A Cheeky Nibble at Paxton & Whitfield

Just a tiny snapshot of the lovely
selection available!
Last week I had the rather exciting opportunity to sneak into Paxton & Whitfield after hours for a Christmas tasting – in case you’ve yet to discover it, this tiny little cheesemonger’s, tucked away on John St, holds not only two Royal Warrants but also a venerable heritage dating back to 1797. Behind the smart gold and navy frontage is a little shop that looks more like an old-fashioned pantry; shelves laden with jars of conserve and bottles of wine line the wooden-panelled walls, and open counters display the cheeses - the whole shop is kept to a suitably cool temperature so that the cheeses don’t have to be hidden away, in the usual misty-fronted chillers.

Picture the scene: it’s Christmas Day, about seven o’clock, and in our house it’s just getting to the time when everyone’s finally managed to get to their feet again after a huge roast lunch and is looking for something to nibble on. This is exactly when you need a platter of fabulous cheeses to pass around, and Paxton & Whitfield is as keen as mustard to help you out. Martin Knapp, manager of the Bath branch, laid out a lovely selection of his top picks for that perfect Christmas Day cheeseboard.

Top centre: Montgomerys Cheddar, and
Monbazillac dessert wine,
bottom centre: Brie aux Truffes
First up, Montgomerys Cheddar: according to Martin, the best Cheddar to be found anywhere. This is a pretty bold claim, but once I’d tried it I couldn’t disagree – this cheese is bursting with flavour, but has none of the sourness you might notice in a supermarket mature cheddar, just rich, smoky depth. Although this will please those who aren’t too adventurous in their tastes, it’s not only for the faint‑hearted, because it is a truly delicious cheese.

Next, something entirely different: Eve, a soft goat cheese washed in cider brandy and wrapped in vine leaves, might be my favourite out of all the cheese which I tried. I’m always a sucker for goat cheese, but this was on another level altogether – smooth, creamy and totally moreish. If you’re after something a little more filling, or looking for a light starter, this would be gorgeous spread on a little granary toast and served with some fresh watercress.

When putting together a Christmas cheeseboard you would, of course, be a fool to forget the king of Christmas treats: Stilton. Although it’s hardly an original choice, it definitely deserves to be included, particularly when the Stilton in question is Paxton & Whitfield’s own brand, made in Nottinghamshire, and when it’s washed down with a glass of port – the perfect partner to such a strong cheese.

Finally, for something a little different but no less fabulous, pick up a wedge of Brie aux Truffes – but beware, it’s dangerously addictive stuff. In fact, while I was there, a customer who had bought some earlier in the day popped his head around the door and begged Martin to sell him some more… clearly, this is something you really need to try. Prepared by hand, the brie is sliced in half horizontally, filled with a mixture of black truffles and cream cheese, sandwiched back together and left to bind. The result is a rich, gooey cheese that tastes like the very essence of indulgence.

Gorgeous gooey Nuts about Figs -
how can you resist?
To serve with all of these fabulous goodies, Martin recommends a bottle of golden Monbazillac and a jar of Nuts about Figs, a wonderfully sweet fig conserve that goes especially well with strong cheeses like Paxton & Whitfield’s Stilton. Tuck these treats under your Christmas tree and when that nibblish feeling starts to come over you, it’ll be the perfect way to end a day of feasting. Happy Christmas!