minutes for an impromptu picnic over Beechworth Gorge. Warning – you may need to fight off envious magpies.
The dreamy Mushroom Melt at Cheese on Wheels is so damned delicious and warming on a cool day you’ll want to snuggle with it. (Maybe that’s just me.) Sauteed field mushrooms, bechamel, truffle paste and enough taleggio to spill into the pan, forming a fragile cheese tutu. This joint is operated by one of the world’s top cheesemongers so don’t consider entering unless you’re prepared to leave with a crate of irresistibly fragrant fromage.
NORTHERN RIVERS, NSW
Chef Daniela Maiorano (ex Harvest Newrybar) has been whipping up an Italian-style frenzy at food festivals and pop-up dinners of late. Keep an eye out for updates on her roving schedule via Instagram – particularly if the sound of her Mozzarella in Carozza toastie makes you drool involuntarily. Think mozzarella, anchovies, tender cauliflower and handfuls of chopped chives nestled in a bread carriage which is crumbed and deep-fried. It’s a crunchy, golden umami bomb.
A sign at Nico’s Sandwich Deli bears the motto Fresh and Fast and judging how quickly the generous NYC-style sandwiches fly off the shelves, Melbournites have read it verbatim. If their Cubano’s description doesn’t set your stomach a-rumba-ing then you don’t have a pulse; smoked pork belly, grandmother ham, American mustard, Nico’s original salad cream, emmental cheese, dill pickles and apple cider reduction. Say no more …
Toastiesmith, specialising in tubby Korean-style toasties made on slightly sweet brioche, believes toasties should be their own food-group and who are we to argue? Its menu features around a dozen varieties with predominantly savoury fillings such as the popular Bacon My Heart 2.0 ($9.95) overflowing with fluffy scrambled eggs, bacon, American-style cheese, roasted sesame slaw, tomato relish, smoky barbecue sauce and fried onions. Hardcore aficionados tempted by the Kimi Pork, which wraps together eggs scrambled with kimchi, pork belly, shallots, salad and sesame, might need to grab a refreshing yuzu soda or cucumber mint juice.
SOUTH YARRA, MELBOURNE
More than a handful of eminent restaurant folk have worshipped at Maker and Monger’s chapel of cheese, salivating over a Flaming Reuben Sandwich ($15). Prahran Market cheesemonger Anthony Femia schmears mustard over Baker Bleu’s fragrant rye bread before piling on juicy wagyu brisket pastrami (by Gary’s meats), sauerkraut, creamy Russian dressing and raclette which is torched into submission.
PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
‘Jaffle crack’ is not code for an open seam on a sealed hot sandwich. The smoky, stretchy cheese jaffles at Perth’s Foxtrot Unicorn Bar, designed to marry well with their sophisticated drinks menu have an addictive edge. Remember Sizzler’s (RIP) golden, cheese toast from your childhood? Imagine it all grown up, slathered in garlic butter, parmesan and a secret ‘crack’ seasoning. Slink deep into the fox’s hole (an underground bank vault built in 1887) furnished with dark jarrah and upcycled memorabilia and find out what keeps ’em coming back for more.
POTTS POINT, SYDNEY
Folks have been known to schlep across Sydney town for Room Ten’s toasties, located in a laneway behind Potts Point’s frenetic main drag. Most popular is their door stopper of delight – a hearty Beef Sandwich featuring eight-hour slow-cooked brisket and cheddar, its richness offset by red cabbage slaw, onion jam, pickles and rocket. Be prepared to queue!
ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Adelaide’s Proof lounge and bar adjacent to Press Food and Wine is known for doing simple things well and it’s evident from the moment you enter the welcoming space with ‘just right’ vibe. Sometimes the trick to making something seem easy is hidden in the details and Proof’s toasties are a fine example. The popular pairing of portobello mushroom and gruyere is all about the magic of quality ingredients, precision toasting and expert seasoning- including a sprinkling of truffle.
The gong for most opulent toastie goes to up-market bistro Chancery Lane by Scott Pickett (with ex-Quay chef Rob Kabboord by his side). Their Truffle Toastie is composed by folding small cubes of foie gras, tender shreds of white-wine poached chicken, super-melty raclette and shaved black truffle through bechamel which is piled onto buttery brioche and sealed into delicate triangles using a regular ol’ sandwich maker. Extra raclette and truffle are shaved over the top of the molten pockets before serving. Too easy to swoon over at $19. Pass the bubbles please.
When The Godfather ($9.95) calls there’s no choice but to go … eat him. This bad boy from Brisvegas’s Melt Brothers duo is packing heat – salami, mozzarella, pesto and napolitana sauce. Pizza masquerading as toastie? Toasties impersonating pizza? Duzzn’t maddah … just do it. Like the boys say – it ain’t easy being cheesy.
In important news for those too emotionally entangled to choose between a toastie and a pie, Bad Frankie does a bacon, cheese and mince jaffle well enough to satisfy both cravings at once. Of course, now then the dilemma of The Hot Jam Doughnut jaffle …. Phillippa’s brioche filled with strawberry and sencha jam, rolled in cinnamon sugar. They had me at doughnut.
This article originally appeared on Escape and was reproduced with permission