Vegans are flocking to Brixton to snap up artisan cheeses all made from plant-based sources at Britain’s first entirely vegan cheesemonger.
La Fauxmagerie in Brixton Village, just half a mile from our Brixton Hill office, is doing a roaring trade as customers head their way just to try their dairy-free products such as cheddar, camembert, mozzarella and halloumi. The popular shop is the brainchild of sisters Rachel Stevens and Charlotte, who are aged 26 and 30, and their message is clear: "We are La Fauxmagerie, the UK’s first dairy-free cheesemonger. Together with our suppliers, we bring to you the UK’s most delicious, decadent and inspired plant-based cheeses, fit for the finest cheese board. Whether you are looking for dairy alternatives for ethical or health reasons, or if you are just looking for your next culinary addiction, La Fauxmagerie will not disappoint."
But the huge amount of publicity the shop has garnered since opening hasn't come without what might be called a mild rebuke from Dairy UK; the processor-led organisation representing farmer-owned co-ops and private dairy companies says that the shop shouldn’t brand the products as "cheese" as it’s misleading to buyers.That simply doesn't wash with the owners. Rachel says it’s clear in the name of the business that they are selling dairy free products – and that it’s a pun. She added: "Our tagline also clearly states we are a ‘plant-based cheese monger’. We are not misleading and the claim that we are discredits the consumers and underestimates the intelligence of our customers." Rachel adds that the whole fuss seems a little unnecessary and that people are generally aware that plant-based means non-dairy: "Peanut butter doesn’t include butter and when people ask for a soy latte at Costa, they ask for soya milk – not blended soya beans. We’ve not highlighted the nutritional value of our cheeses or compared it to others. "People in the vegan community are annoyed and some think we are an easy target because we are a small, independent and new business."
The sisters hatched their business plan for the cheese shop last autumn, partly to give cheesy options to lactose-intolerant. Charlotte. Rachel continued: ‘I’ve dabbled in veganism for a while because I wanted to minimise the amount of cruelty caused as possible. My sister has always been lactose intolerant and we started going to vegan festivals which introduced us to lots of great vegan brands. "Cheese was the main focus for us because that’s the thing people miss most when they go dairy free. After a bit of research, we realised there’s not one single place where you can buy the best dairy free cheese brands. We wanted it to be easy and accessible so contacted our favourite brands to ask if they’d consider stocking their produce and we got really good feedback. "It was an idea which suddenly became reality when my sister bought a deli fridge – and then asked if I was ready to leave my job." And the next step for La Fauxmagerie? Well, they are mulling over starting an online store so they can sell their product to even more shoppers. Rachel added: "We just thought we were opening a little dairy free cheese shop, which is what we understood a lot of people wanted. We expected some attention because we knew we’d be the first in the country, but we didn’t expect to ruffle feathers. Dairy UK sent a letter to the shop. We are going to take things as they come.
"It’s not overshadowed anything, we’re still having a great time and we’ve had incredible support from customers and the vegan community. I understand people might be sceptical because the food culture in the UK is very meat heavy. I only became fully vegan this year and my childhood favourite use to be my gran’s corn beef pie so I completely understand. "If people are sceptical, then they should come into the shop and try it out for themselves. We make a point on our website to say we’re not pressuring people and a lot of meat eaters come into the shop to try samples and they love them. We sell award-winning cashew, almond, soy and brown rice-based cheeses from amazing UK based brands which are delicious in their own right."