What with all the health kicks and the fact that everyone’s skint from Christmas indulgences, January must be a tricky time to launch a new restaurant. However, if you’re going to do it, melting Alpine cheese and serving it up with fine French charcuterie and wine is probably the way to go. It’s all quite hygge, isn’t it?
L’Art Du Fromage launched in Leeds on New Years Eve, and this new dining concept takes over French tearooms, Le Chalet, after hours on Fridays and Saturdays. The concept is simple and there are just two main courses to choose from; raclette or fondue.
The main element of both dishes is the hot cheese, which is served up with a mainly cold ensemble of delicious foods – veg, breads, meats and potatoes. The cleverness lies in the fact that not only is the concept a winner, but the team can prep everything beforehand so it’s fairly straightforward work at service time.
My friend and I both chose the raclette, and L’Art Du Fromage serves this as a DIY option – you melt your cheese on a little dish resting above candles, at the table. The DIY aspect is brilliant – I love getting really get involved with the food I’m eating. It’s great fun to experiment and play with the cheese, and it also means that you can take your time over your meal, preparing the hot, melted cheese as you need it. It’s interactive, it’s playful and it’s also kind of therapeutic.
The cheese was amazing. AMAZING. But even better than that, was the charcuterie. We were served delicious, high quality meats at the perfect temperature so that they were bursting with flavour. The salad and cornichons were also lovely, the slightly roasted new potatoes dangerously moreish, and the bread was fantastic (we were served way too much of it, but what a problem to have…).
We didn’t opt for a starter, and I’m glad about that because it meant that we had plenty of room for the feast before us. Even so, we didn’t quite manage it all.
The wine list was good. We asked for a Cote du Rhone, which sadly they’d just ran out of so we opted for another, which was ok… but it was a red wine served quite cold (and not a red that suited it) so it didn’t have quite enough flavour to match the food.
I love the concept of L’Art du Fromage and I whole-heartedly support and appreciate the simple menu as it shows that they truly believe in what they’re serving. And so they should, because it works and it’s delicious. There are a few kinks to iron out, like the cold red wine, high stacks of bread, and the lack of room at the table because of so much food (again, admittedly, not a bad problem to have).
I wasn’t entirely sold on the venue itself, though there are some lovely touches in place to try and make it cosier. The problem for me is that it’s very open plan, with the tables on the mezzanine level overlooking the coffee station in the pit below… Something seemed a little bit missing. I guess it’s personal taste, and it’s not a big deal at all – we had a fantastic evening chatting and munching our way through our delicious feast.
If you love cheese (and especially if you’re missing the fabulous Homage2Fromage restaurant) then head down to L’Art Du Fromage and support them. It’s a great way to cheer up the bleak mid-winter.