Islington cheesemongers love flying flag for native fromage

The Pistachio and Pickles team

The Pistachio and Pickles team - Credit: Archant

Deli owners on a roll with new venture

Cheese is the new wine. Or, at least, such is the cry from Pistachio and Pickle Dairy, a new fromagerie that sprung up in Camden Passage late last year.

“People are generally quite knowledgeable about wine these days, but we want them to be the same way about cheese, particularly British ones,” said Steve Cooper.

“Finish, length, body; those are the sort of terms we use about wine – we should use the same vocabulary about cheese.”

And he should know. His partner Matt Kelly spent seven years as a wine expert and the pair have, over the past two years, established their Pistachio and Pickle deli in Liverpool Road.

After a customer offered them investment for a new venture, they searched until they found the perfect premises, in the notorious dairy stronghold in Islington.

In the late 19th century, there were some 170 retailers in the area.

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They decked it out, imported a fridge from Italy and filled it with some of the smoothest, crumbliest and stinkiest cheeses this side of the Channel, in time for the cheese board season.

“The timing wasn’t exactly unplanned,” admits Mr Kelly. “But the first few weeks were absolutely crazy.

“It’s a great place to have a shop like this. There is a real sense of community and people are up for it – they will take your advice and try new things.

‘Obsessed’

“It’s a perfect place to have a cheese shop and it’s great for me. I am obsessed with cheese.

“I have to try everything that comes in, and I am never happier than when I’m rolling in the cheese counter.”

Often thought of as the preserve of the French, the pair say that British cheese has a long and distinguished history.

Their generous and aromatic selection arranged across the counter contains many gems from these isles.

“Seventy-five per cent of our cheese is British,” said Mr Kelly.

“British varieties tend to be more expensive, because they have a lower yield, but they are normally worth it.

“People might come in for a manchego, but we’ll steer them towards something homegrown. People tend to be receptive.”

Mr Cooper adds: “Everyone is obsessed with where things come from, they want to know every stage, from farm to mouth. Here we can tell you the names of the cows. Our staff know a ridiculous amount about cheddar.”

But attitudes towards British cheese need to change, according to the pair, and our attitude to cheese in general.

“Diners can be very dismissive in the this country,” said Mr Kelly.

“It gets relegated to something slightly less than pudding, or an alternative. We say, why not have both?”

Pistachio and Pickle’s latest range includes Scottish cheeses for Burn’s Night at the end of January and heart-shaped ones for Valentine’s Day.

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