Festivals & Events

Cheese to please

An invitation to the London launch of the UK’s most popular cheese club, Homage2Fromage on 26 November was an invitation that the Foody Traveller could not refuse.

Founded eight years ago in Leeds, and now held in cities across the north of England, Homage2Fromage is the brainchild of self-styled ‘cheese obsessives’ Nick Copland and Vickie Rogerson. Their concept is a simple one: to introduce some of the best cheeses around to the widest possible new audiences, in a fun, informative yet unpretentious way.

Once a month, therefore, they host evening cheese parties in various locations; this one was held in a comfortable upper room at the Bull, a large modern pub handily situated beside Westfield in Shepherds’ Bush which will be their first regular London venue.

On arrival at 19.00 I was confronted with a display of eight beautiful, fragrant whole cheeses, identified only by number and laid out on a long table with breads, crackers, chutneys and fruit.

The Best of British

The theme for the evening, Nick and Vickie explained, was ‘Best of British’, we would be tasting blind, but right now we were welcome to look, admire, even photograph—but not touch. How tantalising!

Fortunately we didn’t have too long to wait as at 19.15 our hosts called “Cheese!” We formed a polite but eager queue, more than ready to begin.

Over the next hour we were encouraged to cut our own portions of all the cheeses, trying a small portion of each ‘bare’ to begin with, then going back for as much as we liked of our favourites as well as sampling them with different accompaniments.

People chatted and laughed and enjoyed – lots of cheese got eaten, but there was more than enough to go round.

Cheeses revealed

‘Eventually’, about 20.15, Nick and Vickie called us to order for the grand reveal. One by one they identified each of the eight cheeses, and told us why they had chosen them.

With over 700 named British cheeses now in production, it must have been a hard pick!

All were artisan cheeses, of very high quality, presented in excellent condition; it was certainly a pleasure to taste each and every one, and learn about them. Luckily there were copies of the tasting notes available to take away – handy for tracking down your own supply of that special new favourite at a later date.

Our personal favourites

I have not one but three to look out for now: Hebridean Blue, from Scriob Ruadh farm on Mull; Baron Bigod, the UK’s only raw-milk farmhouse brie-style cheese, from Suffolk; and Char-Coal, a black cheese blending Cheddar with impregnated charcoal, creamy and sweetish and altogether delicious…. Evidently Char-Coal was invented in 2014 to honour the 40th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike, by Yorkshire cheesemonger Michael Lee.

However I’d be more than happy to find any of the other five on a cheeseboard sometime soon. In no particular order, these were: Sparkenhoe Red Leicester; Stinking Bishop; Gorwydd Caerphilly; Mayfield; and Isle of Mull.

The next cheese party

The next London cheese party at the Bull will focus on Scottish cheese on 28 January 2020. Tickets are bookable via the website and priced at £24 a head, with drinks available separately from the bar and discounts available for tables of four, six or eight.

I thought it good value for as much cheese and sides as you can eat – the buffet continuing after the grand reveal, All in all a fun, relaxed evening outing for a group of friends.

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