Nick Mosley talks to David Deaves, manager of La Cave à Fromage on Western Road in Hove, and perhaps Sussex’s foremost cheese expert.
Is Sussex a traditional cheese making county, both historically and from a more recent perspective?
Sussex has a great farming history in both livestock and mixed farming, going right back to the Iron Age. This would mean most farms would have made a cheese for home consumption, which in turn would then have turned into commercial cheese making. Today Sussex is a thriving cheese making county.
Where does Sussex rank against other areas of the UK and Europe in terms of quality and variety?
Personally, I think we are up there with the great cheese making counties in the UK such as Lancashire, Somerset and Yorkshire. The UK has over 700 different cheeses and Sussex produces over 50 of those so we have a lot of variety.
Sussex cheeses have a considerable range of styles. Why do you think that is?
Apart from the British territorial cheeses such as Wensleydale, Cheshire, Lancashire, Cheddar and Stilton, most modern British cheese take their inspiration from Continental cheese. This gives us a wider choice of texture and flavour. Sussex’s Golden Cross is inspired by St. Maure du Touraine, whilst Mayfield takes its inspiration from Swiss cheese.
Who are the key producers in the county?
High Weald Dairy in West Sussex and the Traditional Cheese Dairy, Golden Cross Cheese and Alsop and Walker, all of which are located in East Sussex.
Do you think cheeses pair will with our local wines?
In France, you have the concept of terroir. and it is important to both cheese makers and winemakers. The nutrients you get in the soil will determine the quality of milk you get to produce cheese, just as the geology impacts on the quality of grapes to produce wine. I can definitely say that Sussex has great terroir. I have tasted cheeses from across Europe with a number of Sussex wines and have never been disappointed.
You’ve been a champion of matching cheeses with local beers. Why does that work well?
Cheese and beer definitely sit well together; it’s been proven time and time again. Beer is a fermented product like cheese and wine and has synergies with cheese. Whether cow or goat, the animals will have grass and grains in their diet, and grain is an important part of beer-making giving the drink its aroma and flavour. Also the hops and carbonation in the beer will cut through the fats in cheese, and the freshness will complement the salty cheese.
How do you choose cheeses for La Cave à Fromage? Which Sussex cheeses are popular here in Hove and also in your London outlets?
We have a great time choosing cheese for La Cave. We meet monthly and spend a day tasting products sent to us by cheese makers from across Europe. We consider texture, flavour and – most importantly – saleability. We only work with farmhouse and artisan cheese makers so we can ensure quality from the field to the plate.
Golden Cross, Lord of the Hundreds and Mayfield sell well in our London shops. Whereas here in Hove its Mayfield, Bridgton Blue, Golden Cross, Flower Marie, Burwash & Lord London that sell well.
Are there places locally where people can find out more about the cheese making process?
High Weald Dairy offer an introduction to cheese making courses. You can find out more on their website.
What’s your personal favourite Sussex cheese and why?
That’s difficult to answer as they all have great qualities, but If I had to choose then Golden Cross and Lord of the Hundreds.
La Cave à Fromage, 34-35 Western Road, Hove BN3 1AF • 01273 725 500 • www.la-cave.co.uk