Love cheese as much as I do? (By this I mean eating it on it’s own, hosting a dinner party that was exclusively to eat cheese, or actively seeking it out in SE Asia when it’s not easy to find…) Well if you *NEED* to sniff out the best stuff like me, then I recommend the London Cheese Crawl to introduce you to some great cheeses. As a bonus, you’ll know where to go to buy cheese afterwards too!
London Cheese Crawl
I booked this tour via Funzing as something to do with my cheese loving friends in London. It’s a great way to get involved in the food scene and see bits of London that aren’t on the traditional tourist trail.
It’s a 2 hour walking tour around central London, starting from Green Park and ending in Covent Garden. Along the way the tour guide stops to tell you fun facts about London, but we were there for the cheese! We did 5 stops for cheese and also indulged in a slice of pizza, so we didn’t end it hungry.
After meeting our guide we headed from Green Park, up Piccadilly to our first stop:
Stop 1 – Fortnum & Mason
This grand old department store holds a Royal Warrant to supply the Prince of Wales and the decor lives up to a potential visit from the Royal Family! We headed in and downstairs to the food hall where we clustered around some high tables whilst our guide went in hunt of cheese samples. Here we sampled a Truffle cheese, which was pretty special, rich and full of flavour. I think the cheese was a pecorino – a hard Italian cheese that is similar to parmesan. As this was the first stop everyone was quite polite & shared well – but I still managed to get seconds!
One funny moment came with fighting off the old grannies shopping who were trying to get into our samples! No fear, we were pre-warned and fielded them off with our elbows*
(* with polite reminders that this sample was for the tour group only, come on we are British!)
Our second stop was literally around the corner on Jermyn Street:
Stop 2 – Paxton & Whitfield
(They actually hold two Royal Warrants – for the Queen and the Prince of Wales!)
This old cheese mongers is in a great old building, full of character. Inside, past the cheese counter, they even have some special displays of instruments, implements and special cheeses!
Here we tried a traditional English blue cheese – Stilton, you may have heard of it?! Paxton & Whitfield is all about the British cheese, but is a treasure trove of all types of cheese and books, implements etc. Basically cheese lover’s heaven.
As we were standing outside of the shop it got a little damp when it started drizzling, but nothing a hardy Londoner can’t take in their stride!
Even I got a little lost with our twisty and turny path to the next stop. But we all made it to the third cheese stop in Soho:
Stop 3 – Lina Stores
Lina Stores is a little Italian deli that’s been in Soho since 1944. We had a quick walk through the deli, before reconvening outside on the pavement under the striped awnings for our cheese tasting.
Here we tried two types of cheese made with wine, aka ‘Drunken Cheese’. The first was matured in Prosecco and second in red wine. Apparently this is not a new technique to mature cheese. You can definitely taste the wine – especially on the outside rind pieces. My favourite was the Prosecco one for sure.
Bonus find – Campari Soda!
We stopped outside of the Palace Theatre (where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is showing) for a bonus joke round:
Bonus – cheesy jokes
Many classics came up, many of which you will have read in crackers at Christmas…..
What did the cheese say to itself in the mirror?
Make sure to save up your worst puns for this!
A short walk over Seven Dials and we were at our next stop in Neal’s Yard:
Stop 4 – Neal’s Yard
Here we had a goats cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy:
The goats cheese was a soft one and not too goaty. I’m not sure where it was from – we may have been told, but I didn’t write it down… The Dairy is just around the corner, so you can always pop in and check it out afterwards!
Then we had our promised pizza slices, to truly appreciate mozerella!
The margarita pizza slice from Homeslice was fantastic! Piping hot and straight out of the oven. It’s amazing how a few ingredients can be so good – it’s all in the quality!
Bonus – mouse quiz
We also stopped in Covent Garden piazza to do a quick fire round of ‘name that mouse’ (because mice like cheese right?!). This was surprisingly fun – maybe because I was better at this that the jokes…?
From here it was a short walk around the corner for our fifth and final stop:
Stop 5 – Fromage & Champagne
I’ve been to Fromage & Champagne before, as the temptation of cheese platters and fizz is too much to miss! And basically that’s what you get here. They do cheese and charcuterie platters and all sorts of wine, including champagne. You might be surprised to find out that you should actually drink white wine with cheese. Whilst a nice red can work with the saltiness and umami of the cheese, a young acidic white will actually aid your digestion of all that cheese! Which is why they recommend white wine when you are eating fondue….
Anyway back to the tour: we didn’t have any champagne here and instead waited outside for our baked Camembert with dipping bread. We had 2 whole cheeses baked with garlic & herbs between the group and plenty of refills of the bread basket, as you would expect in a French restaurant!
At first I wasn’t sure that £25 was value for money, but by the end I had a lot of cheese and a lot of fun! Note that whilst you are trying cheese on it’s own, there are crackers available to have with your cheese or to use to cleanse your palate between strong cheeses.
My friends and I thought that we could have had more details about how the cheese was made and perhaps more of a focus on British cheeses. But we certainly ate enough, which was most of the point!
This tour is a great way to have a cheesy lunch whilst getting oriented in London.
One thing to note is this is a walking tour. Which means that you won’t be sitting down anywhere… Most of the places we visited were too small for our group to all get inside at the same time and we ate our cheese outside in the street, except for at Fortnum & Mason. So if you can’t walk far, or can’t stand long, this is not the tour for you. It also means that you need to be dressed for the weather! Dress warm in Winter and make sure you have cover from the British rain!
However if you are a small group (2-4 people) then you can squeeze into Fromage & Champagne or Lina Stores to sit down after the tour. The other cheese mongers don’t have eat in seating.