Wednesday 6 January 2016

[Meat Free January] Grilled Cheese at Lundenwic, 45 Aldwych

Once again we find ourselves in January, 2015 seems to have flown by in a bit of a blur, with fewer new burger openings in London, a spattering of residencies, and of course the burger celebration of the year – National Burger Day.

But January means more austere times.

My meat-free, alcohol-free month has become a bit of a ritual, and a chance to give my body a rest from chowing down on pig and cow layered burgers. For the last couple of years I’ve reviewed the best veggie burgers in London, so this year I’m going to give you the definitive list of grilled cheese sandwiches, because – well, why the hell not.

And so my first visit is to Lundenwic. This is a Nordic-themed cafĂ© at 45 Aldwych – not the beating heart of foodie London – although it's sandwiched between The Waldorf and The Delauney, so you could argue this is a more refined area, away from the hectic delights of Soho. And Nordic it is, with its sparse, industrial feel: clean lines; beige tiles; grey grouting; and bold block furniture.

The menu at Lundenwic is sparse, too. A selection of pastries and toasties, and coffee available every way with the beans roasted and supplied by Workshop Coffee.
As I’m meat-free (sob) I started with the beer braised onion, kale and cheddar toastie - and followed it with the broccoli, almond, chilli, and cheddar toastie – strongly resisting the temptation of the salt beef....
Beer braised onion, kale and cheddar toastie
Nestled between two thick slices of buttered sourdough is a blend of grated cheddar, beer braised onions, and chopped kale. Top marks for presentation as the melted cheese slowly oozes out of the toastie on the plate as it arrives.
And the flavour is magnificent. The umami of the mature cheddar cheese is accentuated by the sweetness of the dark caramelised onions, and when it almost gets too rich, the kale kicks in to clean the palate with a crisp, sharp hit. In spite of the compression of the toasting grill, the sourdough has resisted the pressure and the sandwich remains loosely packed, but the cheese is fully melted through. It's exceptional stuff, and has me grinning from ear to ear.
And to top it all off, I got to spoon some of that moreish goo into my mouth with a fork. Pure, guilty pleasure.

So I ordered another one.

Broccoli, almond, chilli, and cheddar toastie
Slightly taller in height than the onion and kale toastie (due to the charred and cooked bushes of broccoli in the centre), this sandwich is no less impressive. Once again the extra mature cheddar is the core to the dish. Adding in the sliced almonds delivers a double hit of subtle sweetness, coupled with an overture of bitterness which - as in the previous toastie - balances the generous festoons of melted mature cheese stopping it becoming too rich.
The broccoli, however, is a masterstroke. I'll say this now - not everyone will agree with me - but without the addition of broccoli this would just be a nice sandwich - but the broccoli elevates it to a whole new level. It's pre-cooked which adds a rounded sweetness to the sarnie. But more than that it prevents the sandwich from sticking together, and allows the fillings to steam, bringing out the flavour out of the almonds, fully melting the cheese, and ensuring the grill doesn't compress and overcook the sourdough.
The result is a light, crispy sandwich, with a molten cheese filling that you could eat by the bucketload. Now THAT'S what I call a grilled cheese sandwich.

I'm impressed. Lundenwic has produced as aesthetically pleasing a grilled cheese sandwich as you can get, with simple ingredients combine to elevate the flavours beyond a mere toastie - it's very, very clever.

I'll be posting more grilled cheese sandwich reviews over the course of January, so watch this space.

Oh, and go eat that grilled cheese.

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