O Toma O Morte

Cheese or death?

That’s the choice Lower Marsh’s very own Dark Knights of Cholesterol have been offering unsuspecting Waterloo-ites.

The self-styled knights – Gianalberto Keifner (left) and Ian Willingham (right) – have been on an 18 month personal crusade to introduce Londoners to the finest cheeses from the UK and Northern Italy.

Their unique blend of fromage-based chicanery has already won them legions of fans, including HRH The Prince of Wales, who has been known to send staff down for a slab of gorgonzola.

And as their popularity has grown so too has their stock, to the point where visitors to the market can now pick up more than 30 different cheeses from “O Toma O Morte” – the business’ name which is literally translated from Piemontese for “cheese or a nasty end”.

Ian, 39, said he first got hooked on cheese when he came to realise its significance as a cultural and historical phenomenon.

He said: “It's an ancient form of food production which is as old as it is fascinating. Plus good cheese tastes incredible, which is where our passion comes from.”

His partner-in-crime Gianalberto, 29, has worked with him to offer a unique selling point – great cheese without pretension.

Ian explained: “We actually make a conscious effort to move away from the often terrifying posh cheese shop atmosphere, which we find is a little bit exclusive to a lot of people.

“Because we trade at markets we have the freedom to really interact with passers-by – there is none of the static feeling that many shops have.”

But it’s not just dairy-based chemistry which has got the locals coming back to the stall. Ian and Gianalberto are genuine friends as well as business partners, and have even given each other the nicknames Genghis and Hannibal to fit with their “dark knights” personae.

Their attitudes have rubbed off on the shopkeepers around their stall outside Marie’s Café, and you can often see them all shooting the breeze over a taster of Michael and Mary Davenports’ Cote Hill Blue or something special from Valsesia, Italy.

But don’t our intrepid crusaders ever get tired of cheese?

“How could you?” said Ian. “It’s like collecting records. You think you know it all and then you find something new which blows you away.”

O Tome O Morte can be found at Lower Marsh Market on Fridays and also trade at Berwick Street, Partridges and Chatsworth Road. Follow the pair on Twitter @OTomaOMorte for their latest locations.