Take a stroll from the centre of Beeston towards the University, and you’ll find a place that transports me back to my childhood memories of holidays in Europe. Open the door, walk in and you are lovingly enveloped by the soft smells of cheese and cured meat. My mind wanders back to the small village Charcuteries and Fromageries that doted the French landscape in the 1980s and 1990s and all the wonderful memories that those bring. I’m sure many of you feel the same.
The place in question is Essen General Store located at 103A High Road. Run by co-proprietors and suitably effervescent personalities Sam and Ed. Many of you will be asking ‘what is a general store?’ Checking out their website they say… ‘We specialise in cheese, charcuterie, natural wine & a wide array of artisan food. Our aim is to share our love of food & drink with you’. To you and me it’s a large Deli with seating and an extensive range of natural wines and craft beer to drink in and take away. To go with their cheese and charcuterie counters there are beautiful products for foodies that are also ideal for gifts.
The cheese fridge is the highlight of the store and is positively cosmopolitan featuring a wide range of styles from all over Europe and many from the British Isles. It’s well worth coming in and talking about what you like with Sam and Ed as they’ll able to guide you through their extensive selection. I do remember many conversations had on local social media suggesting that Beeston needed a good cheesemonger, well at long last we have one! Perhaps acknowledge the pricing here? No cheap supermarket cheddar or plastic cheese here. Sam and Ed have curated a selection of small batch cheeses, lovingly made by small producers and the prices and flavours reflect that. A little goes a long way
Children and well behaved dogs are very welcome to come in and sit with you, from experience, you may want to bring something soft for your dog (or child for that matter) to lounge on while you enjoy yourself as the floors are quite hard.
Essen is decorated in a modern industrial or Scandinavian style with exposed wood, metal and concrete. Unlike some shops which can be left somewhat stark with this treatment Essen has been soften with warm lighting, plants from another local Little Plant Guys and a cheery yellow floor. It looks very inviting on a cold winter evening, as does the outside seating on a balmy summers day.
There are a few separate tables and stools at the bar however the highlight is the central long galley style table that can accommodate large groups. It’s also ideal for sharing notes about your meal with other cheese lovers that you may encounter when you sit down.
The menu consists of small plates and sharing platters with a separate sandwich board. Vegans and vegetarians will find options to suit though of course cheese features heavily! The current menu is available to view on their website and changes with the seasons/availability.
I choose the three cheese kimchi toastie from the sandwich selection served with house pickles and a jalapeño jam. The sharp pickles and jam contrasted wonderfully with the rich warming cheese interior. The bread was sourdough with an incredible crust and open texture that allows the cheese to ooze through and infuse into the surrounding bread.
To accompany my toastie I choose a pint of Cheese Riot, a 3% pale table beer in a Belgian style from local Nottingham Brewery Black Iris. Brewed in collaboration with Essen to accompany a lot of cheese! Despite featuring a low alcohol content it remains very tasty, tangy and refreshing (and not cheesy). Essen generally have four craft keg beers on tap although the range will change depending on what’s available and what they fancy.
I’m always impressed by the eclectic selection of top quality alcohol free beers and soft drinks available including Kombuchas, flavoured soda and fruit juices. There’s also filter coffee and a tea selection if you feel like something warmer.
If you want a little slice of continental life in a relaxing and welcoming environment then take the short trip to Essen and indulge yourself.
THE FOOD GLUE INTERVIEW
Tom and Stephanie are co-hosts of the Food Glue Podcast. Our focus is on businesses that bring people and places together. Hear the full interview on Episode Three of the Food Glue Podcast, available on all podcast players.
Why did you pick Beeston for Essen?
Sam – I grew up in Beeston and my parents still live in Beeston. [the community] just fit in with what we were trying to do. Until we were here, Beeston didn’t have a cheese shop or a delicatessen, there was no independent alcohol shop. We looked at many other areas in Nottingham, but Beeston just fit really nicely with what we wanted to do.
Sam and Ed, how did you meet?
Sam – we met at Delilah, in the city centre, which I used to run and Ed was the assistant manager.
Ed – Approximately 5 years ago
Sam – through mutual friends as well, friends who have gone on to do incredible things in other places around Nottingham (editors note: more on some of these friends in the next issue) and London. We met over a love of food really, and sitting at a bar somewhere having a couple of beers, our friendship came from there.
Tell us a little bit about the range in store?
Sam – So we’ve gone a little bit mad. We are using two very well trusted cheesemongers, The Fine Cheese Company and Mons down in Borough Market, London. The cheese comes over from France each week and they mature their own cheeses. Our focus is unpasteurised (raw milk) cheese from Britain and France, because that’s what we love, the nice thing is we’ve filled a shop with things we love eating and drinking!
Ed – If we don’t like it, it doesn’t come to the shop
If you could only keep one thing on the ‘Eat in’ menu, what would it be?
Ed – It would have to be our cheese platter, 100%, with an English Brie, Gruyère, then a lovely soft goats cheese. The Cheese fridge is the heart of the shop, so I’d have to go there.
Sam – I’ll stay on the cheese route and say Toastie! The three cheese and kimchi toastie is absolutely amazing. To do a good sandwich we need to start with a good bread, we use Okende bakery from West Bridgford, their Sourdough is stunning and made in ridiculously small batches.The three cheese are a local Colton Basset Stilton, it’s creamy and salty, then Raclette alpine cheese – gooey as hell, and finally a cheddar, we rotate our cheddars so will be whatever we think is best. The Kimchi is from Bottle Brush Ferments down in London with a nice mild chilli kick. Served with homemade pickles… Handmade by Ed, based on whatever he picks up from Fred Hallam.
How do you engage with the community?
Sam – the thing we really wanted to do, was communal eating. So if you come into the shop, there is one big table down the centre where we encourage people to sit together, chat together. We’ve just taken on a book group, we have a few knitting groups, the solicitors upstairs come to unwind after work. There’s enough dogs and kids in our families and friends that we want them to come in, we want them to enjoy the space. Because it’s inclusive and people can bring their dog, people can just come in and get one thing whilst out on a dog walk or the school run.
TH & SM
Food Glue – Bonding People and Places Together
Essen General Store
103A High Road
Monday 11 am–7 pm
Tuesday 11 am–7 pm
Wednesday 11 am–7 pm
Thursday 11 am–7 pm
Friday 11 am–9 pm
Saturday 10 am–9 pm
Sunday 11 am–4 pm
Facebook: Essen General Store
Telephone: 0115 922 4979