It stocks a bountiful variety of cheeses at its charming shop in Harrogate Road – and, when they’re not behind the counter, aproned experts take their impressive wheels on the road to food festivals, tasting events and even weddings.
Stephen Fleming, 53, is the founder of the award-winning retailer. His fondness for fromage started at a young age and he cannot remember a morning without the snack on the breakfast table.
“I’ve always loved it,” he explained. “It just fires me up, especially when I can give people something that they’ve never tried before. I love the look on their faces.”
The decision to open a cheesemongers came after years of working in IT. Stephen even jokes that the shop was his “midlife crisis”, but it was not long before it was attracting awards.
Most recently, it scooped the Best Retailer prize in the North of England at the Farm Shop and Deli Show Awards, along with People’s Choice at the Academy of Cheese Affineur of the Year competition.
Its success is partly as a result of the team’s pickiness. There are two criteria a cheese must meet for it to find its way behind the counter. First and foremost, it must be loved by all in the shop. Secondly, it must be made by hand.
“The difference between us and a supermarket is the care that’s put into the cheese,” said Stephen. “We sell from producers who are milking animals on a farm, the process is not automated. That’s important because there is more delicacy. When machines make cheese, it can be boring in terms of texture and flavour.
“With an independent producer, there are more interesting stories. Some have been making cheese for generations and some are new to it.
“It’s great, because the market is blossoming. After the Second World War, there were only a handful of cheeses being made in the UK. Now there are more than 700.”
Stephen ditched his job in IT after a eureka moment at a cheese tasting in The Adelphi hotel more than a decade ago.
“I just realised there would be a market for it,” he said. “There was nowhere selling good cheese in Leeds.”
Today, it remains the city’s only specialist cheesemongers and the go-to place for advice on pairings.
The team see themselves as educators, but are also keen to bring fun and entertainment to the industry. Stephen said: “We want to inspire love affairs with cheese. It can be a bit like wine, slightly scary when you don’t necessarily recognise what’s on the counter. But we want to make it fun and informative. You can try anything you want and we will tell you the stories behind the cheese.”
He is quick to list the products that fly off the shelves, but deciding on a favourite takes some thought.
“That’s like asking who my favourite child is,” he joked. “At the minute, I’m really enjoying Westcombe Cheddar, from Somerset. I eat far more than I should.”