When my good friend Fiona Maclean with her London lifestyle blog invited me to a champagne and cheese tasting at Champagne & Fromage, off Covent Garden, I was both curious and excited. Anyone who knows me is aware that I love French red wine, champagne and brandy. So the chance to try a range of champagnes over lunch was therefore particularly appealing.
Entering the small fronted premises is like jumping from a busy London Street into a provincial French country bar. The furniture is handmade and rustic, the spread of menus and chalkboards perfectly matching in with the vintage oak and pine of the shelves. A mix of French street furniture, the Champagne cork door way and even a salvaged church pew bench completes the transformation.
The menu has a superb range of cheeses, charcuterie, hot Oeuf Cocotte and Tartines which are traditional French sourdough bread topped with cheese and meats and other goodies.
The Champagne range to taste is all selected from award winning, family owned producers which is where the term ‘Grower Champagne’ comes from. It is brought to the UK and distributed under the banner of ‘French Bubbles’, owned by Maud Fierobe and Stefano Frigerio, who also own and run Champagne and Fromage as a showcase outlet. As a testament to the selection quality, the range sold has recently received four Decanter awards and International Wine awards for its quality.
A later discussion with Stefano let him explain how he had built the restaurant from scratch, literally choosing every item in it. Much reclaimed from historical salvage yards, alternative restaurants reclamation, quirky finds, and then hand cutting and altering items to fit. The long central table was made by altering a bigger table by hand. His pride in the finished job was noticeable as he talked about the achievement, and really shows how close he feels to the business and his customers.
To do justice to the tasting we ordered a plate of Fromage, one of Charcuterie, and two tartines, and went with the recommendation of the Champagne for each dish. You can choose which cheese or meats you wanted, so that your plate is individually tailorered to your taste.
The Champagne tartine with melted Langres cheese on top on sauteed pear worked perfectly, really bringing out all the flavours.
With the range of tastes across the food boards it was definitely worth taking Stefano’s advice on the pairing of the Champagnes to the food. This is something that he and the staff are happy to do, giving you an explanation as to why each glass works well with each course. The Champagne is served at room temperature which is the best way to drink and taste Champagne. There is no over-chilled mass produced ‘label’ Champagne and once you have tasted and of the Grower Champagnes here you will appreciate the difference. Everything can be tasted by the glass, and you can always purchase bottles or cases to take away or be delivered.
With Fromage, charcuterie and tartines all costing only £8 a plate, and the Champagne around £10 a glass this is a superb value for money location, for lunch or show time meals. However its real charm is in its ability to totally immerse you in a little corner of a French countryside bar.
Champagne & Fromage also run Champagne Tasting evening events in a proper tasting area downstairs from the restaurant. I will definitely return there for one of these and report back. They have always been sold out in the past so I need to get organized. I hope to see you there.