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Cheese please! Discover the best cheesemongers in Brussels and beyond
Whether cheese is your lunchtime staple, preferred aperitif snack or the star ingredient in your favourite dishes, it’s deliciously easy to explore the world of cheese making and maturing in Belgium.
The country continues to experience an explosion in hand-made quality dairy produce with hundreds of varieties available, from hard mountain-style to unctuous and pungent, washed, unwashed or bloomy. It’s fuelled by the success of the short-circuit food movement, which for the dairy sector has its roots in the souring of the milk industry. Enterprising farmers had little choice but to turn to the value-added business of making cheese, yoghurt and butter.
They’re aided by a growing army of entrepreneurial artisans who enjoy selling directly to consumers, sharing their passion for integrity and using ancient processes to allow varieties to develop their own personality and reflect the flavour of local pastures.
Belgium’s ripe cheese-making tradition dates from the Middle Ages and monastery and abbey products remain popular. It’s little surprise that Belgians – who have a penchant for stronger flavoured varieties - are as likely to pair cheese with beer than wine.
Although you can buy directly from some farms and outlets, for the widest-range of home-grown and European produce, these cheesemongers are among the best at selecting, maturing and serving fine and hand-made cheeses. And with colder weather around the corner, many will supply ready-prepared or customised cheese platters as well as winter-warming fondue and raclette ingredients, all perfect for entertaining.
Le P’tit Normand Although this city-centre address is primarily a butcher and deli, it boasts a fine selection of Belgian and European cheeses. The shop is also worth a detour for its freshly-prepared sandwiches. 8 Rue de Tabora
From Comptoir French affineur Étienne and his Ardennaise wife Bené pool their culinary talents to ply customers with a fantastic selection of cheeses for home dining, platters, sandwiches and apéro, not to mention the lyonnaise charcuterie, well-stocked wine and beer cellar and back shop yoghurt production. 136 Chaussée de Charleroi
Saint Octave Offering cheese and charcuterie from artisan producers, the three outlets (Marolles, Saint-Gilles and Uccle) also prepares cheeseboards for home entertaining and events, in collaboration with local microbreweries. 254 Rue Haute, 54 Ch d’Alsemberg, 1241 Ch de Waterloo
Julien Hazard Affineur Selecting and maturing artisan cheeses – mainly raw milk – from small producers, this reputable cheesemonger counts Michelin-star restaurants among his loyal clients. Similar care is applied to other products, such as charcuterie, wine and deli treats. For the party season, Hazard proposes cheeseboards displaying the finest of his dairy range. 137 Rue Vandekindere
La Fruitière A cross between a shop and a restaurant, this family-run and award-winning cheese bar matures artisan raw-milk products from Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland and the UK. It was established in 2017 by Frenchwoman Véronique Socié with the aim of showcasing Belgian dairy products in particular. 99/103 Rue du Marché au Charbon
Le Fromageon This Uccle cheese shop and deli promises more than 400 varieties of artisan cheese as well as charcuterie and other products that can all be tasted in sandwiches prepared to order. One of its specialities is customised cheeseboards and raclette and fondue, with equipment available for rent. 309 Rue Vanderkindere
Catherine Fromagerie A city-centre emporium filled with tempting cheeses from around Europe, all originating from specialist producers. The owners share their passion when guiding customers around the large selection on display. Charcuterie and other find products are also available as well as lunchtime sandwiches. 23 Rue du Midi
Jacques le Fromager While his shop in Forest also serves as a maturing studio, Jacques’ raw-milk artisan cheeses can be purchased in markets around the city. In addition, the store serves local produce, seasonal veg, charcuterie and wine. 323-325 Rue des Alliés. Markets : Flagey, Place Albert, Place Brugmann, Place du Luxembourg, Place des Chasseurs Ardennais, Les Ecuries van de Tram
Het Mekka van de Kaas As its name suggests, this place in the centre of Ghent is a paradise for cheese lovers. It specialises in raw-milk cheeses from France, Italy, Switzerland, the UK, Germany, Spain, Portugal and of course Belgium, including the local region of West Flanders, one of the biggest producers of artisan cheese in the country. 9 Koestraat, 6000 Ghent
Chez Maitre Corbeau Cheese refiner Antoine Stoffels insists on unpasteurised milk, breeds of cow other than the ubiquitous dairy Holstein, proximity and taste when choosing his produce. In addition to boutiques in Namur and Brabant Walloon, he sells in markets around the region. 437 Ch de Louvain, 5004 Bouge, 41 Ch de Namur, 1457 Nil-St-Vincent
Jacquy Cange The award-winning Hainaut artisan ripener is a Walloon institution. He scours small farms in Belgium, France and other countries for the finest of cheeses. His maturing process in cellars frequently involves wine, beer, herbs and truffles. Available from two shops, markets and the Cheese Truck de Nicolas. 46 Rue des Meuniers, 7973 Beloeil, 8 Rue d'Havré, 7000 Mons
Michel Van Tricht One of the best affineurs in the country has a shop and wine bar in the Berchem district of Antwerp, stocking some 300 cheeses. He also supplies restaurants as well as individual customers. The careful ripening is done in the City Brewery of De Koninck. 41 Fruithoflaan, 2600 Berchem
Schockaert Kaaswinkel is a family business in Mechelen founded by Louis Schockaert in 1915. The respected cheese handlers offer an impressive selection of European products and are more than happy to advise customers. 28 Yzerenleen, 2800 Mechelen
Main image: Jacques le Fromager