L’art du Fromage is all about cheese, but is not cheesy. If you’re a cheese fan, this is the place to come to. It’s a pokey little place just off King’s Road.
The friend of mine who brought me here’s a right foodie and also French, so he knew what he was talking about when he explained what was on the menu. French cuisine has such great names for their dishes, like planchette, raclette, tartiflette, and one sometimes find oneself falling for what I like to call the Optimus Prime effect. Things are so much cooler if they have a good name. Cheese melted onto potato sounds a bit school dinners, but when you call it a tartiflette, well then it suddenly becomes cool.
The starter was a planchette. The ham in it was a bit like Parma ham, but it was deeper, richer in flavour, and iti was served with rocket, lentils and finely diced Jerusalem artichoke and Provolone cheese. When you eat it, the first thing that hits you is the whoomph of the ham, and it quickly gives way to the chewy bite of the lentils and the crunchiness of the artichoke, and just when you think there’s nothing more you get the creaminess of the cheese. It’s subtle, and you might just miss it if you’re not paying attention.
I was a little skeptical of the main course to begin with. My last and only experience of a cheese fondue was a total disaster. I was lumpy, curdled and it smelt of socks after a twenty mile hike. According to my host, that was because the Swiss don’t know how to do one. With typical French culinary chauvinism, he declared that the French knew how to do one properly, and you know what? He was right. The cheese was melted with some white wine, and some kirsch was set alight and poured into it for some theatre, but it also added a lovely flavour to the cheese. I could have spent the whole evening dipping bits of baguette into the fondue all night, but I have to say that the charcuterie meats and pickles gave a new meaning to the flavours of ham, cheese and pickle.
The piece resistance was, however, the apple tarte with calvados. Flambe no less. Calvados was se alight and poured over the tarte, warming it up as well as providing a nice Firework show. Even i had to admit that flames dancing over my dessert was a nice touch. The pastry was as thin as one of my thin crust pizzas. But it was pastry rather than bread. It flaked rather than crumbled, it was crunchy, it had everything I wanted from an apple tart and more.
I loved it here. The food is not complicated, it’s simple food, done very well. My host described it as the sort of food that the people would eat, which is part of the whole charm of the place. It serves up good food with typical Gallic flair.