How far would you travel for oozy brie, sizzling haloumi or fourth-generation cheddar? These cheese restaurants, shops and cafes are seriously worth a dairy day-trip.
1. Melbourne’s fab fromage trio
Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder is one of the most authentic fromageries around, stocking a pungent variation of European stars such as the soft Langres (from the Champagne region).
Bespoke picnic cheese hampers are a great idea and for the devotees its Cheese Club sends your favourites straight to your door. (48-50 Bridge Road, Richmond).
La Latteria in Carlton is mozzarella central – the fiore di burrata and buffalo are worth the trip alone. There’s an abundance of (daily) hand-stretched fresh cheeses; the likes of the versatile baby smoked provolina is a good starting point. (104 Elgin Street, Carlton).
Milk The Cow has been around for a few years now and the specialist (and importantly) licensed fromagerie on St Kilda’s trendy Fitzroy Street is well on its way to becoming a Melbourne classic. 150 cheeses enough for you? And every one with a story to tell. (157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda)
2. Tassie’s cheese islands
Forty-five minutes by boat south-east of Hobart takes you to foodie oasis Bruny Island, where you will find local producer Bruny Island Cheese Company.
Among the eight varieties (plus cheesecake) made by Nick Haddow and his team is the awesomely oozy brie ‘Saint’.
Inevitably, while you’re on Bruny, you’ll gravitate towards the most southerly winery in Australia, Bruny Island Premium Wines, too.
On an isle off the arguably even more isolated north-west coast of Tassie is Australian cheese-making institution King Island Dairy. Its cheese shop has plenty of tasters, but you may want to start with the delectable double brie.
Once you’ve had your fill of cheese, it’s time to explore the other fresh produce opportunities on King Island, from its heavenly crustaceans, king crabs to crays, to the slightly more challenging kelp chutney.
Back on the Tassie mainland, there are a plethora of cheesy choices. Where to start?
The Holy Cow Café on the grounds of this country’s oldest producer, Pyengana Dairy Company (in the north-east) is as good a place as any, for its fourth-generation cloth-bound cheddar and cheese toasties with a twist.
3. Valley of the Kings
In the middle of Victoria’s King Valley gourmet belt, among local stores, farm gates and just around the corner from Brown Brothers vineyard, is the former butter factory, which is now thankfully Milawa Cheese Company.
The cheeses from this rather large producer on the cusp of the High Country are simply delicious; start with the subtle flavours of washed-rind King River Gold, and move on to eight more cow cheeses and six goat cheeses, maybe the Mount Buffalo Blue, if blue is you.
For cheese disciples, there are cheese-making courses and you can even pre-order your cheese ‘wedding cake’.
Round off your visit with a Milawa Blue pizza (prosciutto, pumpkin, fig & pistachio paste) from the restaurant. (Factory Road, Milawa)
4. This Kangaroo prefers ewe
Kangaroo Island producers have a reputation for doing things their own way and none more so than Island Pure Sheep Dairy.
Just a hop, skip and a 10-kilometre drive from KI’s largest settlement, Kingscote, this dairy is all about the sheep, proudly embracing the Spanish proverb: ‘Cheese from the ewe, milk from the goat, butter from the cow’.
You can meet the dairy’s 1200 grain-fed ‘girls’ on your visit and, of course, gorge on the ewe-milk cheeses, from feta to kefalotiri.
Island Pure’s fresher than fresh yogurt is also worth leaving space for – both in your stomach and car boot.
Watch the process of hand making labneh or ricotta, then take a wander down to the banks of the Cygnet River to walk off your rampant sampling.
5. The Stinking Bishops
Boutique cheese bar The Stinking Bishops in Sydney’s bo-ho hub Newtown certainly knows how to put a cheese board together.
There is a strong representation of artisanal Australians as well, as French, Italian and UK varieties, among its 40-plus-cheese fromagerie. But the Bishop is no one-food-group pony.
There are also cured meat boards, ploughman’s lunches, mac ‘n’ cheese, house-pickled mussels plus more substantial dishes, such as the whole roasted spitchcock, served at lunch and dinner.
Beware, the Euro bread here is more than moreish.
And, naturally, you can choose from a rustic list of wines, beers and whisky too.