When I received a message from Les Greedy Cochons inviting me to their Secret Supper Fondue Club, I’ll admit I felt apprehensive. Firstly, it seemed to go against every aspect of Stranger Danger that had ever been drummed into me:
‘Hello, you don’t know us or even where we live but would you like to come for tea?’
‘Ooh, thank you very much. Do you have some puppies too?’
Secondly, I’ve been pretty much under house arrest by small people for the last five years and have lived my life vicariously through copies of Time Out. Secret Supper Clubs all looked to be inhabited by consummate hipsters – the sort with the attire and facial hair of nineteenth century coal magnates or post-war lindy-hoppers. The last time I was approaching cool The Levellers were in the charts and I just wasn’t sure that was going to cut it.
But then I thought about all the cheese, brushed the sick off the shoulders of my cardigan and headed off to the wilds of North London, clutching only an A-Z and a bottle of dry white wine.
On arrival at the secret destination, the après-ski venue is suitably decorated:
The music is all sultry Gallic chanteuses such as Édith Piaf and Carla Bruni (although I have vague recollections of some yodelling as the evening progressed.) Soon we’re sipping vin chaud and nibbling on charcuterie. Everyone is very nice and there are no alarming mutton-chop-‘tache-and-burns-combos or towering quiffs to be seen. I’m not old enough to be anyone’s mother (without featuring in a tabloid splash, anyway). I breathe a sigh of relief.
Our secret host is a proper authentic Swiss person from Switzerland and his passion for food soon comes through. He loves British food, especially cheese and most especially Stilton. But when it comes to Swiss cheeses, he’s an outright pro, shopping at Käseswiss, a warehouse near London Bridge that specialises in farmhouse cheeses from Switzerland. Into the caquelons (or fondue pots) go great handfuls of Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois, which our chef informs us mysteriously ‘must be stirred in a figure-of-eight’:
The spectacular home-made bread is ready:
Let the fondue-ing commence:
It’s as delicious as you would expect a proper Swiss fondue with good-quality cheese to be; gooey and very cheesy and quick to congeal on your bread, yum-yum. We all start off very politely and then progress to dipping in grapes before finally plunging our bread into glasses of kirsch and swirling it about in the cheese. Oh yes, there’s kirsch. Our host isn’t a fan of adding it to fondues (he has a bottle of white on hand for that) but there is plenty to accompany the food:
Below we are examining la religieuse or ‘the nun’. Alas, there’s so much fondue that we don’t manage to gobble it all and so our nun is a bit on the soggy side. Last time I made a fondue it was burned to a crisp. The ideal is a golden, crispy crust that fondue aficionados fight over:
The conversation is as unpretentious as the food and flows as freely as the kirsch. We start with polite chitchat about the regeneration of Camden, how nice Bruges is as a weekend destination and the perils of Ibiza nightlife. As the alcohol flows we turn to how much it is for a bespoke Swiss watch (surprisingly reasonable unless you want the full bling) and who in their right mind would go on One Born Every Minute. By the time the kirsch kicks in we are on to whether British fondue parties are really just an excuse for some wife-swapping (ours isn’t, I hasten to add) and the extraordinary penises of animals (pig=corkscrew, cat=hairbrush, fox=actual bone, just in case you’re wondering…)
Thanks to my baby, I live to the schedule of a dairy farmer and get up at 5am, so just before midnight I leave them all to it, with promises to meet up soon for a tasting trip to La Fromagerie. Fromage Homage and Les Greedy Cochons on Tour. Watch this space…
For more information about Les Greedy Cochons and to find out when their next Secret Supper Fondue Club is, visit www.lesgreedycochons.co.uk or follow them on Twitter @GreedyCochons.
And in case you’re wondering – I paid for all my cheese ;)