Our love affair with all things fermented is taking a decidedly pungent turn and the once fuddy-duddy world of cheese is being transformed by a fresh generation of makers: people like Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore at Fen Farm in Suffolk, who were so inspired by British cheese they started making a raw-milk Brie called Baron Bigod. It’s a marvellously gooey creation that’s giving French fromage a run for its money. Equally pioneering is the Courtyard Dairy in Settle, Yorkshire, where 30-something owners Andy and Kathy Swinscoe champion native farmhouse varieties.
This curdled renaissance reflects a similar trend in the USA, where hipster cheese shops and bars such as Casellula in Manhattan and Mission Cheese in San Francisco have opened. In London, cool new stores include Chelsea’s London Cheesemongers, where the counter is piled high with fragrant wheels, and Raw Cheese Power, a renegade market trader which builds a ‘holy mountain of cheese’ on its stalls.
And not all of it is made in the countryside. Gringa Dairy produces Mexican-style queso under a railway arch in Peckham and its mozzarella-style Chihuahua is on the menu at The Cheese Bar in Camden Market. The latter is owned by Mathew Carver, who started selling grilled-cheese sandwiches from a converted ice-cream truck at Glastonbury, and has now co-founded a festival devoted to dairy, the London Cheese Project.
Similarly, Patricia Michelson started small, selling cheese out of her garden shed. She graduated to a Camden stall, and then to a shop in Highbury, La Fromagerie. Now there are further brances in Marylebone and, brand new for September 2017, Bloomsbury; and Michelson has made cheese artful in her books Cheese and The Cheese Room. And in Walthamstow in East London, café and cheese club Froth & Rind combines three foodie trends, serving up artisan cheeses, locally roasted coffee and craft beers — and little else.
What next? Tattoos of cows, cheese knives, and oozing Camembert, perhaps, already spotted on the sharpest mongers across the Atlantic.
Where to find the best cheese in London
THE BEST CHEESE SHOPS IN LONDON
PAXTON & WHITFIELD, ST JAMES’S
Established in 1797, Paxton & Whitfield has been selling cheese for more than two centuries. Sample and take home joyously whiffy artisan cheese from the UK and abroad over the cheese counter, or buy a cheese hamper to give to a loved one at their glossy St James’s store. They even sell cheese wedding cake here, stacking wheels of different cheese on top of one another to make a tiered creation.
Address: Paxton & Whitfield, 93 Jermyn Street, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6JE
Telephone: +44 20 7930 0259
NEAL’S YARD DAIRY, COVENT GARDEN
One of the best known cheese sellers in the city, Neal’s Yard was founded in 1979 in the colourful Seven Dials square. Nearly forty years on, they sell artisan cheese from about 40 UK-and-Ireland-based farmers, showcasing regional specialties. Co-founder Randolph Hodgson is married to Monmouth Coffee owner inShare Anita Le Roy – hop round the corner for a coffee at their Seven Dials coffeeshop after picking up your cheesy treats.
Address: Neal’s Yard, 17 Shorts Gardens, Seven Dials, London, WC2H 9AT
Telephone: +44 20 7930 0259
This feature first appeared in Condé Nast Traveller July/August 2017
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