As this week was British Cheese Week I felt I had to try out one of the menus that featured cheese and went to The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell, a restaurant run by Anna Hansen who’s known for her innovative approach to food.
They had a very fairly priced three course menu at £22 which kicked off with baked bee pollen crusted ricotta, pear, sorrel and lucques olive salad, manuka honey and lemon dressing. The effect was a bit like a twice-baked souffle - though wonderfully light and the dusting of bee pollen was sweet and crunchy.
The next course wasn’t quite as successful though it sounded good: grilled miso onglet steak with Cashel Blue, cavolo nero and sweet potato brique and pickled lotus. The steak was so rare it was almost raw (and I like my steak rare ) and the brik too heavy but more importantly you couldn’t really get an idea of what the texture and taste of this great cheese was like.
The meal finished with a dessert that was also way too rich - a crme brule made of goats’ curd with plums and a toasted buckwheat shortbread. Nice but not after all the rest of that cheese. In fact I could have done with just the salad
It made me wonder whether it is possible to created a balanced meal around cheese which is inherently rich and, not to put too fine a point on it, fatty. There are such great cheesy nibbles such as gougres and aigrettes so maybe a few of those with an aperitif though they would certainly fill you up. A first course of a cheese salad would be perfect though not, I think with a cooked component. (There are some great ideas in my new book Fiona Beckett’s Cheese Course if you’ll forgive my seizing the opportunity for a plug!)
There’s no harm in having steak and cheese for a main course though I would keep the portion size small, serve the cheese simply as a sauce or topping and keep any accompanying vegetables as light as possible - possibly even a few chips and rocket or watercress leaves (which the restaurant did serve alongside the brik)
And for pudding? Well, that’s the problem - almost everything sweet and cheesy is decadently rich. A small slice of cheesecake? Possibly though I think I’d be inclined to go for some kind of fresh fruit and a complementary cheese. Fresh fig, Gorgonzola and a drizzle of honey maybe or a lovely ripe pear, some slivers of Pecorino or other sheeps' cheese and a small chilled glass of Poire William (pear liqueur).
What you don’t want to do is to leave people so full they can hardly walk let alone work which is what happened to me even though I left most of that goat curd. And I'm a card-carrying cheeselover!
If you’ve ever had a successful cheese-based dinner do write and let me know to fionaATmatchingfoodandwineDOTcom