La Cave á Fromage does exactly what it says on the tin; a room filled to the brim with wonderfully pungent, top class cheese as well as a selection of those things that go best with cheese: wine, cured meats and bread. This is no place to come for something to grate over your spag bol; this is a place for people who really love and appreciate good cheese; this is for the connoisseurs, or at least the aspiring.
We were in for an education with an interesting twist. The element of competition, successfully rids this cheese tasting night of any stuffiness, and automatically generates conversation around the table. The plain and simple task tonight: to learn about cheese, to eat cheese, drink wine, and pick a winner.
Seated at the back of the ‘cave’, each guest is presented with a black slate. On it: four English cheeses go head to head with four French cheeses. Each table is also given a mouth-wateringly good selection of cured meats and some little slices of poppy seed bread.
First up is the Cremet and La Colline aux Chévres. A dry white is poured into each glass to complement the lemony notes in the goat’s cheese, and instructions to eat the cheese alone are given. Our hosts are passionate and knowledgeable, detailing how to taste the cheese effectively and how to take in the wine.
For me, one little bite and there’s a clear favourite. The Cremet is creamy, full of flavour and melts in the mouth. After I eat half my slice, I can’t resist secretly smearing the rest onto a bit of bread. The French contender seems a little mild in comparison.
Next it was France’s chance to shine. This time we are told to expect mushroomy tones from the two Camembertstyle cheeses and their fluffy white rinds and are served a medium bodied red to accompany them. We learn the French Rothschild is one of the last few remaining cheeses made using only the milk from the cheese makers’ own herds, therefore is left unpasteurised. This cheese is super-rich and creamy, as promised, and wins this round almost unanimously.
Onto the ‘cheddar course’. We are introduced to some harder cheese; a Montgomery Cheddar, which crumbles in the mouth, and a smoother French Cantal Vieux AOC, served with a glass of a much lighter, fruitier red. Although this decision is a little harder to make, the Montgomery gets my vote!
Our final indulgence is the blue cheese; our hosts may well have saved the best for last. We all listen intently while the perfect technique for bringing out the full flavour of the cheese is revealed to us. Taking some cheese in our mouths, we are advised to drink our dessert wine through the cheese, to discover a taste sensation.
With the final vote in place, the room unveil their winners… a draw is announced! This seems a fair result; no cheese here could really be labelled a loser. On the way out we can’t resist treating ourselves to a rather tasty block. Maybe the wine has gone to our heads, or maybe we now fancy ourselves as connoisseurs? Whatever it might be, the evening had been a great success and I suspect later some curious dreams would have be had by all!
La Cave à Fromage is at: 34-35 Western Road, Hove BN3 1AF