Have you ever been to a gelateria and, confronted with a glut of new flavours, progressively taste tested your way to the perfect pick? Imagine that, but you’re at a cheese shop, and whenever you try something new a friendly and entirely unpretentious cheese-nerd tells you what it is, who made it and how smelly it is.
This is our experience at Penny’s Cheese Shop, a tiny new cheese and cheese accoutrement shop in the backstreets of Potts Point.
That friendly, unpretentious server is the owner, Penny Lawson – a former cheesemaker, cheese judge and ex-executive officer of the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers' Association. Her goal at Penny’s Cheese Shop is to make cheese accessible and fun, regardless of how expensive, boutique or commercial it is. She’s extremely eager to guide you to your future favourite. “Lots of people don't know what they want, or what they like yet. My job is to introduce you to them.”
If you’re after Australia’s best, Lawson is likely to point you towards Victoria’s Holy Goat La Luna, Section 28’s alpine cheeses from the Adelaide Hills, and buttermilk ricotta by Sydney’s Kristen Allan. There’s also a good selection of exceptional overseas goods. “I want to always be over 50 per cent local; I believe in what Australian cheesemakers are making. There's a bit of cultural cringe with Australian cheese – like there is with wine – where we feel like what's produced in Europe is higher quality,” she says.
Lawson can also order anything you need, although she’s pulled together a best-of-the-best selection of things you’re likely to want with your cheese so you’re unlikely to want much more. There’s Tim Malfroy’s Blue Mountains’ honey, Papanui pasture-fed eggs, Alto olive oil and Pioik bread.
Whatever cheesy offcuts she has are stuffed into and toasted between slices of Pioik bread, making a molten-centred, cheese-encrusted toastie masterpiece. That’s the only consume-on-site item, but if you do want a coffee to go with it, Lawson will give you a takeaway mug and arrange a brew to be made at nearby Piccolo Bar Cafe.