Two Belly is the result of Lara Issa and Dom Pulsford’s shared love of good food – and great drinks to wash it down with. It stocks a hefty rage of artisanal cheese and beers from around the globe.
“We’re particularly huge on Belgian beer,” says Lara, showing us the wide-ranging selection they stock. “Belgium treats beer like France treats wine; they barrel-age, bottle condition, blend…”
Indeed, a decent amount of fridge space is given over to the contemporary, experimental brews from this Western European country. You’ll find beers from Bristol and the rest of the globe too, though; it’s less about geography and more about showcasing the most exciting, best-quality products they can find. That same principle applies to the cider collection, too; the new cider fridge displays traditional West Country varieties as well as intriguing, less familiar creations from elsewhere, like Estonia and Wales. There are wines, as well, which come from Billings and Briggs – an award-winning supplier that’s all about natural, organic and biodynamic vino. But wait right there – liquid refreshments are only half the story at Two Belly.
“The business idea started as a bottle shop, but we wanted it to be more than that – there’s so much more to beer – so the cheese element just came organically,” says Lara.
Before opening the business, Dom spent a few months at Neal’s Yard Dairy – and the shop nods graciously to the London outfit’s style in its range. On the counter at any one time you’ll find between 18 and 22 cheeses, mostly from the UK – give or take an Italian pecorino here or a French Comté there. Lots of them rotate to keep the offering exciting, and many are made with unpasteurised milk.
“We want to champion raw milk as a safe and great way to make cheese,” says Dom. “When you pasteurise milk you strip everything out of it – the idea being that it makes it safer. But what if you know the herd and what you’re putting into them, know the farmer, trust the source? Why would you strip everything out when you already know it’s safe? Leaving the milk unpasteurised really enriches the curds.”
Telling the difference when eating cheese that’s been made with raw versus heat-treated milk is tricky, though, as you don’t get like-for-like cheeses to compare.
“Perhaps the closest comparison would be our blue cheese, Stichelton,” says Lara. “It’s Stilton in style, but the cheesemaker believes that pasteurising the milk is detrimental to the cheesemaking process, so he doesn’t – when you taste it I really think it is richer and more complex. Many of our customers come back to it as their preferred blue cheese.”
Everything here is available to take away, or enjoy in the light and airy shop. Evening tasting events are a regular occurrence, too – keep your eye on the website for new dates.