I’m a huge fan of The Cheese Truck’s toasties. That buttery-crisp fried bread with hot, oozing and stringy filling is undeniably damn good. And yes, when I heard that Matthew Carver, man behind the wheel, was opening a permanent, brick-and-mortar jaunt in The Stables named The Cheese Bar, and my Facebook feed was filled with food-porn videos featuring gooey strings of melted cheese, my appetite was whetted. I may have even tagged a few cheese-loving friends, along with some generic comment akin to ‘omg we must go’. However, I was sceptical. Would a restaurant serving dishes entirely revolving around cheese be a success? Surely three dishes would leave even the biggest cheese fanatic panting for a glass of water and repenting of their sins. Can it be enjoyable to eat that much cheese?
Well, there was only one way to find out, and off I trotted to the hellhole of Camden market (it never ceases to astound that a crowded maze of punk clothing shops is one of London’s most popular tourist attractions). Once we’d fought our way through the Easter holiday bedlam and bagged one of The Cheese Bar’s outside picnic tables, I felt quite content with my surroundings. From our lofty perch, we could bask in the April sunshine and take part in some great people watching (namely tourists attempting selfies with Amy Winehouse’s memorial statue).
Building upon the ethic of The Cheese Truck, the menu at The Cheese Bar revolves entirely around produce sourced from Urban UK cheese makers (primarily within the M25). However, unlike its sister it doesn’t stop at the humble toastie, branching out to other cheese inspired dishes involving the likes of pasta, meat and even ice cream. It operates as a classic tapas/sharing plates fare, with a few communal dishes ordered for the table that are brought out one by one to avoid any melted cheese cooling, hardening, and generally depreciating in deliciousness.
First out were mozzarella sticks with marinera sauce. A food blogger’s dream which, when broken into, stretched like cheesy elastic to instagrammable perfection. The crust was light and golden crisp, the marinera a perfect counterbalance of tomatoed sweetness. So far – so good.
Up next we opted for one of their classic toasties, with Cropwell Bishop Stilton, bacon, and pear chutney. It’s the crisp and butter-soaked bread that always wins me over with these toasties, the cheese just beginning to soak through to leave an inner hint of sogginess. My one query would be whether there was enough chutney to counteract the sharpness of the Stilton, which became increasingly overpowering.
Our final dish was a Young Buck raclette, served in a piping hot skillet ban over salt beef and burnt leeks. This dish was a winner – a plate of filthy, indulgent Alpine perfection, with the caramelised sweetness of the leeks balancing the saltiness of the beef and sharpness of the cheese. A token couple of potatoes chucked in to soak up any remaining cheesy goodness were hoovered up in minutes.
There were countless other delights on the menu that I wanted to try, but my initial theory held strong in that three dishes of cheese down, our daily cheese quota had definitely been filled. However, The Cheese Bar was far more than the one-trip, novelty establishment I feared it might be. There was enough variety on the menu to leave me keen to return for more. After all, that marmite malakoff (a ball of fried cheese) with Romesco, short rib poutine with bacon gravy, and fondue with smoked sausage can’t be left untested. The pudding menu also intrigued, featuring a classic ricotta and lemon cheesecake and a more daring Beenleigh Blue ice cream, honey and pear sundae. Not a novelty after all then, as I’m left pondering when I can make my next trip.
Will I be heading back for a full meal? Probably not. For a couple of plates of melted cheese, a glass or two of red wine and an hour or two marvelling at Camden market’s touristic lure, however – absolutely.
Star Rating ****
Oozing, devilish indulgence – worth every mouthful.