Paxton & Whitfield in Stratford-upon-Avon awarded Cheese Counter of the Year
Paxton & Whitfield in Stratford-upon-Avon has scooped the coveted title of Cheese Counter of the Year 2016, sponsored by Le Gruyère AOP, with judges heaping praise upon the shop, which combines both traditional and innovative elements to create a truly immersive cheese buying experience for its customers.
The judges were impressed with every aspect of Paxton & Whitfield’s West Midlands branch, as well as its commitment to continuous improvement, saying that “the shop is in a constant state of evolution with new products, new training ideas and new ways of displaying cheese.” Rather than a traditional counter, the whole shop is chilled by an air conditioning system, meaning that cheese can be displayed in the open. This approach has removed the barrier between the staff and the customer, while giving visitors a better sense of what whole cheeses look like and how their rinds and shapes differ.
The leadership of Clare Turner (pictured above) has been instrumental in the shop’s success, with the dynamic young cheesemonger always going the extra mile to find new cheeses and learn more about how they are made, matured and matched with other products. Clare’s experiences are diligently written up to be shared with the rest of the Paxton & Whitfield team, including details of a recent trip to France during which she discovered some dramatic display ideas involving towers of cheeses and some beautiful new goats’ cheese, dusted in thyme or lavender.
Cheese writer Patrick McGuigan, head judge of the Cheese Counter of the Year competition, explained: “Paxton & Whitfield may have been trading for more than 200 years, but it certainly doesn’t rest on its laurels, and the Stratford-upon-Avon branch is no exception. Clare Turner has embraced her position as manager with the zeal of a true curd nerd, eating, learning and thinking about cheese at all times. The way the cheeses are displayed means that staff can chat with customers side-by-side as they browse, making for a really convivial shopping experience. Add in a fabulous range of local, British and continental cheeses, bought direct from cheesemakers, plus an excellent array of gifts, accompaniments, books and knives, and you have a true destination cheese shop that is firing on all cylinders.”
Patrick added; “Once again, it has been a real pleasure to hit the road and seek out Britain’s best cheesemongers, as the Cheese Counter of the Year award continues to shine a light on the fantastic independent retailers going above and beyond to deliver something special in terms of experience, quality and range.”
Branch Manager, Clare Turner, collected the trophy at the Great Taste Golden Forks Dinner on Monday 5 September at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, as this year’s World Cheese Awards will be taking place in San Sebastián on Wednesday 16 November. In association with Artzai Gazta and the Basque Country Government, the World Cheese Awards 2016 will form part of the inaugural International Cheese Festival from 16-18 November, during the city’s tenure as European Capital of Culture.
Paxton & Whitfield, 13 Wood Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6JF. Tel +44 (0) 1789 415544, www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk.
Cheese Counter of the Year finalists
Winner: Paxton & Whitfield, Stratford-upon-Avon
Second: The Cheese Society, Lincoln
Joint third: La Cave a Fromage, Hove, and The Pangbourne Cheese Shop, Reading
Other shortlisted cheese shops (in alphabetical order)
Apley Farm Shop, Shropshire
Arcadia Deli, Belfast
Lewis & Cooper, Yorkshire
Pistachio & Pickle, London
Shearers Fine Foods, Sussex