Saying cheese has acquired new gastro-cachet. a temperature-controlled cheese room is the latest must-have at fine-dining restaurants around the world. So are cheese sommeliers (or "frommeliers"), who compile multicourse cheese menus, regale diners with tales of bucolic settings and artisanal production methods, and pepper their tableside conversation with terms like hand-stretched and cave-aged. Love cheese? Put these restaurants on your itinerary.
1 Le Bouchon Breton:
Located in Spitalfields, London, this brasserie de luxe, www.lebouchon.co.uk/breton/index.php, is already renowned for its impressive Gallic cheese trolley featuring more than 40 varieties, from Le Testard from the Hautes-Alpes to the Corsican Fleur de Maquis. Now frommelier Jean Claude Ali Cherif has started offering a series of regional-cheese master classes, coupled with unusual wine pairings, on the last Tuesday of each month. Ali Cherif's knowledge, built up over 20 years, is formidable and his repartee amusing, inspiring and impressively practical, with advice on how to look after cheeses and when to enjoy them at their seasonal best. Cheese and wine menus from each event are also offered alongside the main menu. (See TIME's Global Adviser for exotic, beautiful and interesting getaways.)
2 Duhau Resturant & Vinoteca:
Prime attraction at this minimalist venue within the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, www.buenosaires.park.hyatt.com, is a red-walled, walk-in cheese room the first of its kind in Argentina, highlighting as yet relatively undiscovered Argentine artisanal cheeses based on European styles. The maître fromager encourages producers to age cheeses exclusively for the restaurant. Tasting plates served at a marble communal counter table include an earthy brie from Córdoba; Cordon, a goat's cheese from Mendoza aged 15 months; and Morbier, Manchego and Parmesan-inspired cheeses matched with fresh-fruit marmalades and outstanding Argentine malbecs and cabernet sauvignons.
3 GPO Cheese and Wine Room:
At this vaulted sandstone cellar within Sydney's heritage GPO building, www.gposydney.com, diners are encouraged to create their own cheese board from fromager Sonia Cousins' extensive menu, which changes seasonally and is divided into fresh, white-mold, washed-rind, semi-hard, hard and blue cheeses from Australia and Europe. Accompaniments include truffled honey, muscatel raisins and novelties like hibiscus chutney. There's an excellent choice of paired cheese-and-wine menus with tasting notes even a single-malt-whiskey-and-cheese menu as well as monthly master classes.
There's an unmistakably nutty, fruity aroma at the ultra-contemporary, climate-controlled cheese room at Flow restaurant within the riverside Millennium Hilton Bangkok, www1.hilton. com. Some of the world's best varieties are flaunted, including Colston Bassett Stilton, Brie Royale with black truffle, and piquant Pecorino di Fossa from Italy. Guests are encouraged to taste before making their selection, which is served with a stylish range of condiments including celery jelly. A cheese-and-wine butler advises on pairings and there's a dedicated cheese table for guests to sit at and convivially share their newfound cheese knowledge.
5 Classified Cheese Room:
Hong Kong's Classified Cheese Room, www.classifiedfoodshops.com.hk, is tucked away on Hollywood Road outside the city's SoHo eat streets, but that doesn't stop it from luring plenty of custom with its walk-in cheese facility stocked with 40 artisanal varieties. The cheeses can be served at the Cheese Room's parent operation, the Press Room restaurant next door, or in situ choose from casual deli tables, or a wine cellar that functions as a private dining room for 20.