It’s often said that cheese improves any meal. In view of this, and also the fervent passion that a lot of people seem to have for cheese, it surprises me that there haven’t been more attempts by entrepreneurial types to launch cheese-based restaurants.
That said, there have been a few instances here in the UK…
A couple of years ago there was a cheese restaurant that opened up in Leeds called Homage 2 Fromage, as an extension of a monthly cheese club of the same name. My wife and I were so excited to hear about it that we actually arranged a weekend away in Leeds just so we could go and dine there – and we weren’t disappointed. From cheese on toast to fondue, the entire menu was a veritable smortgasbord of cheese-based goodness.
In fact, when the waitress came over and told us what the specials were, it felt a bit like she was talking dirty to me!
Sadly though, Homage 2 Fromage was short-lived, closing after just six months. By all accounts it had proved very popular during that time – however, it was apparently only ever planned to be a temporary venture. A ‘pop-up’ restaurant, to use modern parlance.
It seems though that Homage 2 Fromage definitely cemented a love of cheese-based eateries among the good folk of Leeds, as there’s now a similar establishment up and running in the city called L’Art du Fromage – although apparently it’s only open at weekends.
I will definitely aim to check out L’Art du Fromage at some point. In the meantime though, I’m pleased to bring news of another cheese restaurant elsewhere: having recently spent some time in London and stumbled upon a wonderful place called the Cheese Bar.
The Cheese Bar is in Camden, an area of London famous for its markets – and the restaurant is actually located right in the middle of one of them, in the old Camden Stables.
So what’s the Cheese Bar like? Well it’s a small place but a very attractive venue – with the dining area consisting of just one room, which is dominated by a large rectangular bar in the middle. As a diner you sit on stools all around the bar, which I thought made a nice change from traditional types of restaurant seating. The décor is simple but modern – at one end of the room there’s a massive wall display listing all the Cheese Bar’s 20+ house cheeses, while at the other there are banks of large glass fronted fridges where you can see the cheeses sat tantalisingly in large truckles.
On taking a seat I was immediately shown a menu by a friendly member of staff – and to be honest, if I had bottomless pockets and little care for my arteries I would’ve happily ordered every single dish on there! The menu is split into starters, mains, sharing plates, grilled cheese sandwiches and mains – and there was nothing that didn’t sound absolutely delicious. I was initially tempted to go for the truffled brie with walnuts and crackers (£7.20) off the starter menu, and then pondered the four cheese pasta (£7.80) from the selection of mains – although eventually I plumped for one of the five varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches (£6.50) available.
Now I’ve written before on this blog about how grilled cheese sandwiches seem to have be popping up everywhere here in the UK – a bit like the ‘gourmet burger’ phenomenon of a couple of years ago. And from my experience, the ones that are available – much like gourmet burgers – tend to range in quality from the superb to the decidedly average.
Happily the effort created for me by the Cheese Bar was as good a grilled cheese sandwich as I’ve had. In my opinion, a lot of places that do them try a bit too hard to be quirky, or go overboard in trying to shoehorn too many different ingredients into them. As we all know though, someimes less is more – and beyond the bread, the one I chose consisted of just three ingredients: two different cheeses (Quickes Cheddar and Ogleshield), plus mixed onion.
And it was bloody lovely…
I must admit, I hadn’t actually heard of Ogleshield before – and indeed, it struck me as I perused the wall display detailing the Cheese Bar’s ‘house cheeses’ that they clearly go to some effort to try and procure interesting and unusual cheeses. Which is great – after all, it’s always good to be educated in the ways of cheese! For the record, a quick Google search revealed that Ogleshield is a British cheese made using raw Jersey milk. If you happen to own a Raclette grill – and if you don’t know what one of those is, check out a previous blog that I published a few weeks ago – then apparently it works as a good substitute for Raclette. So there you go!
All in all then, I was very impressed with the Cheese Bar. It was a great venue, the staff were friendly and efficient, the food was great, and it was very reasonably priced too for London. What more can you ask for? Would definitely like to go back and sample more of the delights from their menu on future visits to London!