Although there is never a bad time for cheese, the cooler weather lends particularly well to its complexities, aromas, and textures. Here are five of Sydney’s best offerings to get you through the weekend.
Doubling as a restaurant and retail space, The Stinking Bishops in Enmore operates with an intimate and interactive approach. Patrons are encouraged to take a seat at the bar and chat with staff to curate tasting boards to their liking, while being encouraged to learn more about the different products on offer. For a two-cheese board it’s $21, for three it’s $29, and a four-cheese plate is $37 – all come with crackers, bread and a fig-and-walnut roulade.
“You could argue that all cheeses are great in winter,” says Garth Anderson, the resident cheese expert. “People go bananas for heavy-bodied, complex cheeses in the cooler months and right now I’d opt for our namesake: the Stinking Bishop.” It’s soaked in Perry – an English pear liquor – earning its distinct aroma.
Named for the British washed-rind with a legendary stench, The Stinking Bishops stocks more than 40 cheeses and offers a smart wine list with an emphasis on affordable yet interesting labels. Co-owner Jamie Nimmo recommends a glass of Chapter Savvy Bee sauvignon-blanc from Yarra Valley, which he says is “the perfect winter white. It’s unfiltered and unfined so it’s a little bit different.” Nimmo says “it’s kind of like a hearty cider which complements the intensity of the cheese.”
Continental might be known for its Mar-tinnies and Can-hattens, but this local bistro is also serving some of the most interesting cheeses in Sydney, alongside an impressive selection of cured meats and canned seafood.
Here, a three-cheese plate will set you back $36 and it comes with bread and crackers.
“I always think big hearty flavours are best in winter,” says general manager Mikey Nicolian. “I’d be looking for something super heavy and rich like a Brillat Savarin with truffle.” He’s referring to a triple-cream cow’s cheese with a layer of shaved truffle in the centre. “Big, jammy red wines always pair well with more robust flavours,” he says. Nicolian recommends pairing this one with a shiraz-cabernet from Rockford Rod & Spur in the Barossa Valley.
Lewis Jaffrey and Jared Merlino opened Big Poppa’s in 2016 to subsidise their already huge appetites for cheese, wine, and hip-hop. It’s no surprise then that more than half the menu champions cheese, let alone the 30–strong list of cheese from around the world. Visitors can create plates to suit their own taste, otherwise the chef’s selection offers three cheeses chosen to reflect ripeness and seasonality.
“Although people go for stronger flavours in winter, fresh-style cheeses like Brie are always our best-sellers,” says manager Dominique Easter. “For our own selection, we’d probably go for something like the Cuise Malt d’Orzo e Whiskey.” That’s a hard cow’s cheese made by soaking the cheese for up to 24 months in whiskey-soaked barley.
A three-cheese plate is $28 and comes with seasonal fruits, honey and bread.
Formaggi Ocello is something of a temple to great cheese. There is an impressive cabinet of farmhouse cheese that spans the entire length of the room and holds more than 200 different cheeses, selected both locally and abroad by owners Carmelo and Sogna Ocello.
“We offer about 30 cheeses at a time based on ripeness,” says Sogna Ocello of the in-house boards. “At this time of year we tend to focus more on hard cheeses from Switzerland and France,” she says. Formaggi Ocello offers four different cheese boards ($65 each) with carefully chosen wine and cheese pairings, designed to showcase regional produce from Italy, France, Greater Europe and the UK. Each comes with panforte, prunes, mustard fruits, pastes, crispbread and muscatels. But Ocello insists you can’t go wrong with a glass of red and “something nutty and earthy” like a Comte or Gruyere.
Below Martin Place in a grand, historic sandstone basement, cheese expert Carlo Colucci and sommelier Maxime Pellegrin have curated an impressive list of wine and cheese from all over the world. Customers can trawl through the selection themselves, but Colucci and Pellegrin are professionals when it comes to matching flavours. They have designed a range of interesting flights, from $37 to $43, with three cheeses, lavosh and quince paste paired with wines or whiskeys.