The House of Androuet started life in a Parisian backstreet in 1909, and has now set up a successful home in East London. These days it is a quaint, somewhat pungent cheese shop on the edges of Spitalfields Market where we'd hazard most vintage wonder-find hunters walk past without stopping. However, the cheese fanatics among them will be lured by the nostrils like a cartoon mouse to the windows, where massive waxed rounds and wine hampers are ridiculously tempting. From 11am 7pm, Tuesday to Sunday, this is life for the House of Androuet. But at lunch and dinner times from Tuesday till Sunday, its restaurant alter ego takes precedence.
If you're willing to sit among shelves of produce and dodge the cheese-purchasing patronage, this is a dining experience that shouldn't be missed. Essentially you're eating dinner (we recommend dinner the setting suits the more romantic after-hours lighting and a proper occasion) in a stinky shop, but thats why it works. Maybe you should only go there if you love cheese, but rather like being a pescetarian in a fish & chip shop, there is the rest of the generous menu to even suit the dairy intolerant. Indeed, of the two hero dishes, one is a 29-day aged beef burger with bacon and hand cut chips (£12.90) the choice of three cheese slices to accompany it is optional. The other is the signature Androuet Fondue (£12.50pp). Its a golden oldie with a twist. 18-month old Comté and Emmental Grand Cru bubbling in a candlelit cauldron with plates of crudités and chacuteries; this is not the sickly, 1980s milky fondue of your youth, but a thick and deliciously smooth version that I have been dreaming about since my first calorific mouthful. But I properly adore cheese.
The delight is in the dining experience. It'd be a shame to visit this place and not share your dishes. If you want a burger or a beetroot salmon gravalax for one, you could have it anywhere, but a little shop where you can create your own pick n mix cheese board from selections available in the shop, or dunk bread in a Mont d'Or (seasonal baked cheese) is a fromage-lovers date destination of the highest order.
If the cheese feast hasn't stretched your stomach to maximum capacity by the dessert course, I recommend the Tonka bean crème brulée. Somehow there is space for more dairy, but I drew the line at Cornish blue and caramelised walnut ice cream.
I wasn't able to approach the Cathedral City in the fridge for a good few days afterwards, but I'm already planning my next visit. Androuet is the ultimate cheese lovers paradise and a sweetly Parisian experience in the heart of the City for everyone else.
The ELLE UK Score
Style of food: European with heavy French and cheesy leanings
Good for: Special occasion; romantic; unusual
Prices and other details: Androuet
Address: 107b Commercial Street, Old Spitalfields Market, E1 6BG
Phone: 020 7375 3168
Opening times: Tue-Thursday 12pm-3pm & 5pm-11pm; Friday - Sat 12pm 11pm; Sun 12pm7pm
Average price per person for two-course meal without wine: £19
Price per bottle of house wine:
White: 2011 Cortese del Piemonte A Monte, Piedmont, Italy - £18.
Red: 2011 Bergerie de la Bastide, Languedoc, France - £19.
Price of glass of house wine: £4.50 (white); £4.80 (red)
Price of bottle of house champagne: NV Royale Reserve Brut by Champagne Philipponnat (Champagne, France) - £46
Price of glass of house champagne: £10.90 (as above)
Private dining: No
Garden/al fresco dining? Yes
Best table? In the window at the back with hardly anyone else seated around you
Who goes? East London crowd and City workers
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street or Aldgate East.