“A gentleman,” Winston Churchill once observed, “buys his hats at Locks, his shoes at Lobbs, his suits at Huntsman, and his cheese at Paxton & Whitfield.”

Things may have changed since Churchill's time, but gentlemen still shop at the award-winning cheesemonger, along with a host of ladies, celebrity chefs and the general public looking for something special.

The company has been trading since 1742 when Sam Cullen set up a cheese stall in Aldwych market but it was first registered as a partnership in 1797. As London became increasingly affluent the business moved to Jermyn Street where the flagship store still exists today. It was even appointed cheesemonger to Queen Victoria in 1850 - the first of many Royal Warrants it has held.

But it hasn't always been plain sailing - a couple of world wars, cattle disease in the mid 1860s, and competition from American processed cheese in the 1880s all presented challenges for the business. But a process of constant metamorphosis has ensured its survival.

“We certainly punch above our weight,” says MD Ros Windsor, “For a start we are both a retailer and a wholesaler, which is a key point of our success.”

As well as the world class cheese offer in its four UK stores - the others are in Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath and Birmingham - Paxton & Whitfield sells a range of own brand products to restaurants, hotels, and retailers, including farm shops and delis in the UK and worldwide.

The company prides itself its close relationship with suppliers, the majority of which are small artisan producers. “I spend a lot of time visiting our suppliers and we encourage our store workers to do so too. It's important for them to know the full history of the products and see how they are made.”

It has also built up a successful online operation, and is moving to a larger warehouse to expand its wholesale operations

While cheese remains its “hero product” it now sells a variety of other premium food and non food goods, including patés, biscuits, cakes, preserves, Champagne, wines and even fondue sets.

“We only sell the best products from the best world markets,” says Windsor, who likens the art of cheese making to that of wine. “Cheese thrives on care and attention. Ours comes from individual and dedicated producers. That's why they keep on coming back in their droves.”

When we visited Paxton and Whitfield's Jermyn street store it was busy with customers eager to buy and sample some of the special offers - one of which was a block of Testun Al Barolo, a Sardinian cheese made from ewe's and cow's milk, soaked in Barolo wine and covered in Barolo grapes, a snip at £60 per kg. Windsor is not concerned about the FSA or Ofcom's scrutiny of the cheese category - and as for the competition - she doesn't think she has any.

“We offer a unique buying experience. Our cheese is not shut away behind glass counters and wrapped up beyond recognition in plastic packaging - it's out there, living and breathing as it should be. She adds: “We provide a theatre that is artisan food from around the world and nobody else is doing that.”