Five of the best fromageries across the UK
The UK is home to an incredible array of artisan cheese shops. Here are five of the best, each guaranteed to please even the most discerning cheese-lover.
Britain’s glorious cheesemaking tradition, which stretches back thousands of years, has faced numerous challenges over the centuries — from the industrial revolution and the move to large-scale production to the rise of the supermarket. Its latest test, lockdown, has been a real stinger, with many diaries struggling to cope with the sudden closure of the restaurants they supply. Specialist cheese chops, which for decades have been championing artisan cheeses, currently represent something of a lifeline for the makers of some of the UK’s most treasured varieties. So, if you’re tempted to seek them out, there’s never been a better time. But, altruism aside, the UK’s finest fromageries provide an extremely satisfying visitor experience, offering, as many do (in normal times), tastings, a great selection of cheeses and friendly advice. Here are seven of the best.
1. Country Cheeses, Devon
Gary and Elise Jungheim have sold British cheese in Devon for more than 30 years. They started with a stall at Pannier Market, in Tavistock, and now run three Country Cheeses shops, in Topsham, Totnes and the town where it all started. They sell close to 150 cheeses, mostly from the West Country, and even ordering bespoke cheeses from local producers, including the Sharpham Estate’s award-winning Celeste.
2. La Fromagerie, London
Having started out selling cheese from her garden shed, Patricia Michelson went on to open La Fromagerie in London’s Highbury in 1992. Two more outposts followed, in Marylebone in 2002 and in Bloomsbury in 2017. The stores are renowned for their ‘cheese rooms’, which eschew traditional glass counters in favour of open shelves stacked high with products from the UK and Europe. La Fromagerie also partners with the Academy of Cheese to run day courses for professionals and enthusiasts alike.
3. The Courtyard Dairy, Settle
This multi-award-winning The Courtyard Dairy in Settle, North Yorkshire is a must-visit destination for cheese-lovers. Run by Andy and Kathy Swinscoe, it comprises a beautiful shop selling artisan cheeses from the UK and Europe, a cafe serving fondue and toasties, and a cheese museum, where visitors can learn about the history of cheesemaking.
4. The Old Cheese Shop, Hartington
Cheese-making in Hartington, Derbyshire, dates back to the 1870s, but after local production ceased with the closure of the Hartington cheese factory in 2009, a group of local cheesemakers — including Claire Milner, co-owner of The Old Cheese Shop — formed Hartington Creamery to keep the tradition alive. Claire’s shop, in the centre of Hartington village, stocks more than 100 varieties of British and Irish cheeses, from the creamery’s own award-winning stilton to more unusual flavours like pineapple and sticky toffee.
5. Neal’s Yard Dairy, London
Founded in Covent Garden in 1979, Neal’s Yard has played an instrumental role in the great British cheese revival. It works closely with around 40 cheesemakers across the UK and Ireland, selecting the best cheeses to mature and then sell from its three London outposts. Its speciality is traditional British ‘territorials’, such as Appleby’s Cheshire, which reflect the nation’s unique climate and agriculture.
6. The Bristol Cheesemonger, Bristol
Located in a converted shipping container in Bristol’s Wapping Wharf, The Bristol Cheesemonger is a fromagerie for modern times. It was founded by Rosie Morgan, who learnt her trade at Country Cheeses as a teenager and won retailer of the year at the 2017 Great British Cheese Awards. A true expert in her field, Rosie stocks around 75 British cheeses, many from local Somerset producers such as Barbers Farmhouse Cheddar.
7. The Cheeseboard, London
Founded by Michael Jones in 1985, The Cheeseboard is one of London’s finest artisan cheese shops. Packed into small premises near Greenwich Park, it’s usually stocked with 150 cheeses with around half from the UK and the rest from across Europe, as well as breads, wines, and beers for pairings. For those who you don’t live nearby, there’s a Cheese Club subscription, with five new cheese delivered to your house each month.
Published in Issue 9 (summer 2020) of National Geographic Traveller Food
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