A bit of trivia for you all…did you know that a traditional fondue pot is called a caquelon? No, me neither. But since the late 1800s – the era from which the modern fondue dates (and actually from France, rather than Switzerland), fondue pots, complete with open flame underneath to keep the cheese at the perfect silky smooth consistency, have been easily recognisable across the globe.
Here in the UK, though, fondue’s got a very different reputation. In the Swiss Alps, it’s a great shout for warming up après ski – but here, quite often the mention of the dish will conjure up images of the 1970s (or or 70s-themed retro parties).
But an Oxford University professor said last year that fondue is on the up, with…erm…Brexit and North Korea responsible.
I’m not sure what the inspiration was behind The Malago on North Street deciding to rebrand Monday nights as fondue night, but give me the chance to eat melted cheese on a freezing cold evening just a ten-minute walk from home, and I’m there.
Brother and sister Helly and John actually started their fondue nights back in October 2018…so I’m gutted I’ve only just heard about them recently. From 5.30pm to 8.30pm every Monday, you can enjoy a decadent combination of Emmental, Gruyere and Cheddar with white wine and garlic – plus bread, cornichons and silverskin pickled onions – for the bargain price of £12.50 per head.
That’s not all, though: you can add extras, too. Chorizo, crudités, apple & grapes, Parma ham and charred cauliflower can all be included for an extra £3 each – and when we went, there was a special of honey roast ham on, too.
Not retro enough for you? The mustard-yellow napkin and old-school fondue fork ramp up the 70s vibe just a notch further.
And if you needed any further persuasion to book a table for a Monday night, you’ll be pleased to know that not only are the bread and pickles unlimited, but the cheese itself is, too…
We’d been invited in by Helly to try the fondue night at The Malago, and although we’d only asked for the ham hock and the chorizo, we ended up being given a bit of everything to try…
The bread and pickles alone were incredibly generous – and I especially loved the crisp, crunchy saltiness of the fried bread chunks. If the portions of the extras we were given were the normal size, I’m not sure about value for money for some of them (especially the bowl of raw carrot, cucumber and celery crudités), but I’d definitely recommend the smoky charred cauliflower and the paprika-laced chorizo, whose oil oozed out into the cheese when dipped, giving it even more flavour. It was lovely to have such a variety on offer: soft and crunchy; sweet, savoury and salty; pickled and meaty, to keep things interesting.
And the cheese itself? Well, although I couldn’t detect the promised hint of garlic, it was silky smooth, and the added Cheddar made it punchier than your normal fondue mix. And it was the perfect consistency, coming up in gooey, unctuous strings well worthy of a #foodporn hashtag on Instagram.
When it arrived, we were shown how to control the flame underneath in case of overheating – and while we did end up with a little bit of sticking to the base of the pot, I’ve got to admit, that crispy, caramelised bit of cheese was a joy to eat…
Before anyone asks, yes, we did have more bread, and yes, we did go for a second pot of cheese (it wasn’t a full pot). And we very nearly managed to finish it between the two of us (the baby mainly stuck to grapes). And yes, we would absolutely, definitely go back to The Malago on a Monday night to do it all over again. It might be retro, but there’s no denying that a cheese fondue is a comforting, decadent dinner that’s also pretty sociable. Just remember: there are forfeits for dropping your choice of dipping ingredient in the pot…
Please note: our meal at The Malago was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.