“Cheese – milk’s leap towards immortality.”
– Clifton Paul Fadiman
One of the places I showed J. was Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, a hidden street only a short walk from his usual stomping ground but that he’d never heard of. London is stuffed with places like this, it’s probably why I love it so much. Neal’s Yard used to be just an old, unused area behind some buildings on Neal Street and Monmouth Street. In the 1970’s Nicholas Saunders opened a series of businesses that soon attracted other shops and venues. Today you can find homeopathic snuggled up alongside major brands, boutiques and pop up shops, and tons of character in every last one of them.
Walking into the yard proper is fun because the brick walls and windows are all painted bright colors, there are quirky shops specializing in everything from astrology to frozen yogurt, and you get the idea that you’ve walked into a big, confetti colored secret. J. took a look around and declared, “You lead me into wardrobes,” which may be one of the cutest compliments ever uttered, as far as I’m concerned.
The point of our visit was that I wanted to glance through the Neal’s Yard Dairy, one of the best cheese shops in London and one of the places that has such a fun ambiance that you want to kidnap tourists from the normal places they’re herded into and show them an off-the-beaten-path good time.
Again, like most shops, it’s tiny but crammed to the brim with good stuff. There are massive rounds of cheese stored along every wall, and a staff eager to slice off samples of their wares.
J. and I tried a few samples for the fun of it. If ever you have sinus problems, let me recommend the Stinking Bishop – it’s about as potent as wasabi!
Each cheese is labeled by name, and more uniquely, the farm it was made at. No processed stuff here, if you please! This is an artisan’s shop, stocked by independent and family farms from all over Europe. We got half a round of Tunworth, a Hampshire soft cheese which is (a staff member informed me) often referred to as an English Camembert. It is delicious with gala apples.
It’s a fun treat place if you’re throwing a party and need a cheese platter, if you’re in the mood to experiment with gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, or if you just want to snag something to treat yourself with an alternate to sugar.
Neal’s Yard, minions. Check it out.
*All photos mine.