Cheesemonger Olivia Sutton grew up surrounded by cheese. Her family owned a farm on Tasmania’s King Island, and she’d return from family holidays there with a three-kilogram wheel of brie to share with her boarding-school friends, which they’d quickly put to use making fancy toasties.
Sutton’s first move into the cheese industry was while working as head waiter at George Calombaris’s (now-closed) Reserve in Federation Square.
“I pretty much was eating all the cheese and they got me to take charge of [it],” she says, laughing.
Later, Sutton spent 10 years at Port Melbourne’s Calendar Cheese Company and worked at Sheridans Cheesemongers in Dublin, before opening Harper & Blohm in Essendon – attached to the western outpost of Prince Wine Store – in 2014.
“We’d outgrown that space about two years ago,” Sutton says. It’s easy to understand how – the tiny Essendon shop offered online delivery, subscription boxes, catering and wholesale alongside day-to-day fromage supply. Sutton and partner (and chef) Ian Alexander also run a weekend stall at farmers’ markets, and a prep kitchen in Carlton helping to cater for the growing demand.
The new space in Brunswick is reminiscent of the old store, but bigger. It’s got a French Provincial vibe, with timber-panelled finishes in navy, taupe, grey and cream; marble benchtops; and a pressed-metal ceiling. But the real buzz here is around the kitchen; now Sutton and Alexander can offer a small menu and take-home meals, such as mac’n’cheese.
There are decent salads, quiches and baguettes, but the grilled-cheese sandwiches are the stars here. The classic three-cheese oozes with cheddar, gruyere, raclette and caramelised onion, and a Tarwin blue-cheese toastie with rocket and walnut is balanced with the sweetness of pear. There’s also a mushroom, taleggio, truffle pecorino and rosemary option.
The custom-made cheese fridges hold a rotating hand-picked range, which might include a semi-hard, brine-washed Holy Goat’s Nectar Tomme; El Esparto’s Manchego Artesano, a hard, ewe’s-milk cheese from Spain; Aphrodite halloumi, a stretched-curd cheese great for grilling or pan frying; Shaw River’s buffalo mozzarella; Stone and Crow’s Nightwalker, a small washed-rind cheese; and traditional clothbound cheddars.
Olivia’s pick is the Colston Bassett Stilton from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. “I love the umami flavours of it … rich and buttery,” she says. “There’s Stilton – and then there’s Colston Bassett Stilton.”
Sutton says a lot of the produce in the new shop is from people she’s met at the farmers’ markets. There are pates and terrines from City Larder, capocollo and ham from Bundarra Berkshires charcuterie, Wild Hen Farm eggs, Santa Teresa Spanish quince paste, and The Good Seed kefir. Bread is from Tivoli Road, Ovens Street, Q Le Baker and Wild Life Bakery. There’s also milk from St David, Shaw River and Schulz yoghurts, French crème fraiche, Italian mascarpone and cultured butters.
The new digs are also well positioned in the unofficial wedding shopping district of Brunswick, prompting the duo to offer “cheese cakes”. The towering cakes are built by piling entire wheels of cheese on top of one another, some adorned with quince paste, others with fresh flowers.
Harper and Blohm
365 Sydney Road, Brunswick
Tues to Thurs 10am–5pm