...By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.
Exploring London’s Finest Cheeseboards
Sweet-toothed vs. Savoury-minded
The world can be divided in various ways, but one of my personal favorites is the distinction between those who have a penchant for sweets and those who prefer savory flavors.
This divide extends to the realm of cheeseboards, where some embrace the idea of a cheeseboard as a dessert option, while others shudder at the thought, much like comedian James Acaster.
The Allure of Cheese
As a member of the sweet-toothed camp, I find cheese to be a delightfully diverse and flavorful indulgence.
Its richness and texture, coupled with the right pairing of Port or dessert wine, create a culinary adventure.
Each bite of a well-curated cheeseboard can transport you to different regions, from savoring a creamy goats’ cheese that evokes the saltiness of Provence to relishing a robust Isle of Mull cheddar that carries the essence of Scotland.
While cheese has long been a staple in London, not all cheeseboards are created equal.
The key lies in the sourcing of artisanal cheeses from across Europe and the careful selection of complementary accompaniments like crackers, chutney, oat cakes, or quince jam—the true queen of condiments.
These are a few of my preferred cheeseboards that offer an exceptional experience, serving a wide range of high-quality cheeses paired with exquisite wines, sides, and biscuits that do justice to their caliber.
Bellamy’s, a stalwart in an ever-changing landscape, deserves commendation for its unwavering dedication.
Trends come and go, but this establishment remains steadfast, serving classics like soufflé with melba toast.
The tables, adorned with crisp white tablecloths, exude timeless elegance.
Their Assiette de Fromages reflects their commitment to authenticity, featuring a selection of six to eight well-proportioned cheeses, thoughtfully balanced in terms of texture and intensity.
At a reasonable price of £15, it allows the cheese to speak for itself.
Patricia Michaelson, the founder of La Fromagerie, alongside Neal’s Yard Dairy, has played a pivotal role in reviving Britain’s cheese scene.
With three shops-cum-cafes, each boasting a dedicated cheese room, Michaelson places great emphasis on working with small-scale, traditional, and often historic cheesemakers.
The quality of the cheeses she procures has earned the trust of many of London’s top chefs, who rely on La Fromagerie to supply their cheeseboards.
In addition to cheese, Michaelson’s empire has expanded to include her own line of specially-developed cheese biscuits and a selection of beautiful wines.
Provisions, like many establishments, adapted during the pandemic and transformed into a deli.
Its return to form brings joy to the locals, as it now offers bread from the renowned Dusty Knuckle bakery and an impressive array of raw milk cheeses and natural wines.
Provisions stands as the epitome of a local wine bar, striking a balance between a lively atmosphere and comfortable ambience.
Here, cheese takes center stage, allowing patrons to savor its flavors rather than relegating it to a mere dessert.
Accompanied by cured meats, olives, fresh bread, and delectable cubes of membrillo, Provisions provides an exceptional cheese-focused experience.
Restaurant St Bart’s
With its meticulously curated and exquisitely executed fifteen-course menu, St Bart’s offers a cheese course that satiates any lingering hunger.
This British restaurant sources its sturdy wedges of cheese from Buchanan’s, an artisan cheesemonger in central London.
The cheese course at St Bart’s showcases the diverse flavors of British cheeses, accompanied by crab apple jam, oatcakes, and delectably soft fruit bread.
For those inclined, a cider pairing is available, and the presentation on a volcanic rock-inspired platter adds a pleasing contrast to the creamy textures of the cheeses.
B Street Deli
Tucked away on Bermondsey Street, B Street Deli may appear unassuming, but it brims with deliciousness.
The cozy space is packed with charcuterie, pickles, vegetable antipasti, and an impressive selection of cheeses, making it a challenge to find a place to sit and enjoy a cheese feast.
However, wine barrels squeezed into unlikely corners provide a solution.
B Street Deli offers generous portions of Italian, Spanish, French, and British cheeses, expertly paired with grapes, figs, sourdough bread, and other delectable accompaniments.
Vivat Bacchus prides itself on its dedicated cheese room, where an array of ripe wheels, firm logs, and creamy cylinders of cheese await eager diners.
Though a South African establishment, Vivat Bacchus sources its dairy treasures from Britain through its partnership with the Cheese Geek, a modern cheesemonger dedicated to sustainable sourcing.
At Vivat Bacchus, cheese takes the spotlight as a starter, accompanied by a selection of charcuterie and an enticing array of South African wines from their extensive cellar.
Diners can either rely on the staff’s expertise or venture into the cheese chamber to craft their own cheeseboard.
Don’t miss the Baron Bigod, a raw milk brie-style cheese from Suffolk, and the Old Roan, one of the few remaining traditional raw milk Wensleydale cheeses in the UK.
St John’s inclusion on this list goes beyond its traditional cheeseboard.
While they offer a regular cheeseboard sourced from Neal’s Yard Dairy, featuring cheeses like Cora Lynn, St Jude, and Brunswick Blue, it is the acclaimed Eccles cake served with Lancashire cheese that truly stands out.
The Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese, hailing from the country’s only remaining farmhouse producer, beautifully complements St John’s signature dark, sweet, and sharp Eccles cake.
For a more unconventional pairing, St John offers homemade raisin loaf and a chutney made with shallots, apples, ginger, and tomatoes.
Pick and Cheese
Pick and Cheese presents a unique twist on the traditional cheeseboard experience.
Described as “Yo Sushi, but for cheese,” this establishment goes beyond mere novelty.
Farmhouse cheeses from across the British Isles take center stage, paired with homemade accompaniments that showcase the creativity of the chefs.
Whether it’s Cumbrian Ricotta with Amarena cherries and sea salt, Tunworth with sweet garlic and herbs, or Coolea with cumin roasted pineapple clotted cream, Pick and Cheese demonstrates a thoughtful approach to cheese selection.
Their small producer wine and Port selection further elevate the dining experience, making it a sophisticated destination for cheese lovers.
Chez Bruce is the answer that cheese enthusiasts invariably provide when asked about the best cheeseboard in London.
Despite the unfortunate loss of its legendary cheese trolley during the Covid lockdowns, Chez Bruce’s reputation for variety, quality, and generosity remains intact.
At Chez Bruce, guests can expect to be served at least 10, and sometimes up to 15, French and British cheeses.
These delectable cheeses are accompanied by fig cheese, a slice of membrillo, and a choice of wine from their extensive 33
-page wine list.
Chez Bruce’s sister restaurant, La Trompette, also offers an equally impressive cheeseboard.
Where’s Fred’s is an unassuming wine bar tucked away in a hidden corner of the City.
Finding it may require determination, but the reward is worth the effort.
Where’s Fred’s boasts the renowned Baron Bigod cheese as a staple, alongside Gorwydd Caerphilly, a lactic and lemony delight that strikes a perfect balance between creamy and crumbly.
The third cheese selection changes regularly, ensuring an element of surprise.
Crisp grapes, crackers, organic wines, sourdough bread, and charcuterie from London’s own Cobble Lane Cured complete the delightful cheeseboard experience at Where’s Fred’s.
In conclusion, London offers a diverse array of cheeseboards, catering to both sweet-toothed and savory-minded individuals.
From classic establishments like Bellamy’s and Chez Bruce to the innovative offerings of Pick and Cheese, these venues showcase the artistry of cheese selection and pairings.
Whether you prefer a traditional cheeseboard or a creative twist on the concept, these London destinations promise a memorable and delectable experience for cheese lovers.