The crime writer and the (food) crime: Investigating the cheese roll burger


He orders a cheese roll burger, and pours himself a glass of water. I order a gourmet cheese roll, and a flat white. Medium.

I’m sitting with crime writer Liam McIlvanney at an outside table at Waitati, about a 20-minute drive north of Dunedin on an overcast Friday morning.

Unbeknownst to the other diners, we are at the Blueskin Nurseries’ cafe on a special mission, to order and review arguably the world’s first Cheese Roll Burger, launched that morning.

The burger is part of Dine Dunedin’s burger competition, but that is circumstantial when compared to our investigation.

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The Cheese Roll Burger

Hamish McNeilly/Stuff

The Cheese Roll Burger

McIlvanney, the author of The Quaker and The Heretic, knows a thing or two about crime, as well as, it turns out, cheese rolls.

Back in his native Scotland, a cheese roll was simply cheese inside a buttered roll or bap.

‘‘Job done . . . that’s a cheese roll.’’

His first close encounter with a southern cheese roll was at a Dunedin cafe, where he had the temerity to ask when the ordered item was coming.

He was surprised when the toasted Dunedin version emerged: ‘T‘hat’s when I thought ‘we are not in Kansas anymore’’’.

Crime writer Liam McIlvanney investigated the cheese roll burger

Hamish McNeilly/Stuff

Crime writer Liam McIlvanney investigated the cheese roll burger

That buttered slice of cheese goodness was somewhat of a deep south epiphany for McIlvanney, who has continued his love of cheese rolls.

But will he like The Cheese Roll Burger, breathlessly billed as: ‘’The ultimate cheese roll and beef burger hybrid, that takes this southern classic somewhere deliciously new!’’

Dissecting the cheese roll burger

Hamish McNeilly/Stuff

Dissecting the cheese roll burger

So far so good, with his first impression positive: ‘‘It is aesthetically very pleasing.

‘‘It feels like a shame to actually dismantle it and eat the thing.’’

But, dear reader, he did.

That comes after an initial debate about whether to tackle the creation with his hands, or with a knife and fork. He chose both as his weapons of choice.

In a cliffhanger moment McIlvanney devoured all but a small portion of the burger, with the remaining evidence to be disposed by some birds.

Finishing off the cheese roll burger.

Hamish McNeilly/Stuff

Finishing off the cheese roll burger.

The perfect crime, if you will.

However, the cheese roll burger would not feature for McIlvanney in any wanted line-up.

‘‘Slightly disappointing, I would have to say.’’

A gourmet cheese roll from the same Dunedin cafe. A+

Hamish McNeilly/Stuff

A gourmet cheese roll from the same Dunedin cafe. A+

While the burger was pleasant, the same could not be said for the cheese rolls, which had become somewhat soggy due to the relish and aioli.

‘‘They might need a bit of a rethink there, some way to retain the necessary crispness in the cheese roll,’’ McIlvanney said in a stunning twist.

‘‘It kind of defeats the purpose of a cheese roll.’’

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