Nestled amongst the shipping containers of Wapping Wharf at Bristol Harbour is a foodie heaven, one that is definitely one of my favourite spots in the city but I’m not alone in that as it has been voted and the winner of the Best Cheese Retailer in the UK for 2017. Greeted by the knowledgeable and smiley Rosie, The Bristol Cheesemonger, will take you on a cheese discovery of pungent wonder. Having known Rosie since we both moved to Bristol about seven years ago, I’ve benefited from her cheesy treats and facts over the years. I sat down with Rosie, to hear more about her foodie journey.
– Why cheese?
‘I always had an interest in food and working at Country Cheeses in my hometown of Tavistock is where I got you know the products in depth and get to talk to people. Cheese is seasonal and I enjoy the steps of the process, starting with a milk and ending up with a such a varied product at the end due to processes taken. It’s also such a staple item in the British diet. I’ve always been drawn back to cheese and it tastes so good!’
– How did you develop your cheese knowledge?
‘A long process, it started as a Saturday girl when 15 at Country Cheeses and they took the time to teach me the differences of the cheeses on offer. Developed in wanting a greater understanding of food quality, buying habits and an interest in continual learning. Also with weekly contact with the dairies that supply the shop and learning their new processes and techniques and how those are affecting the cheeses at a base level.’
– Why did you choose Bristol to set up your business?
‘When I moved here from London, I had no intention to start a business. As I settled, my love for the city grew. I missed working with cheese and talking to people, so rather than keep talking about Bristol needing a cheese shop, I got on and did it. It started organically, really wanting to start the business for fun and a hobby in my spare time and it really developed and people got behind it. Alongside my other job it was able to develop together.’
– How have you found your moves from market stalls, pop-ups and to your now shop at Wapping Wharf?
‘Markets are really fun but you are subjected to the elements but enjoyed the hustle and bustle they bring. Now with a permanent location, I can develop the business and plan the next exciting steps. I was fortunate I could go through and gradually build up the business and the customer base.’
– How many different cheeses do you have in your shop at one time?
‘It can vary, at the moment there are 75 different kinds of cheese. I go to the different dairies every Monday so get new cheeses to try weekly for the shop. With Christmas coming up, the shelves will be filling up much more!’
– What has been your best cheese discovery?
‘Probably not a singular cheese discovery but more that I enjoyed going to visit new cheesemakers and seeing the varying processes. More traditional continental cheeses are now being produced in the UK and giving Europe a run for their money. However, traditional UK cheeses are still popular with three of the only traditionally Somerset Cheddars being made within an hour and a half of the shop.’
– If you could share a cheese board with 5 famous people, who would it be an why?
‘ Straight off the bat, Bill Murray as he’s a legend and for obvious reasons. Joaquin Phoenix as I think him at Bill would have some interesting conversations. Micheal Pollan an incredibly informative and influential food writer. Anna Jones, I love her cookbooks and her food and eating ethos, I cook from her books at least twice a week. St Vincent, she’s cool, plays the guitar and writes music.’
– What advice would you give someone wanting to set up their own food business?
‘Do lots and lots of research and then some more. Talk to lots of people already in business for their help. Bristol is a very supportive city and wants people to see the independent business succeed. I could have done more when I started. It’s easy to focus on all the small details of what you need to get done but actually, you need to step back and see the achievements you’ve made already.’
– What one thing do you wish you knew when starting your business that you know now?
‘Know you will make lots of mistakes and that’s ok. Don’t dwell on those too much.’
– Where is your favourite place to eat out at in Bristol?
‘So many great places that I can’t name one! I have a long list of places to visit and another list of places to head back to again. We are spoilt for choice in the city.’
– Best cheese pun or joke?
‘I was really busy last Christmas and a customer came in the shop in the new year, who mentioned how nice and busy it was, to which I responded, ‘I know, there was de-brie everywhere.’ Luckily he got my dad joke!
How To Build The Perfect Cheese Board
Being surrounded by all this delicious cheese, Rosie kindly shared with me her top rules when creating a crowd pleaser cheese board for Christmas and for all year cheese enjoyment. I bought a delicious selection of cheeses from Rosie, as well as some Apple & Chilli Jelly by Bishopston Preserves. Unpacking the cheeses was like Christmas had come early.
Tymsboro – (Top Middle) Another goat cheese, made 25 minutes away from the shop by Mary Holbrook with her small herd of goats. The characteristics vary depending on the age and the point of the season. Not too goaty in flavour, with a zesty note without being overbearing, similar to vibrant fresh herbs.
Truffler – (Top Right) Made in Somerset by the same makers of the Fossway Fleece. Flecked with Italian black truffle and truffle oil to give the cheese an amazing earthy truffle flavour to give any risotto or cheeseboard a boost.
Devon Oak – (Bottom Right) Oak from the name comes from its location of Oakhampton. Similar to a Gruyere, great in a salt beef sandwich too.
Renegade Monk – (Bottom Left) Gold winner at the Global Cheese Awards 2017. A soft blue cows cheese washed in an ale that is local to Frome. Made in tiny batches of 200 litres of milk at a time. A punchy and fragrant cheese.
Vintage Gouda – (Middle Left) A three-year-old matured gouda, similar to a parmesan with its beautiful flakes of salty crystals running throughout the cheese.
Fossway Fleece – (Top Left) Somerset’s answer to a Spanish Manchego cheese. With a delicate lemony sweetness, as sheep’s milk tends to have naturally higher levels of sugars that come through the cheese. Works well with charcuterie with its silky texture.
Dress your cheeseboard with fresh fruit like apples, pears or grapes as well a quines jelly and a choice of chutney’s and crackers to tuck in with.
If you are in the Bristol area, pay Rosie’s shop in Wapping Wharf a visit and she will guide you through a world of cheeses that you’ll fall in love with. Or check out her website to get a cheesy hamper delivered right to your door.