Quentin and Martin of Une Normande a Londres on cheese, Breton pride and charming customers
Quentin on Martin
I have known Martin since I joined Une Normande a Londres five years ago. At first I think he liked our Gallic way of working—there is definitely a free and very relaxed manner about the way that we interact with each other on the stall—but Martin has discovered a great passion for cheese, especially French cheese.
When we started we were on the Green Market with a couple of tables and had to set up the stall every day. He learned a lot about the cheese as he was working with the manager at the time. He left for about a year and when he came back we had moved to our present stall and he liked what he saw. It was the kind of shop he wanted to work in: there were decent fridges, there was space to have a great range of charcuterie and cheeses, but also that we would take the time to explain it to people, so he came back full-time.
I think the section he seems to be a natural in is the goat’s cheese. There is a real range of subtleties within the goat’s cheeses and he not only loves them, but has the language to get them across to the customers really well—better than some of the French people we have hired in the past. This is important, as the British customers are still not as familiar with this type of cheese, so have lots of questions.
Martin likes the story of Borough Market; the history of the place and all the different facets it has had over time. He enjoys exploring the world of food and this is an amazing place to do it.
If it was Martin’s birthday, first I would buy him a bottle of mescal and then head off for a good strong cider. Martin can be a bit of a party animal.
If I was buying him food, I think I would go to one of the Indian street food stalls—he would like that—but if you asked him what his favourite cuisine is, I know he would definitely choose French. To be honest, though, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Michelin-starred restaurant or the Borough Bistro around the corner—as long as the food is good, he will enjoy it.
When it comes to cheese, I would get him la marotte, every time. He thinks it’s the best cheese in the Market. It is very subtle ewe’s milk cheese but with a very defined flavour. It is a very good cheese to introduce to people who are interested in trying something a bit different.
Martin lives nearby so after work a few of us often grab something to drink and head around to his place to relax or, of course, to the Rake. The best thing about working with Martin is you never get bored, he is always buzzing in one way of another—though that’s also the worst thing!
Martin on Quentin
Quentin is French so he likes good food; it is in his blood. I think he likes working with cheese because every cheese has a story—he likes talking to people, telling them about the cheeses and getting the vibe about what they want. He loves suggesting a new cheese to a customer that he knows they’re going to enjoy—it’s something he gets real pleasure from.
I think what Quentin likes best about working here is the combination of the fact that we have a lot of different products and that Borough Market customers are different from customers at lots of other markets. They have a real interest in exploring food—often it’s the main reason a customer has come here, to discover something new. This means you get to take the customers on a journey through the stall and I think that’s something Quentin really enjoys.
He definitely likes being at the front of the store, talking to people as they go, enticing them to try what we have. There is an element of the showman about Quentin. He’s a very social person and loves the sheer variety of people that you meet here: both customers and traders alike. I also think he just likes the scale of the place, which brings an excitement to the Market.
Like a lot of people from the Brittany area, he has a lot of pride in the products of Brittany like their butter and some of the alcohol they make. It’s tricky to choose one drink for him, as I have seen him drink a lot of different things, but at a push I’d go for a whisky sour—he does like them a lot.
If I was to choose him something from the Market, it would be Turkish delight from the Turkish Deli—it is nothing like the commercial stuff and he is a big fan—or lonzo coppa, a Corsican ham which you can slice very thinly and eat with some of the saltier cheeses.
If I was to take him out, he is very humble so it wouldn't have to be an extravagant restaurant, he is just as happy in a bistro or a small pub. For him, the ambience and being with friends is much more important than the status of the place.
We’re on the same wavelength—we think in the same way when it comes to our job—and he is a very positive person, so when you have two happy people working on a stall it makes it a great place to work.
Though sometimes he is just too charming—it takes away some of my shine at the front of the stall! We both like being out there talking to customers, but sometimes I just can’t compete.