Hooked on Cheese: The Cheeses of London
Last week I went on a business trip to the UK to meet with Ann-Marie Dyas and John Siddall of The Fine Cheese Co., the eminent maturer, wholesaler, retailer, and exporter of British cheeses. Founded and based in Bath, England, The Fine Cheese Co.’s cheese shops – one in Bath, and a second that recently opened in London’s fashionable Belgravia neighborhood – are two of the most skillfully curated artisan cheese shops I’ve ever set foot in. Not only that, but each shop has a café that features incredible cheese plates and menu items as well.
After noshing at their Belgravia café on the day I arrived, Ann-Marie and John were eager to show me the vast range of cheese options London fine dining has to offer.
Our first stop was Bombay Brasserie, a much-lauded, spacious Indian restaurant that featured a stellar piano player and impeccable service. I ordered the peeli mirch paneer soola, a tandoori-roasted house-made paneer cheese that had been marinated in a yellow chili paste and cooked in the smoky clay oven until the edges were charred. Scrumptious.
The next evening, we dined at The Dining Room at The Goring Hotel, a Michelin-starred restaurant located just a block from Buckingham Palace. On this occasion I doubled up on cheese dishes, starting with a truffled cauliflower custard served with warm Montgomery Cheddar straws, then diving into a cep mushroom risotto topped with crispy chanterelles and a generous measure of grated Rachel, a goat’s milk cheese from our friends at White Lake Cheese. The risotto was rich, creamy and perfectly satisfying on a chilly London evening.
The following day, my Fine Cheese friends and I went to Wiltons in the St. James neighborhood. Wiltons has been a bastion of British dining since 1742 (!), and walking in felt like stepping back in time. Known for its private-club-like atmosphere and some of the most polished, attentive service around, I found the food to be stellar as well. I started with a delicious twice-cooked Cropwell Bishop Stilton Soufflé, then my main course was house-made tagliatelle pasta with morel mushrooms and a heaping mound of parmesan. (Word to the wise: never turn down a heaping mound of parmesan.)
On my last day in London I took a solo jaunt into the famed Harrod’s Food Hall, a gallery filled with a massive variety of exquisite specialty foods. I found my way to the basement to check out their wine selection and discovered Tartufi & Friends restaurant; truffles are a good friend of mine, so I grabbed a seat at the counter. I ordered a menu item I simply couldn’t pass up – griddled polenta in an Italian cheese fondue topped with shaved truffles – and was not disappointed. The earthy truffles, pleasant crust on the polenta, and the lush melted cheese were the ideal end to a cheese tour of London.