Gravy, meatloaf, mash: Dunedin man's unexpected toasted sandwich recipe named nation's best

A Dunedin man has been crowned this year's winner of a nationwide cheese toastie competition - with a little help from his grandma. 

Romeo Dowling-Mitchell from George Street eatery Hungry Hobos has taken out the top spot with his 'Bat out of Hell' toasted sandwich, featuring homemade meatloaf (made to his grandma's recipe), creamy mashed potato, gravy, aged cheddar and McClure's sweet and spicy pickles, all crammed inside some herb-buttered ciabatta.

Dowling-Mitchell's sandwich beat 80 other entries from around the country in the annual Great New Zealand Toastie Takeover due to its "combination of simple ingredients served with confidence". 

Head Judge Kerry Tyack says his 'Bat out of Hell' combination was a total surprise.

"After all, who would put meatloaf, mash and gravy in a toastie? Answer: Romeo, and in that it fits!" Tyack says.

"Eating this sandwich was joyous. There's a familiarity that's bordering on nostalgic... it's real comfort food! It's also bold and brilliantly executed with every element prepared perfectly."

Romeo Dowling-Mitchell with his winning sandwich.
Romeo Dowling-Mitchell with his winning sandwich. Photo credit: Supplied.

The win may be no surprise to Dunedin locals, as Dowling-Mitchell has been doling out American-style toasted sandwiches and soups at Hungry Hobos for the past two and a half years. Previously he's cooked for Team New Zealand at the America's Cup in San Francisco and worked as a chef on superyachts in Spain.

He says his toasted sandwich entry was never going to be about pretentious ingredients.

"I wanted to do something that was a bit different but still inside the realms of what you'd get at home," he says. 

"Something you'd throw together ambitiously with the leftovers from the night before. One of my strengths as a chef has always been seasoning and balancing flavours and textures really well so I was confident I could give the sandwich the X-factor that way, rather than going too adventurous.

"I'm stoked to bring the trophy to Dunedin... I can't wait to show off my trophy to all my regulars who have been so supportive."

Hungry Hobos now has a trophy to display, as well as a year's supply of McClure's pickles and vouchers to give away to locals. 

Other notable entries in the competition included peanut butter and pickle toasties from Fix & Fogg in Wellington, smashed burger toasties from Jemima's Kitchen and Cheese on Toast in Auckland and crispy fried chicken with mac 'n' cheese from Love Chicken in Queenstown.

This is the second year the South Island has taken the title with Joseph Walker and the Hokitika Sandwich Company taking top honours in 2019.