London’s Best Cheeseboards
Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Words & Photography: Chris Pople
As anyone with any sense knows, there is no better way of ending a meal than a perfectly-kept and expertly-selected cheese course. And, for that matter, there are hardly any better mid-afternoon snacks than a cheese course either. Or late-night nibble. Or mid-morning pick-me-up. Look, the point is, you don’t need an excuse to enjoy good cheese, and in London right now, it’s neither difficult nor necessarily expensive to do so either. Here’s our pick of the best cheese boards in London, ranging from pub to super high-end.
The Draper’s Arms
There are a number of pubs and bistros around London that use Neal’s Yard for their entire cheese offering. And why not, because despite their self-imposed patriotism – Neal’s Yard only select, mature and sell cheeses from the UK and Ireland – the quality of the product on offer is never less than stellar.
Of course, this is only half the battle, as anyone who has ever been served a sweating, overheated slab of once lovely cheese will tell you. Fortunately, the guys at the Draper’s Arms know how to keep and serve their cheese properly, and are just as happy to serve you a plate of it with a glass of something sweet and white as a snack as they are topping off a slap-up three-course dinner. In the summer, sit outside – it’s beautiful.
The Draper’s Arms, 44 Barnsbury Street, N1 1ER
St John hardly needs an introduction. One of the most important and influential restaurants the UK has ever known, Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver singlehandedly created an entire culture of nose-to-tail Modern British cooking, and alumni of this starkly beautiful, whitewashed building in Farringdon have gone on to run some of the best restaurants in London.
It goes without saying, then, that they know their cheese, and as a proudly British restaurant they, of course, use Neal’s Yard; there is no finer mid-morning snack than an Eccles cake and slab of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire in that cavernous bar.
St. John, 6 St. John Street, EC1M 4AY
Antidote in Soho have nailed everything that makes a great wine bar – helpful staff, beautiful marble counter tops, a great wine list, and of course an expertly chosen range of cheese and charcuterie.
Working with both Beillevaire cheesemongers in South West London and Borough Market’s Mons, they offer a small but perfectly formed (and kept) selection of local and foreign cheeses, though leaning towards the French – Camembert and Forme d’Ambert are on offer as we write this. Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy your cheese with their sourdough, some of the best in town.
Antidote, 12A Newburgh Street, W1F 7RR
Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels
Androuet supply the dairy offering at this popular bistro in Neal’s Yard, occasionally backed up by, er, Neal’s Yard Dairy, who are practically next door. Much like Antidote, these are a group of people who know exactly what a wine bar needs to do, and exactly how to do it.
The cheese selection is short, but attractive, with occasional guest spots by unusual examples from far afield – Sakura No-Ha (literally “Cherry Blossom”) cheese from Hokkaido in Japan is available at the time of writing.
Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels, 8-10 Neal’s Yard, WC2H 9DP
An informal and popular little bar next to Hackney Downs station, L’Entrepot is part of the Borough Wines stable, and so you’d expect their wine offering to be tip-top.
What’s a more pleasant surprise is the quality of their cheese board, supplied by fellow Borough tenants Mons. They’re all kept lovingly on display, so you can pick one or two that particularly take your fancy or just go for the full set. Also, you get 20% off a bottle of wine with every cheeseboard, another reason to settle in for the foreseeable.
L’Entrepot, 230 Dalston Lane, E8 1LA
We’re getting into the big boys now, and this Chelsea stalwart takes its cheese offering every bit as seriously as it takes its food and wine – which is very seriously indeed. Using no fewer than five separate suppliers including Buchanan’s, La Fromagerie and Beillevaire, the cheese trolley at Medlar is a reason to visit in itself – a huge, beautiful thing groaning with the very finest British and European cheeses.
You can’t go far wrong with any of them, but do not miss the 3-year (!) aged Comté, which will blow your socks off.
Medlar, 438 King’s Road, SW10 0LJ
Probably one of the most famous cheeseboards in London, the selection at Chez Bruce is as big as at it beautiful, using a number of suppliers including Neal’s Yard and La Fromagerie to construct a comprehensive spread of over 120 British and European cheeses, 20-25 of which will be available on the trolley on any particular service. The trolley itself takes pride of place in the centre of the downstairs dining room, and it’s a cold-hearted individual indeed who can spend time in its sight (and aroma) and not want to attack it with gusto.
Chez Bruce, 2 Bellevue Road, SW17 7EG
Unfortunately for everyone else trying their hand at this restaurant game, the Ledbury do tend, rather irritatingly, to be the best at everything they do. The best food, the best wine, the best service, and – yes – the best cheeseboard. The ritual of service is almost as much fun as the eating, with each cheese portioned by clean service cutlery (lest any one example be tainted by crumbs of another), lovingly arranged on olive wood trays and accompanied by grapes and a variety of colourful crackers.
Yes, you’ll pay for it, but sometimes it’s worth paying for an experience that can’t be bettered. And the Ledbury really can not be bettered.
The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, W11 2AQ