Brussels’ first cheese bar mixes and matches to perfection
You won’t find a menu at La Fruitière, but Véronique Socié’s carefully curated selection of cheeses will ensure you’re in for an unforgettable experience
On food and drink in Flanders and Brussels
Nestled in the Kolenmarkt in the heart of Brussels, it's run by Véronique Socié and her son Léo. Born in the Jura region of France, Socié grew up in a family where making your own cheese was common.
“I’ve always found it magical to see milk turning into cheese,” she says. “In the Jura, you eat cheese at every meal – at breakfast, dinner or in the afternoon.”
After a few twists and turns as the director of a child care centre and promoter of Comté cheese in Belgium, Socié attended dairy school, began raising goats and started making her own cheese. “I quickly learned that it’s not magic at all, but very technical and scientific.”
At La Fruitière, almost all the cheeses are artisan and made from raw milk. “Children who eat non-pasteurized cheeses will be less prone to allergies,” Socié explains. “Plus, the taste is better, and the cheeses are full of nutrients.”
The secret ingredient
In her eyes, a good cheese is made with love and care, not only for the product but also the animals. “A cheese made in the mountains by a farmer who loves his animals and feeds them well, and who dives his arms into the milk he just got from the cow – it will taste different.”
In industrial cheesemaking, she continues, “trucks will get milk from different farms and keep it in tanks for days before it gets heated in the factory and mixed with bacteria made in laboratories”.
Voted the best cheesemonger in Belgium last year, Socié knows what she’s talking about. She can easily recognise even the slightest nuances in texture, colour, taste and smell and knows exactly which wine or beer goes best with each cheese.
It’s still a thrill to open up a newly arrived Comté because you never know what it will taste like
Though it’s sometimes impossible to generalise about taste and texture. “It’s still a thrill to open up a newly arrived Comté, because you never know what it will taste like,” she says. “It depends on what the cow ate, what season it is and so much more.”
Socié calls herself a cheese caretaker. “My work is to choose the cheeses, store them in the best possible conditions, and serve them when they are at their peak.”
In addition to the shop and eatery, La Fruitière also contains several rooms where the cheeses are stored, each with a different temperature and humidity level.
While customers are encouraged to eat on the spot, there is no menu. Instead, Socié selects the cheeses, making sure they go well together and offer what she calls an unforgettable experience.
“If someone wants to eat a Camembert, but we only received it yesterday, we won’t serve it,” she says. “It needs to mature for a few weeks first.”
Photo: Véronique Socié and her son run Brussels’ first cheese bar