Best cheese in the north: In honour of Wallace & Gromit

Andrew Anderson
Array of cheeses on a market stall

Our resident cheese fanatic has scoured Manchester, Liverpool and their environs for the very best cheese in the north.

Cheese. You can have it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, desert and dinner – even as a midnight snack if you don’t mind the nightmares. It’s the best thing since sliced bread, and the tastiest thing to put on it. If you haven’t guessed already, let me quote those famous Lancastrians Wallace and Gromit and say this: I’m just crackers about cheese.

But where is the best place to buy it? To find out I’ve been munching mature cheddar and gobbling gorgonzola across the North West.

1. Local markets, Manchester

A few places trade at the Altrincham, Levenshulme & Northern Quarter markets in Manchester, but the best is Winter Tarn, traders from Cumbria who not only have a great selection of traditional cheeses but also have a few of their own that you can’t get elsewhere. Particularly good if you like sheep’s and goat’s cheese, the staff are extremely helpful (a special mention to Harry, who let my girlfriend and I try so much cheese that we had to have a lie down afterwards), and they trade at all three markets.

Top cheese: Lanark Blue – a sheep’s blue cheese that is so powerful it burns your throat on the way down.

2. The Cheese Hamlet, Didsbury

The mecca of Manchester cheese: if you can’t get what you’re after at The Cheese Hamlet, then give up. A bit out of the way if you’re not from that part of Manchester, but well worth the pilgrimage (it’s a 30 minute tram ride from Market Street). The staff know what they’re on about as you’d expect, and you can get plenty of cheese-based prezzies too.

Top cheese: Too many to name.

3. Liverpool Cheese Company

If The Cheese Hamlet is the Manchester mecca then this is the Liverpool Lourdes (I am not sure cheese has any actual healing properties but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did). The Liverpool Cheese Company has absolutely everything, and owner Vickie went out of her way to overload me with interesting cheese information – or cheeseformation, as I shall now call it. Lots of other tasty stuff too, like quality chutneys.

Top cheese: Isle of Mull Cheddar – surprisingly salty for a cheddar; apparently the cows graze by the sea.

4. The Queen Brie, Arndale

Very small – I’ve been going to the Arndale for years without ever noticing it – but extremely well stocked shop on the edge of Arndale Market. Best thing about The Queen Brie is the convenience for city centre shopping, along with the fact they’ll do you a delicious cheese toasty if you ask nicely.

Top cheese: True Grit – wrapped in a distinctive green wax, this crunchy cheddar is utterly addictive.

5. The Crumbly Cheese, Todmordon

If you’re heading out to Hebden Bridge then why not call in at The Crumbly Cheese and treat yourself to some special stuff from Yorkshire – they’ve got a wide selection of local cheese and are proud of it. The Crumbly Cheese has been around for 30-odd years, and do lots of market days too, so I’m told.

Top cheese: Yorkshire Fine Fettle – made in Thirsk, this cheese will cost you a fair bit of brass, but its creamy ewe taste is worth it.

6. Hickson & Blacks, Chorlton

As you would expect, Chorlton has one of the top places to get not only good cheese but also a selection of craft beers and meats too. Hickson & Blacks cheesemonger and deli is particularly good on British cheeses, buying directly from a number of celebrated farmers. Co-owner Steve seemed slightly bemused by my bombardment of cheese questions, but was very helpful and knew his stuff.

Top cheese: Testun al Barolo – this delicious Italian cheese is soaked in grapes and tastes like nothing I’ve tried before.

7. Birkdale Cheese Centre, Southport

One of those great places you only get in old market and seaside towns like Southport, the Birkdale Cheese Centre seems to sell absolutely everything and then some. I don’t think I’ve ever had cheese on the beach, but if you’re going to give that a go then this is the place to buy it from.

Top cheese: Dewlay Creamy Lancashire – easy on the palette, this stuff is made near Preston and comes in a couple of different strengths.

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