There's probably some ancient power in London that makes places like The Cheese Bar happen: if there’s food that people love, a whole venue dedicated to the stuff will appear somewhere in Camden. But a bar all about the dairy goodness of cheese - now that's taking the trend-hopping to a different, more delicious level. So it was up to me, a brave reviewer for DesignMyNight, to embark on this quest to see if the Cheese Bar is the dairy dream we’ve been waiting for or a cheese-induced nightmare.
Venue and Atmosphere
It’s a bit odd when you think about it, but The Cheese Bar’s aesthetics really work. They don’t lean into the whole cheese theme, instead opting for a more contemporary London look, with exposed brickwork, white-washed walls and industrial hanging lighting. The venue is centred around the bar itself, with seats lining it reminiscent of a traditional tapas bar, and additional seating in the space behind. At the far end, cheeses and beers are sitting on display. It creates a social atmosphere, with the food an obvious focus and talking point, and sort of transcends it beyond what could easily be a cheesy gimmick.
Word of warning with The Cheese Bar though: it is busy. We arrived on a Monday and still nearly every seat was filled in the bar, so while this means that the bar constantly feels alive (the social set up and lovely wait staff help with that too), maybe try to get in before peak time.
Food and Drink
As we were seated around the bar, we were told that the Cheese Bar operates like a tapas bar and so we should order a few dishes to share with each other. Well, we didn’t really need any more encouragement to order more cheese, so we both got a bottle of Kernel pale ale and jumped straight in.
The food is brought over as soon as it’s made, so we ended up receiving the fondue smoked sausage (£6) and the four cheese rotelle (£7.20) first. The fondue was delicious, to the point where we were scraping the cheese off the bottom of the container to get the last of it, but the sausage stood out as surprsingly tasty. It would have been easy to rely purely on the stock of their cheese, but having high-quality sausage to dip in made me realise that these guys do mean culinary business.
The rotelle was a kind of posh macaroni and cheese, but unlike its traditional American counterpart, the cheese was flavoursome and presented in the most appetising way possible. Seriously, if you have an Instagram account, all the food is designed to look great on social media - it just happens to have the flavours to back it up.
Next up we tried the mozzarella sticks (£6.80) with marinara. Looking around the room, you can see nearly everyone taking a photo of each other stretching the mozzarella out (we did too – no judgement here), which looks spectacular, but the taste isn’t quite as knockout as their other dishes. For example, their short rib poutine (£7.80) is wonderfully hearty, and was almost my favourite plate of the night. A proper summer dish, the ribs and BBQ works perfectly with the cheese, and we ended up devouring it almost as soon as it was laid down.
But it was the toasty, surprisingly, that was my favourite of the day. The guys behind the bar started out with a van touring festivals, and toasties were their, ahem, bread and butter, so it makes sense that they’ve perfected these. But one bite of the Cropwell Bishop Stilton grilled cheese (£6.50), with bacon and pear chutney, I was in cheese heaven. The bread is the perfect crunchy consistency, the stilton almost knocked me off my chair (as it always, always should) and the pear chutney gave a sweet undertone that only exaggerated the other flavours. I have never raved about a grilled cheese as much as this one, and that should tell you everything you need to know.
Don’t scoff at the Cheese Bar: this isn’t a gimmick. Sure they are tapping into the viral appeal of cheese, but they know their dairy products and they know how to cook them properly. If you love cheese – and we all know you do – there are fewer places you’d rather end up.