The Cheese Barge revealed its opening date in March 2021 and, like Kimmy K, it almost broke the internet. The news reached one million people in a matter of days when we posted the announcement on DesignMyNight's Facebook and it received mammoth coverage from major titles, all counting down the days to the grand opening in May. Matthew Carver is the brains behind this new floating restaurant in Paddington, and for those not in the know - he’s also responsible for The Cheese Bar in Camden, Pick & Cheese in Seven Dials and The Cheese Truck that roams the roads of England for weddings and festivals. Popping down on a blistering cold Thursday evening, we were keen to see what set it apart from its established siblings (and to figure out if the grub was worth the pending cheese sweats).
If there’s one thing I know about London’s cheese scene, it’s that Matthew Carver might as well be the king of it. I’ve had the pleasure of trying a unique combination of chocolate digestives with blue cheese from his conveyor belt restaurant and a gorgeously-gooey-does-what-it-says-on-the-tin toasty from his stalwart in Camden. From the weird to the traditional, in the world of cheese - he always gets it right. Although I would have loved to get down and greasy with one of his notorious grilled cheese sandwiches, we pushed the boat out with our choices on our visit. Ordering two glasses of prosecco to kickstart the evening, we were only halfway through our clean, crisp flutes when our table was littered with plates of bacon-wrapped Cropwell Bishop Stilton stuffed prunes (£7), Westcombe fried curried cheese curds (£6.50) and beetroot borani (£8).
As the saying goes, you eat with your eyes and unfortunately the bacon-wrapped stuffed prunes that arrived at our table weren’t much to look at. Fatty slices of bacon that could have done with a little longer under the grill meant that the texture of the dish was too creamy in consistency. The curds, on the other hand, were a roaring success. Golden nuggets were generously glazed with a moreish chilli honey and the gooey centre of the cheesy bites were enveloped in a crisp batter that held hints of chip shop curry. As for the beetroot boriani? It was a work or art with huge chunks of Perl Las sprinkled with dukkah and fresh sprigs of dill, propped up on a thick purple coloured blanket of yoghurt.
Keen to sample the sharing section of the menu, we ordered the 400g Baked Baron Bigod next (£36). Accompanied with Coombeshead sourdough, garlic roasted new potatoes, truffled mushrooms and Ampleforth Beer Fruit Chutney, it’s easy to see why the team recommend it for tables of three plus. Thinner in consistency than your traditional fondue, we failed to get a decent cheese-pull video from the miniature lake of cheese but the quality was spot on and when taking in all the sides that come with it, it’s excellent value for money.
Taking up our allotted time on our table of two with river views, we were moved for the remainder of our booking to a smaller table towards the front of the barge where we got to admire wooden panelled walls, retro posters advertising dairy and the neatly stacked spirits beside the bar. Waiting on our desserts: the mascarpone mess (£8) and the malted milk pot (£6), it wasn't long until our spoons turned into weapons, fighting for mouthfuls of silky salted caramel with shards of chocolate granola and sugary meringue and little pistols of pistachios from the mascarpone mess.
The DesignMyNight Digest
So, how does The Cheese Barge hold up against its siblings? In my opinion, pretty damn well. The intimate atmosphere on the boat lends a hand to a more refined dining experience, which is a far cry from the casual element in Camden and Seven Dials market. Some of the plates aren’t on the menu since our visit but take refuge in the fact that not even the changing seasons could make Matthew Carver remove those ever-so-delicious cheese curds (for those of you who are wondering). Not just for show, this 96ft double-decker vessel moored on Regent’s Canal is another landmark for the excellent (and sometimes genius) things that can be done with dairy.
💰 The damage: £71.50 for three courses (excluding service).
📍 The location: Sheldon Square, London W2 6DL.
👌 Perfect for: a birthday celebration or that overdue get together with your pals.
⭐ Need to know: The cheese curds. Under no circumstances are you to leave without trying the cheese curds.
For more ways to discover dairy in the capital, check out these epic cheese tastings and events in London, here.