really wanted to set up my business in this part of town,” says proprietor and Normandy native Eleonore Deneuve. She moved to the UK fourteen years ago, studying at Sunderland University before forging a career in IT. As you do.
Becoming tired of the corporate world, she quit her job to become a cheesemonger, with the aim to make the product “affordable and open up people to new tastes”. Cheezelo has been trading since 2017: as well as now stocking sixty dairy-based varieties, she hand-makes a vegan range from the likes of almonds, cashews, spices and herbs. Spreadable and packing a punch, they’re a tasty alternative.
We pop in to the cosy deli-cum-café for a bite to eat. The small space is welcoming: there’s a counter filled with an array of European offerings such as caramelly mimolette, cave-aged emmental and crumbly stilton to the right, a handful of simple tables to the left.
Delights range from grilled sandwiches made with artisan bread, to oven-baked camembert. We opt for a warming, wintry dish of raclette, a DIY meal using a traditional machine, melting thick slices of the nutty cheese in dinky pans before scraping onto our plates and enjoying with simple boiled potatoes, charcuterie and salad. Over a glass of creamy oak-aged Domaine de Sermezy Bourgogne Chardonnay, we corner Eleonore for a chat.How’s life since the occupation change?
I’m following my passion; so far so good. The people along Chalton Street are lovely, there’s a good sense of community. I knew this area would be perfect for me. Elo’s my nickname, so it’s like chez-elo (at Elo’s place). I want people to feel at home and have a great time.
So, who is your client base?
I get office workers at lunchtime, residents and commuters. In wintertime it tends to get very busy with fondue parties, in the summer people enjoy platters al fresco. Part of it is catering for companies: I work with an excellent network of French pastry chefs and bakers. A year ago I started partnering with One To Wine, we organise regular pairing classes. The next ones are 20th November and 18th December.
What’s your go-to fromage?
At the moment I’m loving the two-year-old comté and I really like Old Winchester, based on a gouda recipe.
Christmas is coming; we want to create a memorable cheeseboard.
I suggest having various textures; if there are four guests I advise a minimum of five. Include a soft one such as brie or Époisses, something slightly firmer like Morbier, a hard kind such as Wookey Hole cheddar or pecorino, blue dolcelatte or gorgonzola, and a fresh type such as Rosary goat’s cheese. Flavoured ones like Italian truffe tartu and Sage Derby and also worth considering; it’s great to play with colours too. Some are naturally coloured with vegetal annatto: Red Leicester is an example. Add seasonal fruits, dried nuts, different types of crackers, and don’t forget the chutney.
Any other top tips?
Cheese should be eaten at room temperature. Remove it from the fridge at least thirty minutes before serving; aromas will be missed if it’s consumed too cold. Extra mature types such as parmigiano are what I call cheaters: they go well with most wines. There’s high enough fat content to balance a bold red whilst also bringing more delicacy to whites.
Main image: Dan Hall