I’m eating a lot of cheese for my absent friends

Edinburgh Festivals Posted on Saturday, August 29th, 2009

When in Edinburgh pay a visit to Mellis's cheese shop on Victoria Street, says Lucy Porter

I’m eating a lot of cheese for my absent friends

OK then Lucy, what are we doing in a cheese shop?

I’ve come to Mellis’s cheese shop because it is probably the place that I come to first when I arrive in Edinburgh for the festival. Every year I go to my flat, drop off all my stuff and then I rush straight here to buy myself some cheese. It’s a love affair that’s lasted almost ten years. I’m just in love with this place – the smells, the sights, the sounds … but mainly the smells.

So after ten years you must have a favourite cheese?

Yeah, they do a really good stinky brie. I like a brie that comes running off the plate to meet you and kind of rushes into your arms and says hello. But every year I try something different – I like to experiment – and given that I’ve been coming to this place for so long it’s nice to get new elements into your festival experience every year. I dread to think how much cheese I’ve eaten from here over the years. I think the year after next is going to be my tenth year on the Fringe, so when I do my tenth Edinburgh year I think I might buy a massive wheel of cheese for my show and invite the audience to nibble at it every night.

Do the staff here take their cheese very seriously?

Yeah, the guys at Mellis’s are real cheese experts and they’re really seriously into their cheese, which I quite like. It’s like jazz or performance poetry – there’s something quite cool about their encyclopaedic knowledge of their subject. And when they get to know you they’ll say things like: “We, er, have something new that might interest you – not everyone gets to see it.” So you feel a bit like you’re an underground cheese fan.

So there’s a back room somewhere full of special cheese?

That’s right, yeah, there’s a secret back room where they take you if you’re an aficionado – a room where they keep all the dirty cheeses that smell the strongest.

Have you ever had a disappointing cheese from here? Or even a slightly substandard cheese?

The only dark note in my relationship with Mellis’s cheese shop was once when I was recommended a goat’s cheese and it was all dry and crumbly.

Er, I’ll be honest Lucy, I’m struggling to come up with questions about cheese…

Yeah, just imagine if I’d picked the National Gallery, we could have talked about art and culture… but you’re right, we’ve pretty much just got cheese to talk about. I suppose we could talk about crackers…

I’m not the only person on the comedy circuit who likes cheese by the way: Richard Herring, who I sometimes share a flat with in Edinburgh, he likes a good cheese, and Sarah Kendall, the Australian comedian, she’s a bit of a cheese aficionado as well, although sadly she’s not here this year.

Chris Addison too – you can always rely on Addison to share a cheese platter with you, but he isn’t in town either this year. So, yeah, at the moment I’m eating a lot of cheese for my absent friends. In fact, I think I only come back to Edinburgh for the cheese – it’s the only reason I’m still here after all these years.

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