More cheese Grommit?

David Jowett

I met artisan cheesemaker David Jowett at last year’s Stratford Food Festival and asked him to write a guest post for my blog during British Cheese Week. He was at the BBC Good Food Show Summer last week and I’m pleased to report that his first cheese is now ready.

22 year old David has a dairy on the Alscot Estate, on the outskirts of Stratford upon Avon. He has spent the last six months creating Jowett  – a pressed Alpine style cheese and Alscot – a small ripened lactic cheese. Both are made by hand using raw milk from the organic herd at Gorsehill Abbey farm.

The Alscot is now available on the new summer menu at The Bell in Alderminster, which is at the edge of estate.

Review of 2012

As this is my last post for 2012, I thought I’d look back on some of the highlights of the food and restaurant scene in Birmingham and Warwickshire.

Scooping awards and accolades – The Malt Shovel in Barstoncelebrated being named Warwickshire Dining Pub of the Year in the 2013 Good Pub Guide.  Pub Restaurant Chef of the Year was Rob Hartwell from Rose & Crown in Warwick. The Bluebell Henley in Arden won Good Food Guide Readers’ Restaurant of the year for the Midlands. Blue Bistro in Coventry was awarded Best Newcomer in the Warwickshire Life Food and Drink Award and Peel’s in Hampton Manor were awarded Best Restaurant of the Year. Restaurant Bosquet in Kenilworth (with chef Bernard Linier pictured below) impressed Birmingham Post’s Richard McComb to pick up a McComb Award for Dining (MAD).

Bernard Lingier






Birmingham’s reputation as a fine dining city continued with Purnell’s named the BMW Squaremeal Best UK Restaurant. Lasan and Simpsons were included in the Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants of the Year, as voted by Harden’s readers. In Restaurant magazine’s Top 100 Restaurants in the UK Loves featured. Purnell’s, Simpsons and Turners all retained their Michelin stars.








The region’s hotels saw significant investment and heavyweight chefs drafted in to support new openings. Marcus Wearing consulted on the menu for Hotel La Tour’s Aalto restaurant, where I became a fan of their afternoon tea.  Hogarth’s completed a £4m make-over and chef Martin Blunos was appointed as Culinary Director.

Hotel La Tour scones and afternoon fancies







The popularity of single ingredient restaurants spread from London to the Midlands. High quality steak and chicken cooked well won new customers for the New Inn in Harborne and The Flat Chicken in Stratford. Barbecuing meats was the hottest cooking trend of the year, with the openings of Argentinian Fiesta del Asadoon the Hagley Road and Brazillian Rodizio Rico in The Mailbox.

The competition for the most glamorous makeover was a tie between The Warwickin Hockley Heath and The Star & Garter in Leamington, which was given a £500K make-over by the Peach Pub Co.

The Warwick





In the culinary Olympics it was a cook-off between the French and Italians. Funky brasserie Le Truc Café and Purnell’s Bistro opened to give Brummies a Gallic twist to their dining. While the award-winning San Carlo Group launched Fumo in Waterloo Street. The cocktail bar, restaurant and late lounge serves small dishes of Venetian tapas known as Cicchetti (pronounced chi-KET-tee).

Fumo appetisers







Chefs on the move included Solihull chef Mathew Ebdon joining The Beeches in Hampton in Arden and it was all change at Edmunds in Brindleyplace, who welcomed Dider Philipot to head up the French fine dining restaurant as Andy Waters left to run the restaurant at The Queens at Belbroughton Worcester.

Didier Philipot Edmunds









The sunglasses and crowds came out for food festivals. Kenilworth followed the successful Stratford and Leamington food festivals by launching their first Foodie Fortnight promoting local restaurants and food producers. I went to the Chilli Festival in Brindley Place for the first time and admired how the contestants kept their cool, as the torture of hotter and hotter chillies were administered. The Colmore Row Food Festival returned for a second year and filled Victoria Square with tasters from local restaurants including Saffron and Opus.

Birmingham Chilli Festival stall







In Leamington Spa Restaurant 23 moved to bigger premises in Holly Walk and the bar/ restaurant / club Altoria opened its three floors to diners. High Pavement in Warwick and The Lazy Cow in Stratford were welcome additions to the towns’ dining offers.

High Pavement Warwick






Going to events meant that I was able to meet lots of local producers. I met the Mini Jar Company and Napton Water Buffalo Company at the BBC Good Food Show Winter, Tan Rosie and cheesemaker David Jowett at the Stratford Food Festival and  Jabberwocky at the Leamington Food Festival.

David Jowett







Artisan food producers saw the benefits of collaboration in Kings Heath Birmingham. Lucky13 Bakehouse, Change Kitchen, Cuffufle Chutney, Wanton & Furious and Capeling & Co joined forces to form B14 collective. Delish Deli in Rugby moved to bigger premises and Summersaults opened their new deli next to their vegetarian restaurant.

Summersaults deli counter







Our regional food sector is thriving and I hope that my blog has highlighted how easy it is to shop local, eat local and support Warwickshire’s food heroes.



Artisan cheese maker David Jowett

For British Cheese Week, artisan cheese maker  David Jowett has written a guest post for us. He was at the Stratford Food Festival over the weekend, so I managed to say hello before he took to the Talk and Taste theatre to discuss his love for artisan cheeses.







The British Isles has an incredibly rich cheesemaking culture, which thankfully is growing stronger all the time. The vast majority of cheese made in Britain is produced in large-scale creameries, but the past 30 years has seen a huge increase in the public’s interest in farmhouse and artisan cheese – cheeses which are often made using unpasteurised, or raw milk, and sometimes made on the farm itself. These cheeses can offer enormous depth and complexity in flavour, and rather than conforming to standardisation and uniformity, they display not just seasonal, but daily variations. The use of raw milk allows the cheese to speak of its origin, and the cheesemaker to embrace the daily variations of the raw milk, such as the grazing quality, and the point of lactation of the animals.

With farmhouse cheesemaking, there are some wonderful examples of what could be described as “terroir”. In the heart of Somerset Jamie Montgomery of Manor Farm, James Keen of Moorhaynes Farm, and Tom Calver of Westcombe Farm are producing “Somerset Artisan Cheddar”, an entitlement awarded by the Slow Food Movement to protect the authenticity of the cheese.

Some of our greatest farmhouse cheeses have been passed down the same farming families for a number of generations. Graham Kirkham makes cheese in Goosenargh, north of Preston, and was taught by his mother, Ruth, who was taught by her mother. Graham’s father looks after the cows. Three generations ago, almost every dairy farm in Lancashire made cheese, but today the Kirkhams are the only ones left making Lancashire cheese on the farm using their own milk and animal rennet.

Many of our farm-made territorial cheeses are endangered, but are hanging on to survival by a few committed producers.

In 2006 a new, raw milk blue cheese was born on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire (which is one of the main Stilton counties, along with Leicestershire and Derbyshire), and was cleverly named Stichelton – the original spelling of the town we now call Stilton. Stichelton is a partnership between cheesemaker Joe Schneider, Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy, and the Welbeck Estate. They are making a cheese using raw milk from the Estate’s organic herd, and although they can’t actually call it Stilton at present, have revived a regional cheesemaking tradition.

Throughout the UK, new cheeses are constantly being created, sometimes by existing dairy farmers looking to add value to their milk, but increasingly by a new wave of producers, who are either starting their own farms, or using milk from a nearby farm. These producers are a direct response to today’s increased interest in food, and the origins of our food. Artisan, hand-made food is enjoying a massive revival, with a wave of people setting up new businesses.

Sometimes new cheesemakers look for inspiration on the continent when deciding on a cheese to make, and we are now enjoying a raft of British takes on continental classics.

 I know first hand the story of the British cheesemaker using continental cheeses as a base to create their own artisan cheese, as that is exactly what I am doing. I am building a small dairy near Stratford-upon-Avon to produce an “alpine-style” cheese. Alpine cheeses are historically produced in mountainous regions, where herds are moved up the hillsides during the summer to graze on high altitude pastures. The cheeses are large and robust out of necessity, as they would have needed to be stored in alpine chalets during summer months, before being taken down to the markets in the valleys for sale in the winter. I may not have alpine pastures to hand, but I have found a milk supply from a herd of French Montbéliarde and British Friesian cows on a local organic farm, where the cows graze under perry pear trees on ridge-and-furrow pastures which have remained unchanged for over 150 years.

So during this British Cheese Week, seek out some of the wonderful artisanal hand-made cheeses being made in the British Isles and sold by independent retailers. By doing so you’ll not only taste something beautiful, but you’ll also be supporting an alternative food system, small rural businesses, and our working rural landscape.

Then you can feel good about eating cheese!