The humble ham, cheese and tomato toastie—or jaffle—is as essential to Australian cuisine as Vegemite.
It’s your go-to for a cheap, portable meal that somehow passes for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s high on flavour without being deep-fried and it’s a café-style meal that manages to cover four of the five basic food groups. Tick. Tick. Tick. But like all foods in the cuisine capital, there are always new takes on old recipes. Get a taste for the new-age toastie at these Melbourne venues.
Maker & Monger
In the heart of Melbourne foodie mecca, Prahran Market, Maker & Monger cheese bar does a piquant trade dishing out all-things-cheesy. Dedicated cheesemonger Anthony Femia’s cutesy restored French food cart sells cold cheeses, but it’s the hot, melty, gooey dishes that get punters in. Femia’s "grillz" are toasties made from sourdough bread and crisped to perfection with cultured butter. Favourites include an "All American" made with two cheddar varieties mingling with onions and parsley, and the Southern tweaked "Pimenton and Cayenne," made with a pimento cheese mix that oozes red peppers and pickles. The Grand Dairy Award-winning "Fondue," made from Heidi gruyere and Bulla crème fraiche, is inspired by the retro European hot cheese dish. Traditionalists should sink their teeth into a "Raclette" where perfectly fried bread combines with the still-bubbling Swiss cheese.
Just off Smith Street, Bad Frankie looks like a classic Euro wine bar, but the "jaffles and local spirits" sign swinging out front tells an Australian tale. The bar is named after infamous Van Diemen’s Land governor, John Franklin, who outlawed small pot stills in the early 19th century. Riffing off this historical hiccup, Bad Frankie showcases small-batch Australian gins and whiskeys and complements them with an Aussie jaffle menu. For the uninitiated, a jaffle is a 1950s-invented iron toastie maker that presses the crusts together to contain the filling. The "Classic" jaffle at Bad Frankie is a vintage cheddar and mozzarella with vegemite or chutney on the side and ham off the bone as an extra. "The Shroom" is a heavenly mix of garlic, red, wine and thyme with mushrooms, spinach, fetta and melty mozzarella on wholemeal bread. There’s even dessert—a "lamington" jaffle filled with choc-soaked sponge cake, jam and coconut.
Toasta & Co
Proof that Melbourne is ready for a dedicated toastie venue is Toasta & Co, a café on a corner locale in leafy West Melbourne. Toasta was evangelical in its pursuit of the perfect "toasta," spreading the melty goodness via their food trucks. Now, their passion has evolved into a bricks and mortar venue. Their toastas are made with Zeally Bay organic sourdough and that golden crunch is thanks to a decadent mix of butter and duck fat. The savoury menu kicks off with a signature three-cheese blend and pickles, and gets increasingly gourmet. There’s an ooey gooey mac-and-very-cheesy with caramelised onion; a cheesy béchamel, shaved ham, spring onion and gruyere "Croque Monsieur;" and a "Tiffany" with brie, walnuts, truffle oil, rocket and streaky bacon. Guests are invited to “treat yo’self” by adding a chicken or eggplant schnitzel to any toasta.