An homage to fromage: London’s cheesiest spots

Posted at 8:00 am, November 22, 2012 in Food & Drink
© Rihannon Stone/Flickr

Do you crave the crumble of a fresh Wensleydale? The ooze of baked Camembert, the strength of Stilton or the flavour adventure of an artisan Cheddar? London is a playground for cheese eaters. We’ve been wolfing down the dairy product for centuries. There are over 700 named cheeses in Britain today, and London producers like Wildes Cheese are still creating new varieties for our delectation. But the traces of our capital’s love affair are like the holes in a truckle of Emmental: hard to spot from the outside. Here are some of our historic cheese pro Henry Eliot’s favourite secret and savoury cheese spots for you to enjoy.

Neal's Yard Dairy

1. Neal’s Yard Dairy
6 Park Street, SE1 9AB
‘The British Cheese Renaissance began in 1979, when Randolph Hodgson founded Neal’s Yard Dairy, and this pioneer of artisan cheese is still thriving. It’s a great place to start your London cheese odyssey, with delicious tastings and expert staff. Their Park Street branch is next to the gourmand’s paradise of Borough Market, which contains several other quality cheese vendors. If you want to get even closer to the cheese then Neal’s Yard Dairy are taking on temporary Christmas staff.’

© Pete Berthoud

2. Philpot Lane Mice
Caffe Nero, 23 Eastcheap, EC3M 1DE
‘Guerrilla graffiti is in vogue, but the earliest (and smallest) street artwork in London is more mousy. A tiny sculpture of mice eating a ball of cheese on the side of Caffe Nero dates from 1862 and commemorates two builders working on the nearby Monument. They fought over missing cheese sandwiches and fell to their death; it was later discovered their sandwiches were eaten by mice. The Monument was built by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke in the 1670s to mark the start of the Great Fire. Incidentally, if you’d like a more edible artwork, contact Prudence Staite, one of the country’s best food sculptors.’

Pepys

3. Pepys’ Parmesan
Seething Lane Garden, EC3N 4AT
‘While we’re on the Great Fire… three days after it started Samuel Pepys climbed the spire of All Hallows church and beheld ‘the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw… fire being spread as far as I could see it.’ He was concerned because he lived nearby on Seething Lane. To protect his most precious possessions, he dug a pit in his garden and buried his papers, his wine and his parmesan cheese. There is usually a bust of Pepys in the gardens and a plaque marking the site of his house, but they are currently being dug up to create a basement car park. Now is the moment to bury more parmesan: just lob some into the pit.’

© The Leadenhall Tower

4. The Cheesegrater
122 Leadenhall Street, EC3V 4PT
‘A welcome culinary addition to the city skyline, the Cheesegrater is due for completion in 2014. The Richard Rogers design is perfectly placed next to the Gherkin: soon we’ll have all the architectural ingredients for a humungous cheese and pickle sandwich in the heart of the financial district.’

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

5. Ye Old Cheshire Cheese
145 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2BU
‘Cheshire cheese is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It’s Britain’s first named cheese and the quintessential cheese of London. Daniel Defoe describes how, in the 18th Century, 14,000 tons of Cheshire cheese were shipped to London every year and sold in alehouses. The cheese even gave its name to several pubs, including Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. Dickens was a regular at this atmospheric tavern, and mentions it in A Tale of Two Cities. You can still order Welsh rarebit here, which is traditionally made from Cheshire cheese.’

Leadenhall Market

6. Cheese at Leadenhall Market
4-5 Leadenhall Market, EC3V 1LR
‘Finally, for the ultimate London cheese experience, head to Cheese in the beautiful Leadenhall Market where cheese has been sold since 1397. The staff at this eccentric establishment are highly knowledgeable about their stock of international cheeses and quality wines. They serve a number of delicious cheese-inspired dishes, which you eat under the burgundy ironwork of the Victorian market arcade, and they have recently collaborated with Curiocity to host a regular London cheese experience, with a walking tour, guided tasting and quiz. Details here.’

Henry Eliot is the editor of Curiocity and runs literary walks.  For all his cheesey (and other) musings, visit his twitter page, @HenryEliot. Curiocity have just published their latest issue, ‘Celestial London‘, available across London and online.

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