Du pain, du vin, du Cornish Yarg
IT’S a historic moment. British cheeses are outselling French fromages at a rate of two to one as shoppers choose the homegrown beauties now available by the hundred. The figures are not, to be fair, applicable across the populace, but rather relate to the tastes and inclinations of M&S shoppers. Still, as a barometer of well-heeled (read: gastronomically picky) England, M&S can’t be bettered.
Sales of British cheese at M&S have increased by 30 per cent over the last year. French Brie, Camembert and chevre have been thoroughly trumped by Stilton, Cheddar and the like. Some say it’s the recession bringing on a fit of patriotism, others say it’s simply that our cheeses are delicious, priced right and offer a certain flavour that can’t be found elsewhere. Among the artisanal varieties that are winning hearts and taste buds are Scottish island cheddar, all sorts of Somerset brie, and strong Lancashire specialties.
And who – eating at one of London’s finest restaurants – hasn’t been faced with a Neal’s Yard cheese plate full of our country’s finest to finish off with? La Fromagerie, the traditional French supplier of gourmet cheese, is facing stiff competition at London’s dining tables.
Here’s a selection on our favourite British cheese boards in town. Viva l’Angeleterre.
St Pancras Grand
A roundly British restaurant to welcome Eurostar arrivals at St Pancras, with cheese to match. The board includes Oxford Isis, a soft cow’s milk cheese with a yellowy inside, made by the Oxford Cheese Company; a Cornish brie which is extra creamy and melting, thanks to the lovely richness of the region’s milk; Lancashire’s famous Blacksticks Blue, the British answer to St Agur; Dolcelatte; Danish Blue and the super-smooth Bosworth Ash Log, a lovely creamy goats cheese from Tamworth, Staffordshire. Take that, French people. St Pancras International Station, Pancras Road, NW1 2QP, tel: 020 7843 4250
This rustic homage to the country’s finest recipes and ingredients couldn’t possibly leave a respectable blob or three of Old Blighty cheese off the list. There’s brie-like Bath Soft, rich and gentle, with a mushroomy coat and a “rich, flowing interior” from West Country artisans the Cheese Shed; some lovely crumbly Welsh stilton; and organic cold-smoked Ashdown Forrester cheddar made in Sussex. 209 Westbourne Park Rd, W11 1EA, tel: 020 7243 9818
Foodies’ golden boy Mark Hix’s new restaurant excels with the fruits of Great Britain’s fields and seas, and he doesn’t stop there. Cheese is Pendragon, a buffalo milk beauty in the cheddar style from the West Country (near Glastonbury), with a buttery texture; the Camembert-like Tunworth from near Basingstoke in Hampshire, which was “supreme champion” at the 2006 British Cheese Awards; and Sussex Blue, a hard, blue-veined cheese which is served with an Oyster Ale cake. Delish. 6-70 Brewer Street, W1F 9TR, tel: 020 7292 3518
This friendly, young gastropub has taken its duty to British food seriously and that is reflected in its cheese – perfect washed down with something off the surprisingly large wine list. The board includes mature, nutty Scottish Mull of Kintyre cheddar; Irish Cooleney made in Tipperary, a creamy mould-ripened cow’s milk; and the original Irish artisanal blue, Cachel Blue. A strong, well-balanced board. 24 York Way, N1 9AA, tel: 020 7833 4395
Green’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar
An imposing new City oyster place with an all-British menu. Cheese includes the cult goat’s variety Ragstone from Neil’s Yard Creamery in the enticingly named Golden Valley of Herefordshire, which is “non-goaty” in flavour, mature and semi soft, and Cornish Yarg, a moist, trendy cheese with a fresh creamy taste attributed to its being covered – by hand – in nettles. 14 Cornhill, EC3V 3NR, tel:020 7220 6300
Meat-focused sister to Gordon Ramsay’s posh and starry Maze, everything here is impeccably sourced and therefore – when it comes to cheese – British. Currently, the rotating plate includes the iconic unpasteurised Montgomery cheddar from Somerset, and Lord of the Hundreds, a cheddar-like ewes milk cheese made by a husband and wife team in East Sussex since 1973. There’s usually some sort of Welsh cheese on offer too, with an unpronounceable name. 13-15 Grosvenor Square, W1K 6JP, tel: 020 7495 2211