On the table: Cabotte
Author: Sophie Thorpe
Last week, I tasted a cheese like no other. A cheese that – bizarrely – I couldn’t devour a block of. A cheese so mesmerising that I have thought about it at least once every day since. Decadently rich, this was the king of all cheeses, a grand fromage to end all fromages. This – a four-year-old Gouda – could wage war against Montgomery’s Cheddar or the finest Parmesan, and make a slab of aged Comté seem positively pedestrian. Gentle crystals from its 48-month maturation melted gently on the tongue, imparting bursts of umami alongside layers of creamy, yet intensely nutty complexity. By God it was good.
In my misspent youth, I avoided cheeseboards, dodging this final dose of dairy – falsely believing it to be a wasted opportunity for pudding, a dull and simple choice that could all too easily be created at home. But, oh, how wrong I was. How could anyone turn away the weighty platter that is proffered at The Glasshouse or Chez Bruce? It strikes fear in the hearts of the lactose-intolerant, and true love in anyone who worships the Holy Trinity (Paxton’s, La Fromagerie and Neal’s Yard).
But a cheeseboard needn’t rely on endless choice; the secret to success is very simple. Superb cheese – reliable classics, a balance of soft, hard and blue, and something just a little off-the-wall, something you won’t find even at the biggest Waitrose. And a decent vehicle on which to load inappropriate amounts of cheese. It’s a source of controversy whether you choose biscuits or bread (I’m prone to the crunch of a good cracker, for the record – but Jacob’s will not suffice). Beyond that, I’m not too fussed. Chutneys, quince and their other fruity bedfellows are all too personal to impose on an unknown diner; keep it simple.
Cabotte – the neat little restaurant behind my Gouda revelation – gets their cheese from Androuet, and in true French style, opts for bread. Most importantly, their platter is so pleasingly generous – no measly slithers in sight.
But the cheeseboard was just the curtain-call, following on from perfect oeuf en meurette – oozing yolk and boeuf bourguignon richness; simple, succulent partridge scented with the smoke of proper bacon; lamb loin – perfectly pink with a rich croquette and savoury-sweet trompettes; and a formidable leek gratin, layered with Comté and cream to create a side that stole the show.
If you’ve heard of Cabotte, it is undoubtedly for the tome-like wine list. Dominated by Burgundy at all price-points, staff are well equipped to advise those less certain of their preferred Premier Cru. We plumped for the house Champagne (the relatively new-to-me Lenoble – rich and refreshing), followed by two glasses of Burgundy – a juicy, fruity 2015 Passetoutgrains from Domaine Chevillon, and Henri Gouges’s 2011 Premier Cru Clos des Porrets St Georges, sweetly scented and only just showing its promise. For our mains, a cool and crunchy, rustic-edged Marsannay from Domaine Bart – fresh at cellar temperature – sat happily alongside lamb, the perfect prologue to that triumphant cheese course.
Classical French cuisine, executed effortlessly with swish City service makes Cabotte a chic place to eat; and one that will be particularly pleasing for any Burgundy enthusiast. But – for me – it was that simple serving of impeccable Gouda, so symbolic of the establishment’s taste and attention to detail, that will linger longest in my memory.
What we drank:
- Champagne Lenoble, Cuvée Intense, Brut
- 2015 Bourgogne Passetoutgrains, Domaine Chevillon
- 2011 Nuits-Saint-Georges, Clos des Porrets St Georges, 1er Cru, Domaine Henri Gouges, Burgundy
- 2013 Marsannay, Saint Jacques, Domaine Bart, Burgundy