Two of my favourite things in life are wine and cheese. Both are divine in their own right; together, they are unbeatable.
La Cave à Fromage, in South Kensington, prides itself on being an expert on both. Located just a couple of moments’ walk from the local tube station, this shop-cum-restaurant offers a delectable range of cheeses for consumption on the premises and purchase, as well as an intriguing selection of wines.
Please note: this is not somewhere you go for luxury dining. The dining area forms part of the shop and accordingly is kept simple: a collection of wooden chairs and tables decorated with checked tablecloths. Because of the proximity of the fridges, it can get a bit nippy, so bring layers if you feel the cold.
None of that matters, though, once you see the cheeses. Like its surroundings, the menu is kept simple and divided into cheese, charcuterie and wine. I don’t eat meat, so wasted no time in assessing the cheeses assembled from the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Switzerland. Tempted though I was by La Cave’s Cheese Platter (a selection of cheese including goat’s, bloomy rind, semi-hard, hard, washed rind and blue) and by the ‘Journey Through Cheese and Wine’ (a selection of three cheeses and three charcuterie each paired with the other and three 125ml glasses of wine to complement the cheese), I found myself irresistibly drawn toward the ‘Winter Specialties’. These include Baked Mont d’Or (a Vacherin Mont d’Or baked with white wine and garlic), Raclette (a no-no for me as it’s cooked with pancetta), Baked Camembert or Baked Tunworth.
I adore Camembert – but the lure of the Tunworth, baked and then drizzled with truffle honey and served with marinated vegetables proved too strong, as did the opportunity to try a different kind of cheese. The words “truffle” and “honey” played their part, too.
Tunworth, so I discovered, is similar in style to Camembert, sporting the same bloomy rind. Made from cow’s milk and hailing from Gloucestershire it is, quite simply, delicious.I mean really: what’s not to like about piping hot cheese mopped up by freshly-baked bread and accompanied by all your favourite vegetables: marinated artichokes, peppers, courgettes and aubergines?
I’m enjoying myself so much reminiscing about the food that I’ve almost forgotten to mention the wine: sacrilege. Today’s weather was still warm enough for me to fancy a glass of something chilled and white – and, after a few moments deliberating between the Picpoul de Pinet and the Pouilly Fumé (both personal faves), I opted for the latter, a Pouilly Fumé Jeunes Vignes, Domaine Henri Bourgeois, from the Loire (100% Sauvignon Blanc).
This proved to be an interesting choice and I had to really work to get any kind of nose from it (not altogether unexpectedly). ‘Minerals’ are what sprang to mind, which would have my dear friend and wine mentor, Paul Mapplebeck, tutting. The fruit did not reveal itself until the finish, this very dry wine proving itself flinty, elegant and oh-so-grown-up.
This does not need to be a long post. There are two excellent reasons for visiting La Cave à Fromage (designated “the world’s third most amazing cheese shop” by The Daily Telegraph) and my post has, hopefully, explained what those are. Whilst I was enjoying my delectable feast, numerous locals popped in to make purchases – a glowing endorsement, if one was needed. And on my way out, I noticed that La Cave holds regular cheese and wine tasting evenings: a further inducement to return, which I most certainly will do.