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Friday 3 August 2012

What makes the perfect cheeseboard?

Earlier this week, Nick and I were talking about what makes a great cheeseboard. I'm pretty sure that most people will agree that it's not a couple of skinny little slices of cheddar and some dry oat cakes. Yet for some reason, that's what you seem to get when you order one in a bar. Even the finest London restaurants will serve up a disappointing cheeseboard and charge you a tenner for it. There's nothing worse than a shit cheeseboard.

So what is it that makes a cheeseboard great? And how do you create your own?


Obviously, a great cheeseboard needs great cheese. I'm happy to sit somewhere in the middle of quality and quantity. I don't want three cheeses that are all quite similar so I shy away from British cheeseboards when I see them on a menu. Instead, I want a brie, a blue and something cheddary or nutty. But that's not all!  I want an extra cheese - a wildcard that sounds interesting. Something I've never heard of.

Make sure you've got different strengths of cheese - that way people get to choose what they like and don't like. I used to avoid the hell out of blue cheese, now you have to fight me for it (I fight hard), but I'll leave anything smoked to someone else. You can't make these kinds of choices if you've only got three cheeses.

I don't think you have to spend a fortune - cheese counters in most supermarkets are pretty great these days.

  • Go for something soft, something hard, something blue and something you've heard of but never tried before.
  • This is where paying the few pennies extra for the 'super tasty supermarket range' does pay off. Cheap cheddar is pretty terrible.
  • People are really weird about goat's cheese. Yet they aren't weird about hilarious goat videos.


These have no place or purpose on your cheeseboard. Get them off immediately. Fill that space with more cheese.


We'll get to the crackers in a minute. I want bread as well as crackers. Some cheeses work well with crackers, some don't. Besides, who is going to turn down carbs? Crazy people. Crusty bread is always the best. It's one of life's happy little pleasures, don't deprive people of it. Oh, and you definitely need loads of butter.


Lots of them, please! All of the kinds. Look at the amount of cheese you have. Are there enough crackers for that amount of cheese? No? Then you need more crackers. (If someone could explain this little bit of maths to all bars and restaurants, I'd really appreciate it.) Buy one of those multi cracker boxes and let everyone choose. Then everyone is your friend.

As for oat cakes, that's a judgement call. I hate them, but I suspect I'm in a minority.


This is key, but often forgotten about. You need a bit of chutney, or some quince if you're feeling very posh. Cheese is often quite dry, bread is dry, crackers are dry, you need something else to nibble on. A spicey tomato chutney usually works really well.


Chances are you'll be drinking wine all evening anyway, so you don't really need to crack out a special bottle. If you have port, it's worth opening but there's really no need. Wondering what type of wines go with what cheeses? Follow our handy wine and cheese guide.

Anything I've missed? What makes the perfect cheeseboard for you? Have you had a perfect cheeseboard in a bar? Please tell me where, I'd like to go.


  1. Basically the top picture IS my perfect cheeseboard. All the cheeses were top quality British ones picked up from the Artisan Cheese Fair that day (apart from the one right at the front which I actually went and made myself) and capped off with some lovely homemade cured meats too.

    *whispers* Oh and that cheeseboard was for two of us!
    So basically my perfect one is: lots of different cheeses, added cured meats, enough cheese to sink several ships and all washed down with plenty of wine/cider/port/ale, now bring me ALL THE CHEESE

  2. No grapes, but I'd actually add a few thin strips of celery, they can help to de-goo (technical term) your mouth between cheeses, especially the soft ones like brie.

  3. Oh, and I rarely bother eating the crackers. They take up valuable cheese room in my belly.

  4. Gordon's wine bar near charing cross, lots of cheese, lots of wine, very generous portions, plus gherkins and pickled onions, when I last went they knew a lot about the different cheeses too, left with full on cheese sweats!

    1. Oooh, gherkins. I might not like a grape, but I could add a little mini pickle.

  5. It's not a cheeseboard without pickled onions!

  6. There should be 5 cheeses on a board. One soft, 2 hard, one blue and one smoked. Some crisp apple slices and a few sticks of celery (on the side) and a plate with nice crusty bread, oat cakes, digestives and a selection of crackers. This should be served with a nice bottle of wine. And the cheese should be on a board with proper cheese knives no ceramic plate and butter knives please!

  7. I had a wonderful cheeseboard in 'Parvinu at Phelps'in St Margarets (it's underneath the florist that the paps keep taking pictures of angelina jolie visiting) ...lots of cheeses and crusty bread too.

  8. Godminster organic cheddar!

  9. Lancaster bomb - you haven't lived til you've tried the bomb, crackers and grapes not necessary just have a hammock near by to lie down in, oh and maybe a statin ....

  10. I could talk all day about this, my cheeseboards always have 1 hard, 1 soft, 1 blue, 1 cheddar, 1 rogue selection. Winston Churchill said 'A gentleman always buys his cheese at Paxton & Whitfield'. If you're not in London they deliver throughout the UK too. If you got there you can try as much as you want, if you're lucky it will be served to you by a handsome cheese expert.
    For those who claim they 'don't like blue' make them try the Cornish Blue - its so subtle it makes me weep with enjoyment every time.
    The best cheese I ever tasted, which all of my friends whom I forced to try it agreed is the Ossau-Iraty Please look out for it!
    Perfect cracker selection:
    I'm travelling in the US at the moment and you've made me homesick :(

    1. That was my last 'wildcard' cheese! Definitely a favourite now, was fantastic.

  11. I've never understood the grape thing, but my Mum insists on them EVERY TIME. And guess what? No one eats them. And I'll tell you for why: they're too busy scoffing the bloody cheese.

    Also: a cheeseboard without some pickle or chutney (mango or sweet onion chutney = YUM) is a very sad affair indeed. It makes it.

    And oatcakes? Bleurgh. Don't get me started on those little devils. I'm a right commoner and like digestives and Ritz biscuits with my cheese though...

  12. Cheeseboards are one of the best things in life. Simple as that.

    I pretty much agree with everything you've wrote, although I do like an oatcake and some nice juice too. For the last 2 years, my boyfriend and I have celebrated our anniversary by eating a cheeseboard in bed on a morning (no alcohol, although Bucks Fizz was prominent this year). Oh and I like to add chorizo in the mix because it's my favourite thing ever.

  13. The Cave a Fromage in Hove(they have a Kensington shop too) have an awesome tasting platter with six cheeses arranged from a mild goats cheese to a strong blue via lancashire bomber and comte. Mmmmm. They serve the brie like cheese with truffle honey and some almond and fig cake with the nuttier cheeses. Sometimes some wine jelly with the stronger ones. Sublime washed down with a quality red. Also fairly reasonable at £10 a platter. They have some lovely chacuterie too.

  14. In defense of grapes: I find them a good palate cleanser between different cheeses. I don't want my mouth all full of stilton when I get to the smoked gouda, or vice-versa. I also happen to like a few crisp apple slices next to the hard/nutty cheeses, as an alternative to a cracker.

  15. I'd rather have grapes on the board and beer In my glass!

    I love the places that let you choose the cheese on your cheese board after a meal instead of just giving you the bog standard stuff.

  16. Great tips :)

    Mmmmm - cheese.


  17. For all you oat cake haters, heat them under a grill or in an oven, 'til they're warm enough to melt butter, that's the way they're supposed to be eaten.


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