In 1991, founder Patricia Michelson (right) opened the first La Fromagerie location in London’s Highbury Park neighborhood with a dream of bringing carefully crafted cheeses to the city. Now more than two decades later, Michelson has realized her dream and then some. Part cheese-and-produce shop, part fine-dining restaurant, part wholesale operation, La Fromagerie has evolved into a multi-location, multifaceted turophile paradise. Head chef Alessandro Grano (left) and director Sarah Binley help Michelson oversee the La Fromagerie family, which includes an educated team of cheesemongers, managers, and other staff.“To work with La Fromagerie is to love the products,” says Michelson. “[You need to] want to be part of a business that works together, enjoy being customer-facing, and [take pride in] a beautifully kept shop with well-presented products.” This might seem like a lot—and for most people it probably would be—but Michelson, Grano, and Binley have crafted a recipe for success: “Keep tasting cheese—and talking about it!” From farm to table, and pantry to plate, the La Fromagerie experience brings cheese enjoyment full circle.
Across its three locations, La Fromagerie is known for three key features: a produce- and sundry-filled shop, a restaurant, and a signature cheese room.“The kitchen [at each location] uses the shop and cheeseroom as their larder,”says Binley. This includes all the dry goods and condiments so the kitchen can use the very best extra-virgin olive oils, vinegars, and fresh herbs.
With the shop and cheeseroom at his disposal, Grano tries to keep seasonality and origin in mind for his menus. “I like simple, fresh, and tasty food that can bring back a memory,” he says. Grano believes in following tradition, but he often adds a twist; His Tartiflette swaps crème fraîche for the classic heavy cream, lending the dish additional tang.
“The purpose of our menu is to showcase the produce that we sell in our shops, so it’s always seasonal and very fresh,” explains Binley. Customers can often find special ingredients in the La Fromagerie shop to incorporate into their home cooking, such as the curly-ended radicchio tardivo Grano uses in his Risotto with Valpolicella, Radicchio Tardivo, and Gorgonzola.
“It’s absolutely imperative for us to know who we are working with, how they maintain their farm and dairy, [the status of their] animal and pasture welfare, and how they make their cheese,” says Michelson. Since opening, Michelson and the La Fromagerie team have strived to remove the mystery from farming and instead connect customer to producer. “It’s all about opening up the conversation and curiosity surrounding cheese in an environment that’s dedicated to the subject,” Michelson explains.“It is absolutely vital that our team [doesn’t] pull the proverbial wool [over] the customer’s eyes.”