"Heaven for cheese lovers"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
I adore cheese. If I had to choose three things to take away with me to a desert island, two would have to be cheeses, whilst the third would be a portable music player of some kind to indulge in my favourite music. Once a Christmas present from a boyfriend consisted of a selection of cheeses. It was the best present I received that year.
Unsurprisingly, when I heard of the opening of speciality cheese restaurant L’Art du Fromage my stomach gave a yelp of excitement. Cheese at every course sounded like a dream come true, and yes, I would even dare to try the Roquefort ice cream rumoured to be on the menu.
As soon as we walk in we are enveloped in the waft of whiffy cheese, it is so strong that it follows us as we are ushered upstairs to a room reminiscent of a Swiss log cabin, with a slanted roof, wooden beams and a quirky stained glass window. The décor is ideally suited to the wintry menu of fondues, raclettes and tartiflettes, a potato, cheese and lardons dish which has its origins in the Savoie region of the French Alps.
After ordering we are brought avocado, prawn and salmon amuse-bouches, tasters of what is to come, as we sip a smooth Cote du Rhone (£19), selected from a list of wines chosen to accompany the ‘mountain’ dishes on offer.
The smoked salmon and goats cheese roulade (£6.40) appears on a dish decorated with minuscule cubes of cucumber and beetroot. After a few mouthfuls it becomes impossibly rich. The thick roll of creamy cheese wrapped in a thin layer of salmon is just too much, and the beetroot carpaccio and herbs are not enough to counteract its density. A shame, as a more frugal amount would have made this almost perfect.
A similarly mammoth-sized starter is the Munster pane (£6.90), a dish of the deliciously pungent Munster cheese coated in bread crumbs and served with slices of Bayonne ham, on a walnut and baby leaf salad.
The tarte flambées or French pizzas come in four variations, we opt for La Forestiere (£8.60). Sliced ham and cep mushrooms are placed on very thin dough covered in crème fraiche; slices of practically raw onion lend the tarte crunch and sweetness.
A delicious tartiflette called ‘La Jurassiene’ (£12.90) is swiftly devoured. Thin layers of potato placed on top of one another are blanketed with melted Comte cheese; tender pieces of guineafowl chicken with crispy skin sit amongst a herby mushroom ragout.
The heavy courses consumed so far would surely be enough to satisfy the most ravenous of appetites, but there is dessert yet to come and the possibility of more cheese. The menu claims the poached pear in red wine and spices (£4.90) comes with goats cheese ice cream (no Roquefort sadly, even cheeses are seasonal), however once this arrives it turns out to be vanilla.
On the other hand my companion, expecting a conventional ice cream to accompany her crème brulee (£5.60), squirmed a little at the tangy scoop placed on her dish. Its stringy texture – a little like desiccated coconut - and the added hint of lemon is not for everyone, however after a few mouthfuls I confess I took a liking to it. Perhaps perseverance is key.
Dining at L’Art du Fromage has only served to intensify my love affair with cheese. Where before I craved Camemberts and Saint Agurs, I now hunt down Comtes, Reblochons, and other varieties from the Alps. And I haven’t even tried their fondue yet.
Leila reviewed L'art Du Fromage on Wed 19 May 2010