My love of cheese is legendary. In fact, there was a murmuring that I was the second most influential person on the local cheese scene!! I still don’t know who was number one but I really hope it was the Queen of cheese, Mary Quicke. So, as you can imagine, having an opportunity arise where I got to spend time in one of the oldest and best cheesemongers in England was something I couldn’t miss out on.
Paxton and Whitfield is a cheese lovers dream. Packed full of speciality cheeses from across Europe with an amazing selection from the UK. You can’t help but feel inspired. On first inspection, I was taken aback by the varied selection. Many kinds of cheese I hadn’t come across before. For example the Gjetost from Norway. A cheese that has a colour similar to caramel. Unusually sweet made with goats milk where the whey is boiled to give a fudgy flavour and texture. In Norway, they slice this cheese thinly and serve it on toast. How delicious.
During my visit, the charming cheesemongers Phillipe and Dag eased me through some top quality tasting. No matter which cheese I took a fancy to, a sample was conjured up to try. The ‘try before you buy’ idea works so well here. Every piece of cheese I sampled I walked away with! I love the fact that there are local cheeses, British cheeses from further afield alongside some fabulous European cheeses.
Whilst there I sampled Hubaner. An Austrian hard cows milk cheese that’s matured for 8 months which gives the cheese a wonderful nutty flavour. From Austria I headed to France to try a blue cheese. Bleu d Auvergne is similar to Roquefort but made with cows milk. I loved the salty, strong flavour. This cheese is fabulous on its own but would be equally great stirred through pasta. Yum!
Moving from the cow’s milk cheeses to goats milk and a local cheese to Bath. Cerney cheese is from the Cotswolds and covered in Ash. Made in the style of many French cheeses, it is still made by hand and true to original methods.
The final cheese I sampled was the Norwegian Gjetost that I mentioned before. Normally served at breakfast, I think it would be at home equally with coffee after dinner. It really is sweet, fudgy and delicious.
Want To Know More About Paxton & Whitfield?
Paxton & Whitfield was first recorded as a partnership in 1797, but its origins began in 1742 when Sam Cullen set up a cheese stall in Aldwych market. As London became increasingly affluent Sam moved his cheese business closer to his wealthy customer base near to Jermyn Street, where there is still a shop today. He also took on two new partners – Harry Paxton and Charles Whitfield. Ironically it is their names, not his, which grace the shop fronts now. The Company’s reputation grew steadily, culminating in 1850 with the honour of being appointed cheesemonger to HM Queen Victoria. It was the first of a number of Royal Warrants that the Company has held over the years.
While the earlier years were good for Paxton & Whitfield, times were tougher from the 1860s. Smart society’s appetite for traditional English farmhouse cheese was fading in favour of Continental cheese and, in England, factory style production was becoming the established practice. Many artisan cheeses totally disappeared as small farmers sent their milk to industrial creameries. This trend continued throughout the two World Wars and, in the 1940s, with eggs, butter and cheese in short supply 93 Jermyn Street became an ordinary grocery shop.
After World War II and a series of different owners, business improved as Paxtons rekindled their contacts with the traditional cheesemakers of rural Britain and started bringing in the best that Europe could offer. Customers who value quality know they will always be able to find it at Paxtons. As Winston Churchill once observed “a gentleman only buys his cheese at Paxton & Whitfield”.
Today Paxton & Whitfield comprises four shops, in London (Jermyn St), London (Chelsea Green), Stratford upon Avon and Bath, a virtual shop on the web, and a growing wholesale business selling cheese to hotels and restaurants and Paxton’s branded products and cheese to other independent niche retailers. The web-site and wholesaling of branded products is executed from the company’s Head Office in Bourton on the Water.
Paxtons remains an independent, family owned business whose focus continues to be on working closely with their suppliers to ensure they are delighting their customers with the quality and range of their cheese and other products. Andrew Brownsword bought the business from Arthur Cunynghame in 2002 to ensure that one of London’s traditional shops, supporting a unique and increasingly vibrant craft, could develop and grow in its third century of trading.
Back to my cheeses….
Obviously, after tasting and taking a little bag home, I had to create a cheeseboard. Sharing the delicious cheeses with Steve and my stepdad Tim one evening was the perfect finale to my Paxton & Whitfield experience.
Thank you to Toby Hampton from ETS PR for organising my visit to Paxton & Whitfield, Bath. I was not paid for this post and views are my own as always.