Cheese bars break the mould

Like cheese with wine? Or cider, beer or spirits? Try this trending food sensation.

  • Dimity Noble
  • July 2015

Like a good stilton, licensed fromagerie Milk the Cow in Melbourne has matured into a cult foodie classic. Its St Kilda shopfront was the first late-night licensed cheese bar to open in Australia back in 2012, and it recently opened a sister branch on the other side of the Yarra, in Carlton.

Milk the Cow has become popular thanks to its weekly changing cheese-and-booze flights, which pair artisan cheeses with wine, beer, cider, fortifieds, dessert wines, sake or whisky. They also have fondue on the menu, takeaway cheese boxes, baked camembert, a fancy macaroni and cheese, and farmer’s boards (think ploughman’s lunches with frittata, terrine and a hearty hunk of aged jamón serrano). Confused types can always just order a Crème de la Crop cheeseboard for $50 to sample five of the café’s rarest and best cheeses, accompanied by Spanish quince paste, house-made lavosh and muscatels. Cocktails come with a complimentary nibble of cheese, too. For example, their take on the dirty martini, the Dirty Dutchman, is paired with Swiss Tête de Moine.

“It tastes just like a pickled onion!” says cheesemonger and venue manager, Laura Lown, who adds that a good artisanal cheese comes down to good quality milk and, like wine, the terroir.

“Certainly it’s the terroir,” she says. “Fresh grass or hay – and climate. They effect the length of flavour and create interesting complexities. As does the work of an affineur – someone who nurtures cheese to its peak of maturity.”

Each branch of Milk the Cow has an international selection of over 150 cheeses, and Laura says her favourite is Occelli al Malto d’orzo e Whisky: “It’s an Italian cow-goat blend, washed in whisky and coated in barley malt – a rare beauty!”.

If you’re in Sydney, the best place to go for a great cheese-bar experience is The Stinking Bishops in Enmore.

“We were inspired by the great cheese restaurants and bars in France and England,” says co-owner Jamie Nimmo. “No-one was doing it here. The product has always been here, of course, but, until now, it has only been accessible in gourmet delis and markets".

“We want people to feel really comfy in the dairy world. Our setting is informal – that way people can sample and appreciate cheese with our guidance, only if needed. We wanted to smash down the notion that great cheese is only appreciated by the well-travelled.”

The Stinking Bishops originally opened as a cheese shop, offering tasting boards with wines, but now they’ve seen clientele returning for the full meal experience. Think wagyu short rib with cheesy polenta; burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream) with brussel sprouts; and a gorgonzola cheesecake.

“The kitchen is constantly expanding to keep up with the demand,” says Jamie, noting that their most popular dish is their mushroom mac’n’cheese with a golden crust of melted taleggio.

Melbourne

Milk the Cow: The first to pair cheese with booze. Check their website for regular events including their Chef Series, where top chefs create 4-course cheese menus.

323 Lygon St, Carlton, +61 (0)3 9348 4771; 157 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, +61 (0)3 9537 2225milkthecow.com.au opens in new window

Shifty Chèvre: A licensed French fromagerie offering gourmet croque monsieur, fondue, cheese boards and more. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also has an online cheese store.

375 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, +61 (0)423 694 763shiftychevre.com opens in new window

Sydney

The Stinking Bishops: An amazing choice of cheeses, pork rillettes, ploughman’s boards and more. Closed Mondays. No reservations.

Shop 5 63-71 Enmore Rd, Newtown, +61 (0)2 9007 7754thestinkingbishops.com opens in new window

Mozzarella Bar at Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta: This newly-opened cheese bar is found inside one of Sydney’s best pizza restaurants. Try the fiore di burrata and smoked mozzarella – the best this side of Naples. Their excellent wine list is shared with the restaurant.

Shop LG09, The Hub, 75-79 Hall St, Bondi, +61 (0)2 8090 6969daorazio.com opens in new window