The UK is bombarded with a variety of cheese shops that we stayed in Lincoln in search of a new foodie factory.
In case you missed it, The Cheese Society won The Cheese Shop of the Year in 2018 after undergoing a rigorous judging process where they were awarded 100% on their mystery shop. Small and stocked to the brim with cheese, but not in an overwhelming sort of way, more like an awe-struck child in a cheese Narnia. Shelves of artisan, British and Continental cheese wheels, plum breads, crackers and chutneys.
The Cheese Society is based in Lincoln, a city that offers a rich history, independent boutique shopping and a wealth of places to eat and drink. The business started off as an online service in 1997 when the commercialisation of the world wide web began. At first, it started in a warehouse as a mail order service and then the building where it stands today, on St Martins Lane, was acquired in 1999.
I met with the owner, Lucie Knock, and we sat in the café area of the shop. Earthy. Not only the way to describe Lincolnshire Red cheese but also Knock’s personality. She sits across from me with a bright smile as she tells me why The Cheese Society stands out from other cheese shops in the country. “We like to make everyone feel very comfortable when they come in here. It’s a very relaxed, homely environment and approach to service, which many people respond to very well”.
Knock’s mum set up the company all those years ago and stepped aside recently, giving Lucie the role of Director. With only ten employees, one of which is her uncle, the team has aged alongside the cheese, making the shop have a family vibe. Knock boasts “the products available from the café are all homemade and we source as many cheeses, including local, as directly as we possibly can.”
There are over 100 varieties of cheese available at the Cheese Society. Their suppliers come from the UK, or Europe and they bring tons of cheese for the staff to taste in the meetings. Knock says, “We’re always discovering new cheeses because of our online Monthly Cheese Club and searching for new cheeses that people wouldn’t get in the supermarkets or haven’t tried before”. It’s no wonder The Independent voted the Monthly Cheese Club in their Top 10 Cheese Subscriptions.
According to Knock, the local cheeses are the most popular. The store is home to many Lincolnshire cheeses including the Smoked Poacher which is oaked smoked and Lindum cheese that has a continental style. “We have a core range of 6 wonderful local cheeses and the people that make them are brilliant with really good cheese making values”. One of the most popular of these is the Cote Hill Blue which has won multiple awards.
Knock claims that the reason why they have survived the national decline of the high street is down to “people moving away from going to stores with a lot of self-service and instead they’re gravitating towards specialist shops like ours where the staff are offering products and remembering you from the last time they were in”. The fact that the store is located off the main high street has also helped as “tourists and locals seek us out because we’re an independent business and different from the rest”.
I began to see The Cheese Society in a new light, the same way tourists and even locals must have. A timeless masterpiece that smells like heaven. The Cindy Crawford of Cheese shops. People may only see a specialist shop but what I see is a business that cares for their product and offers a service that people will remember and enjoy.
After the interview, I was offered a sample of the Schürchäs, a strong and unpasteurised cheese from the Berne Valley in Switzerland. I watched Knock on her knees, happily cleaning the outside blackboard in front of the shop. Her determination to make sure The Cheese Society remains the best it can be is evident in the way she glides around the store with pride. As I walk away into the town centre, I’m left with a warm feeling and a strong taste for cheese.Tweet