One of the great joys of living in London is that it is a magnet for the best producers and traders. That's not to say there aren't parts of the country where you can find a great mix of local producers. Because the market in London is vast, producers want to trade here and the competition tends to drive up quality. When it comes to cheese, this is something I particularly appreciate.
There are some great cheese shops around the UK now, but in London I can buy the best British and Irish cheeses at Neal's Yard Dairy; try out the new from Kappacasein; choose from the great range of French cheeses at Mons; and the best the Dutch have to offer from Boerenkaas. All of these businesses trade within a couple of hundred metres of each other. Alongside them is the outstanding Swiss cheese importer KäseSwiss. Each business sells its cheeses wholesale, some around the world, so you may be buying it in your local specialist cheese shop but being able to buy directly from the maker, importer or maturer every week is a real treat. And then, of course, there's the 'cheese chat' - but maybe you have to have worked in a cheese shop to enjoy that!
Before I encountered Rachael Sills, the founder of KäseSwiss, my knowledge of Swiss cheese extended little beyond Gruyère and Vacherin Mont d'Or (which is made from pasteurised milk as opposed to the French version which is generally unpasteurised). Both admirable cheeses but, as I now know, it's a shame to stop there. Rachael started her career in cheese in 1995 at Neal's Yard Dairy. A move to Zurich saw her seeking out the best Swiss cheeses and then in 2005 she formed KäseSwiss to bring traditional artisan cheese to the UK. For the past three years Rachael has judged the World Cheese Awards and this year she formed the British Cheesemongers Guild.
Appenzeller, L'Etivaz, Emmentaler and Stilsitzer had not previously attracted me. There being so many fantastic British hard cheeses around they'd have to be really good to impress. Quality and expert maturing matter hugely, of course, and the ones KäseSwiss source are right up there on both counts. Apart from these, and the best selection of Gruyères, you may find a deliciously sticky textured Vacherin Fribourgeois or a creamy Tomme Fleurette on the counter. Right now you can get a punchy little cow's milk Le Sousbois, matured in a pine-bark collar.
KäseSwiss open the shutters on Druid Street, Bermondsey every Saturday 09.00-2pm to sell alongside like-minded businesses. If you miss that opportunity, you can buy their cheeses from Patricia Michelson's excellent Marylebone branch of La Fromagerie (which also stocks some Neal's Yard Dairy and Mons cheeses).
If you aren't impressed with the Swiss cheeses you're tasting, try KäseSwiss.
104 Druid Street