Another month, another supplier jolly. This time Damon, Stephi and I headed for Davidstow Creamery, just north of Camelford. I cannot quite emphasise how much I had been looking forward to this, being the ‘mouse in the house’, as Stephi says. And so, on a gloriously-stunning-Thursday we drove through gorgeous North Cornish countryside to the old RAF aerodrome which has housed a creamery since its conversion in the 1950s, with Dairy Crest taking over in 1979.
We were welcomed and introduced to Chris, the director, and were delighted to see Mark again, the Cheese Grader for Davidstow. With a lengthy involvement and passion for the industry, Mark has been kind enough to speak at our Master Class last year to present his special five year old Crackler cheese to our guests. While his job sounds like a dream to me, it does take a wealth of experience and knowledge to be able to grade each cheese in its different state every four months to monitor how it is maturing, the texture, mouth feel, taste and suitability to their market.
What sets Davidstow apart is the use of purely Cornish and Devonian cow’s milk to produce just Cheddar. The abundance of greenery and coastal influence makes for luscious grass here in the South West, congruently resulting in happy and nutrition-rich cows producing delicious milk! And who wouldn’t be happy grazing all day with a beautiful sea view?! This milk is gathered from hard working farmers all over Cornwall and Devon, carefully stored by County to retain traceability which is especially important for their own brand products, such as the Cornish Cove.
We are lucky enough to have their three year old Crackler as an exclusive product to Nathan Outlaw Restaurants for our guests, it is just phenomenal. It has a real maturity but is balanced, with a wonderful creaminess and slight crunch of calcium crystals: Cheddar perfection! We obtained a small supply of the special five year old Crackler which was very rare and just delicious. It featured at a couple of our Master Classes last year for guests, and so after this and a few ‘official tastings’ by our team (obviously essential), our supply has finished for now. However they also produce a fantastic 13 month Classic and 18 month Crackler in the shops which are both incredibly moreish.
Upon seeing the scale of production, what struck me was how focused the team are on quality. It seems it will never be compromised even with the amount produced. This word ‘quality’ is applied, not only to the taste of the end product, but throughout the development from sourcing the local milk, through manufacture, branding and marketing to produce a consistency excellent product.
Being shown around the factory, raised the topic of just how much labour is involved from the cow to finished product, including hidden processes like transportation, time in storage and the subsequent costs. While cheese could be regarded as a non-essential item in the shopping basket – I’ve personally never quite understood this concept – considering the production time and costs, it is a real bargain and in Davidstow’s case, quality product.
It was great to catch up with another local supplier and inspiring to comprehend the company’s growth and how valued their employees are; a relatively small but efficient team with real enthusiasm for what they produce. Personally, I love a cheeky few slices of the 13 month old Cheddar at home after an evening service as even without breads or crackers it is lovely just ‘neat’!