The Cheese Lair of London: Step into La Fromagerie for a close encounter with irresistible
The story of La Fromagerie began more than 20 years ago with a skiing holiday in the French Alpine resort of Méribel. Worn down by a long day on the slopes, Patricia Michelson took a little respite and happened to taste the local cheese,
Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. “With its nutty sweetness,” she says, “it was like a shot of something chocolatey; it really gave me a lift. The next day I went down into the village to meet the cheesemaker.” Awakened to the possibilities of fine cheese, Michelson returned home to London with a wheel of
Beaufort, which she proceeded to sell from her garden shed. From that point her retail progress was swift: A market stall for cheese was followed in September 1992 by the opening of the first La Fromagerie store in the North London neighborhood of Highbury Park. A second, larger store was opened in Marylebone in the center of London in November 2002. In the meantime Patricia had established herself as one of the leading British advocates for artisan cheese with two award-winning books on the subject to her name.
Both La Fromagerie shops are dedicated to the lure of artful rusticity. Produce, from handmade charcuterie to seasonal fruits and vegetables, is meticulously selected and coddled. At each store a Tasting Café offers everything from breakfast to pretheater suppers, with straightforward dishes that showcase the quality of the raw materials; they are the perfect place to savor a cheese plate or a plowman’s lunch of Keen’s Cheddar and homemade pork pie with a glass of wine, from an imaginatively selected oldworld list.
But at the heart of each store is the temperature- and climate-controlled cheese room, showcasing an impressive collection of British and European cheeses. The staff serve customers in the round, inside the glass-walled room, rather than from behind a counter, so shopping for cheese is a completely immersive experience. The opportunities to expand your cheese knowledge continue with Michelson’s regular evening tasting classes and events, often featuring collaborations with prominent chefs and cookbook authors. Michelson takes pride in the seasonal emphasis of the tastings: “We always start the year with a fondue, then in the spring it’s on to the new season’s goat’s cheeses. The autumn is for richer cheeses, and then in the winter we celebrate the arrival of the first of the year’s Mont d’Or!”
Written by Francis Percival
Photography by Kate Arding