Categories: Features

Bill Oglethorpe’s famously good Bermondsey cheese raclette

Picture the scene: you pull up on skis outside a rickety, slightly twee wooden chalet. A blizzard is raging, the wind is howling and you’ve frost in your eyes. You dump your skis in the boot-laden, snow covered porch and stomp inside. There’s a fire. There are big squishy armchairs nestling in front of it, while all around the rich, buttery, pungent smell of melting cheese wafts like a comfort blanket. You spy one word—‘raclette’—handwritten in chalk on the menu board. And immediately you know everything will be alright.

Okay, so it’s not the Alps, and it’s not snowing. But there IS raclette, from Monday to Saturday, at Borough Market—and while there are no arm chairs, the smell alone is enough to warm the cockles of your heart.

It’s the brainwave of Bill Oglethorpe, who spent some time in the Alps a decade or so ago and came back with his head (and stomach) full of this traditional Alpine dish of new potatoes, pickled onions, gherkins and melted cheese.

Moist, pinky-orange rind
The two cheeses used at his Borough Market stall, Kappacasein, are also of his making: raclette cheese needs a washed rind and pliant texture to melt properly, so its English equivalents—developed by Bill in collaboration with Somerset cheesemaker Jamie Montgomery—are washed with a special brine every three days to achieve the moist, pinky-orange rind and giving it an extra depth of flavour.

The second cheese on offer, Ogleshield, is made and matured in a railway arch in nearby Bermondsey, and is equally melt-able. “The flavour is slightly different,” Beatrice on the stall explains, “but they both work well.” She particularly likes the Ogleshield because it is local; just like the vegetables and sourdough bread.

“These are from Ted’s Veg,” she says pointing to the pile of scarlet chopped onions and the gherkins. The bread used in the sandwiches hails from a London bakery. “I think what is so special about this dish is that we know where every part of it comes from. It’s super local. Super organic,” she says. It is also super-popular.

People queue for half an hour or more at busy periods, having travelled from as far away as China and as nearby as the Borough Market offices for a taste of this creamy, pungent, slightly piquant delicacy. It’s not the Alps, but it tastes like it. And that, on a breezy day in Borough Market, is all you need.