Red Alert

Ode to the cheese roll

Posted by on October 14th, 2009


It’s come to my attention that a number of my colleagues don’t know what a cheese roll is. They think they do, but they don’t.

Why does this matter? Well, if you live in my part of the country, the South, then the cheese roll is, well, it’s an institution. It’s used for school fundraisers, it’s sold with pride in cafes (coffee shops) with lashings of butter on the outside. And the further south you get, the bigger they get, and the more lashings of butter.

I grew up with cheese rolls. I expect everyone to know what they are. But they don’t. MPs north of Dunedin don’t have a clue, unless they grew up in the South, except for Jacinda Ardern, who has already had the experience, and Grant Robertson, who grew up in Dunedin (and apparently once wrote a review of cheese rolls).

Clayton Cosgrove experienced his first cheese roll with me in Invercargill a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t the best specimen, but he got the picture! In fact, he was anticipating The Big Cheese Roll as we drove into Invercargill. Just like Gore has The Big Trout! Maybe that’s an idea for Tim Shadbolt to think about.

Ok, I’ll stop there. I guess I was inspired by Ode on a Grecian Urn, by Keats, that I learnt at school. Not quite the same thing. But hey, it’s the South!

34 Responses to “Ode to the cheese roll”

  1. Grant Robertson says:

    ah the mighty cheese roll. in your excitement Clare I am not sure you have actually told people what we are talking about. A piece of bread rolled up, with grated cheese (and if you know what you are doing) onion soup mix on the inside. Toasted, and the covered in butter. Fantastic. When I wrote the cheese roll review for an orientation magazine in Dunedin I think the Little Hut was the winner, but I can say from recent visits that the cafe at the Gardens New World is the winner for me for now.

  2. thomas says:

    The cheese roll is odd but not as odd as “mince on toast” what the hell is that all about?

  3. indiana says:

    Are these acceptable to be sold in school canteens?

  4. Jacinda Ardern says:

    Big fan of the cheese roll. Bread, cheese, butter, toasted. I’m not sure it gets any better than that.

    Clare, I expect a few cheese rolls when I visit South Dunedin on Monday. In exchange I’ll take you to the Wagon Wheel in Morrinsville.

  5. Grant Robertson says:

    Indiana, I think they would be in the ‘once a while’ category! Actually at intermediate school I briefly worked in the school canteen and we made these to order. Mind you at the time they were probably the healthiest thing on the menu!

  6. Trevor Mallard says:

    The sort of stuff that helped me get to 108kg. Addictive. Bad habit forming.

  7. Spud says:

    Sounds like good eating! 😀

  8. Marian Hobbs says:

    I loved them, especially when I escaped from school, ostensibly to go to the library, but really to the cheese roll coffee shop in Princes St.

    Clare, we share more than a school in common: we share a love of deliciously unhealthy cheese rolls. Trevor, you are getting so boring!!!!!

  9. Cal says:

    Cheese rolls are epic. Mum used to also make them with marmite and cheese or creamed corn, onion and cheese (don’t knock the corn one ’till you’ve tried it!)

    @ Thomas – my flatmate is a fan of mince on toast, I don’t think I’ll be converted to that one.

  10. Sean says:

    Hi Thomas,

    It is about mince and toast. personally, I see it as the fastest left-over meal a bachelor can put together.

    Hi Marion,

    Come on, Trevor is not getting boring. He is hopefully getting better stronger faster, kind of like Steve Austin, without the bionics.

  11. Clare – great post, and good to have agreement on the merits of Cheese Rolls across the political spectrum.

    I can confirm that not just South of the Waitaki but also in parts of Christchurch, especially the north east Cheese Rolls are very popular. The Bower Ave bakery in North New Brighton does a very good one and a roaring trade in them as well!

    Big Hat tip to Bev from Burwood for bring this very important matter to my attention.

  12. Ok, I’ll stop there. I guess I was inspired by Ode on a Grecian Urn, by Keats, that I learnt at school

    Thou sill unravished ooze of chedder,
    Thou foster-child of toasted sammies and panini.

  13. Clare Curran says:

    @ everyone. I’m so pleased that the cheese roll brings out the best in us (except for Trevor).

    Trevor, I’ve always found tried the “good things in moderation” approach works. Being a former “Catholic girl” like Marian, we did stuff, but went to confession afterwards.
    I frequented The Little Hut, Barrys Coffee Lounge and a number of other not so salubrious establishments where cheese rolls were consumed.

    @ Marian. So pleased you’ve commented and on such an important subject. xx

    @Aaron, apologies to those Chch MPs who do know about cheese rolls. Waiting for Lianne!

    Oh, and I love mince on toast too. But you’ll all think I’m completely barmy if I post on that too.

  14. Jilly Bee says:

    I’ve never tried a cheese roll, with or without the onion soup mix or other additions – they sound yummy though. Very used to mince on toast in my childhood days, though the mince needed to be well thickened so as to not turn the toast into a glaggy wet lump! Interested in the Wagon Wheel at Morrinsville, Jacinta. We lived there in the early 1970’s, still remember those all day fogs. Now live in Waitakere, but still support the Chiefs and Waikato.

  15. Cal says:

    This post inspired me to make a cheese roll for lunch, but as I headed to the kitchen I found one of my blinkin’ flatmates had and eaten all my bread. Outrage!

  16. Andrew Straw says:

    I can appreciate fond memories of things from one’s youth. Cheese rolls are that for many people down here. The delightful culinary sin of my youth was Das Dutchman Essenhaus (, just down the hill from my intermediate and high schools. In Goshen, where my parent’s business was, we would have breakfast at the Plain and Fancy or the Dew Drop Inn. Similar fare. There is really nothing better than Amish sweets/pastries. Students somehow found the time (study hall, usually) to make it down there. An Amish meal is “four starches, a meat, and vegetable.” That’s a good combo when you are working in the fields all day, but it is easy to get fat on that when you’re not so physical.

    Now that I am old enough that my metabolism has slowed down, my fav thing is frozen blueberries in milk.

  17. jabba says:

    sorry .. mouse traps (I think they are called) .. bread with cheese, onion with bacon, maybe baked beans under the grill. Not too different really and I’m afraid that they and the pies have me at 105 so I ALMOST agree with Trevor for a change .. maybe he should have some before the bike race .. talk about carb up.

  18. Lauren says:

    Am off to the shop to get one for lunch lol. I say good on you Claire for showing your pride in the South, who said cheese rolls aren’t political.
    Jacinda: You’re in for a very healthy day Monday, cheese rolls and fish and chips with Young Labour. Hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are.

  19. Phil Anderson says:


    Being a former “Catholic girl” like Marian, we did stuff, but went to confession afterwards.

    I’m reminded of the wise words of my sister-in-law (also a former ‘Catholic girl’):

    Catholic girls are the worst, so get them first.

  20. IrishBill says:

    Weird, I’ve had the same poem kicking around in my head for the last few days. Particularly the line “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”. Can’t say it made me think of cheese rolls though.

  21. Clare Curran says:

    “Beauty is truth and truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know” One of those quotes that’s stuck on my mind for years.

    I guess the analogy with the cheese roll is about the ode, not the substance of Keats poem. Though there’s resonance there with Labour and our values. Oh dear, now I’m getting serious.

  22. Steelykc says:

    Cheese rolls = community functions, biting cold windy days at the rugby made bearable by big bites of hot cheese n onion flavour, melted butter dripping on your top, hungry kids happy fast on rainy days, and no more room in the freezer once you join your local kindergarten committee……. Good stuff!

  23. Clare Curran says:

    See? How about all youse who don’t come from the cheese roll fanclub (and secret society) talk about what your special thing is from your part of the world.

  24. Sean says:

    I’m struggling to think of a cultural equivalent to cheese rolls from the Waikato. However, in the realm of good home kia I can recommend.

    Mock Whitebait fritters (Edmonds, p80 of the edition my mum gave me when I left home quite sometime ago).

    Anyone who tells you they ‘Can’t do breakfast’ can be tested by producing these fritters with accompanying toast, bacon and eggs (only toast and eggs in the case of a vegetarians, vegans will need to pass on this one. Much as they would cheese rolls).

  25. […] the best cheese roll on Saturday at Mrs Clarks Cafe in Riverton, where we ended up after attempting to attend the Ngai […]

  26. Leo says:

    wow! cheses rolls who cares

  27. millsy says:

    Probably wouldnt want to sit down and have a whole lot at once. Especially if you plan to drive home ‘the long way’.

  28. Cazna says:

    That is brilliant Clare….well done, I love it. There is much that comes with a cheese roll and not least of all, the warm fuzzy feeling they give. The nostalgia of days gone by, the times of making thousands to raise money to go on some sporting trip or just to have with mums totally awesome vege soup (that wasn’t so vege!). Bliss. It is truely the simple things in life.
    I love to introduce new cultures to the joy of “Southland Suhi” they always love them and I have even divulged my recipe to a number of keen internationalists…lucky them!


  29. Cazna says:

    Sorry. I meant “Sushi”!

  30. […] I feel kind of miffed and proud at the same time. Because, as you know (reference to cheese rolls etc) there’s something special about […]

  31. […] just got asked for the recipe for cheese rolls. I thought I’d google it (even though I know […]

  32. Keri Hulme says:

    I am a cheese-roll fanatic, and I have spread the gospel yea, even unto here, on the West Coast.
    But there are some errors in the posts:
    a)I first tasted cheese-rolls in CHCHCH. In 1962.
    b)they werent made by my mother (who is from Oamaru)
    c)her recipe always included onion (NOT Maggi onion soup mix! That didnt exist when I was 15!)
    d)I find the dip recipe gloopy.
    e) I add raw garlic to my very good cheese as well as spring onion, and a leetle hot paprika (or chili
    f) I use my own white bread,quite thinly sliced.

  33. Clare Curran says:

    Hey Keri
    Nice to hear from you. And especially that you are a cheese roll fan. In that case I’m coming to visit.
    And you have inspired me to keep talking about the sushi of the south.
    Love your work

  34. Kevin Middleton says:

    How dare YOU makes us hungry. Do you require FRESH SOUTHERN STRAWBERRIES at all.:)