A restaurant that serves alcohol and cigarettes all night to streams of drunken twats who have fallen out of Boujis may not sound like the most appealing place in Chelsea, but it has its charms. Vingt-Quatre (VQ24 as it’s hip re-brand labels it) is the aptly titled twenty-four hour café & diner with an all night alcohol licence and even, in the early hours, a bouncer. So if you ever find yourself wandering the streets at 4am and have a hankering for a slightly over priced breakfast or burger, then look no further – it’s all you could ask for in a late night joint, its quick, the lighting is dim (thank god – have you seen yourself at that hour?) and it’s a great place to judge. But don’t forget it’s also open all day, and I’ve had a bunch of enjoyable brunches there. My best friend’s dish of choice at the moment is their stack of pancakes with blueberries, cream and bacon. Delicious. But my fail safe selection is their croque-monsieur. I like it because it’s not stingy, it doesn’t ‘forget’ the bechamel sauce like many sandwich places seem to do and, most of all, it’s a cheese and ham feast.
People make all kinds of variations on the traditional croque-monsieur, like a croque-madame (fried egg on top) or a croque-señor (with tomato salsa), but I decided to be a purist here. Nutty gruyere is essential – sure, you can use whatever cheese you have lying around in the fridge, but it just won’t taste the same, and will end up being a glorified toastie. I used thick white doorstop bread, and didn’t remove the crusts, because I like the change in texture that the outside crunch gives, but by all means, take them away if you don’t want them.
This sandwich is great (as are most) because it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner or of course, a very late night snack.
Gather together :
2 slices thick white bread
1 heaped tsp plain flour
70ishg gruyere (this depends how cheesy you like your croque)
2 slices ham
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt & pepper
Salad (for your health, obviously)
First off, switch on your grill, leave it to heat up. In a saucepan, melt about 25-30g slightly salted butter.
Once it’s melted, add a heaped teaspoon of plain flour, and stir until you have a thick roux.
Slowly add milk, a little at a time, until you have a thick but creamy sauce, which would fully coat the back of a spoon. Add salt, pepper and essentially a pinch of grated nutmeg.
Stir in a pinch of your grated gruyere, and set aside.
Then, butter yo bread. Just do this on one side. Pop the bread in on a baking tray, butter side up, for just about a minute, until it’s lovely and golden brown.
On the un-toasted side of your pieces of bread, be generous with your dijon mustard – if you like a slightly less strong taste, then do mustard on one side and butter on the other. Load up the ham and cheese.
Put these pieces in, open faced under the grill for just under a minute to kick start the melting process.
Then, put one piece on top of the other, and start spreading on the bechamel sauce. You want to make sure that it covers all the edges to prevent burning.
Add a cheeky little extra gruyere on top, and then pop the final product under the grill, keeping a close eye on it for 2 minutes until it starts to bubble and brown, as you can see above.