I like eating good cheese but I’m not the most knowledgable cheese person. If you are not a knowledgable cheese person either and you live in the US—where French and Italian cheese get all the press—you might be forgiven for not knowing just how much good cheese is made in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Well, since I have a number of cheese-positive English friends I did know this—and courtesy Monty Python I know the names of a number of British cheeses—but I hadn’t actually eaten very much British cheese, or had the opportunity to do so. Until now, that is. One of my gastronomic goals during my long’ish sojourn in London is to acquaint myself with a good range of British cheese. Luckily, London has a number of excellent cheese shops and contra Monty Python, they are not uncontaminated by cheese. And they’re not shy about pushing British cheese either. Here now is the first of what will likely be several reports on my exploration of British cheese. First up, a couple of forays into the venerable Paxton & Whitfield on Jermyn Street (almost exactly between the Piccadilly Circus and Green Park tube stations).
While many people rate Neal’s Yard Dairy as the top place for British cheese—and others recommended La Fromagerie as well—Paxton & Whitfield are no slouches either. They’ve been around since 1797 (which makes them the Berry Bros. and Rudd of British cheese); and more to the point, they’re conveniently located between my place of work and our flat. Accordingly, I have been stopping there on the way home once a week and picking up goodish chunks of five cheeses at a time—which we eat over the better part of a week.
We’ve been eating them with crackers and bread alongside fruit and a couple of excellent chutneys I also purchased from Paxton & Whitfield. And I’ve also been trying to pair them with the whiskies I have on hand: Aultmore 12 (a milder bourbon cask Speysider), Benromach 10 100 proof (a lightly peated, lightly sherried Speysider), Glenfarclas 15 (a more richly sherried Speysider), and the Elements of Islay Lg6 (a bourbon cask, heavily peated Lagavulin).
Now, you may want to know what I thought of the cheeses and how the whisky pairings went. But I’m afraid I’m going to be annoying. It’s rather a lot of photographs and I don’t want to spend too much time sitting and resizing them. So today you’re only going to get a good look at Paxton & Whitfield itself. If you’re still interested in the cheeses I purchased, come back
tomorrow in a few days (you’ll be able to figure out from the gallery which ones they were).
Here’s the gallery—scroll down for comments on the Paxton & Whitfield customer experience.
As will be clear from a close examination of the above photographs, Paxton & Whitfield sell a lot more than British cheese (and also a lot more than just cheese). Their cheese is sorted not by nationality but by general type (blue cheese, hard cheese, semi-soft cheese, soft cheese, very stinky cheese etc.). It’s a bewildering variety for someone like me who knows very little about cheese but the staff are very happy to both advise and educate you a little and to give you samples of the cheeses you’re interested in. I also overheard them on one occasion deal very gracefully with one somewhat obtuse customer. And there is no public dancing.
With one exception I’ve been very pleased with the cheese I got from them (more on this
tomorrow soon). I have not yet compared their prices to the other major stores, but coming from the US, the prices seem very reasonable for the variety and quality. I would accordingly recommend them highly, especially in central London. All this notwithstanding, in a couple of weeks look for a similar report on Neal’s Yard Dairy.
And, again, come back
tomorrow in a few days for my probably useless takes on the cheeses I purchased and on my whisky pairing recommendations.