Winter is wonderful for many reasons. It’s the crisp, cold season where estranged families can put aside their differences and spend quality time together. It’s the season where you can start layering and put all your recent Uniqlo purchases to good use. It’s the season where you can remember why it is that you’re estranged from your terrible, terrible family in the first place. But, most important of all, it’s the season where it’s finally socially acceptable for you to eat mountains upon mountains of cheese.
Cheese is obviously great at all times of the year (I could write a dissertation about how halloumi and feta are the summer dresses of the cheese world) but our consumption of the stuff really ramps up when the weather gets cold. There’s a reason that cauliflower cheese, mac and cheese, tartiflette, and potato gratin are all mainstays around November and December and a reason why there are so many brilliant cheese subscriptions out there. Cheese is the epitome of a comfort food and it’s even been proven that it can boost your body’s levels of vitamin D – a substance we all lack when we’re particularly sun-deprived.
Despite cheese very much being on everyone’s minds right now, ordering the cheese course when you’re at a restaurant is still a controversial move to make. Not only does it rob you of something sweet to end your meal on, but it also feels like you’re cheating yourself out of sampling a chef’s creativity by ordering something that you could quite literally make for yourself at home. A slice of brie with a spoonful of punchy chutney is brilliant but… is it really worth paying £8 for the trouble of eating that on a white table cloth when you could just as easily cobble that together from the comfort of your sofa? Honestly? No.
Not all cheese courses are made even though. And not all of them are examples of a kitchen phoning it in. I’ve been lucky enough to sample a couple of superbly cheesy dishes recently and I’d like to take the chance here to give a shout out to some of the chefs and restaurants who are underlining just how magical cheese can be. Especially when it’s served towards the tail-end of a meal.
From Chet Sharma at BiBi to Roberta Hall McCarron at The Little Chartroom, many brilliant chefs are paying homage to the fromage and proving that the cheese course (and British artisan cheese, in particular) can be an exciting addition to a menu.
The cheese course isn’t just an afterthought for someone with the guts to do something interesting with it, and there’s no excuse for a restaurateur to get away with serving a solo bit of Berkswell. In the right hands that piece of cheese can, like a lump of clay tossed into Aardman’s animation studio, become utterly charming. These are a few of the people going above and beyond to make the cheese course truly special.