I first came across the epicentre of cheese heaven – also known as Milk the Cow – a while back on my St Kilda recce to find the perfect beach office. Let’s be honest, it was love at first sight. With 150+ different types of cheeses (housed in a humidity-controlled, droolable display counter), multiple ways to eat cheese and alcoholic beverages perfectly paired with cheese, what’s not to LOVE!?
This licensed fromagerie is now one of my all-time favourite Melbourne experiences and a must for anyone who’s remotely in the vicinity of the 3182 postcode.
Milk the Cow, you’re a sexy cow!
Only opening its St Kilda shopfront in 2012, Milk the Cow has quickly burrowed itself into the hearts of Melburnians, who’ve discovered a soft spot for the cheese bar experience. Many cheese-snorting fans, like myself, have realised that their lives weren’t complete without a European-style fromagerie serving up quality artisan cheeses and boutique booze, sourced from around the world, until the wee hours of the morning.
The first of its kind to open in Australia, the cheese bar concept now has a cult following, prompting Milk the Cow to open another shopfront across the river in Carlton in 2014, and variations popping up in Sydney (The Stinking Bishops, and Mozzarella Bar at Da Orazio Pizza and Porchetta).
The ultimate Melbourne food experience
So when our Adelaide foodie-type friends Ben and Jess descended on Melbourne and looked up at us with big expecting eyes wanting a true foodie experience that showcased Melbourne’s culinary exploits, I knew we’d better be in the mood for cheese, because we were about to eat a LOT of it!
Testament to Milk the Cow’s popularity, we arrived at 8pm on a Friday night sans booking (avoid heartache and book if there’s more than six of you, I beg you) and the only seats in the house were outside in a picket fence cordoned off, teat-adorned (yes, I just said TEAT. No, not a typo) section of the Fitzroy Street pavement. Despite the temperature being an annoying 12 degrees, it was surprisingly pleasant with the column heaters and supplied blankets. Plus, we could look out onto the black hole of Albert Park and the twinkling city skyline in the distance.
Inside, the décor skirts the edge of kitcsch with light pendants that resemble cups for ‘milking the cow’, milking stools for seating and an artificial grass wall. But it works, creating a fun, intimate experience.
How do you like your cheese?
There are so many udderly terrific ways to enjoy cheese or have it boxed up to take away. Choose from a cheese and booze flight (wine, whiskey, beer, cider, fortified, sparkling, sake, take your pick!), a fondue pot, baked camembert, or let the cheesemonger board you up a selection of their favourite cheeses matched to a wine of your choosing. Cocktails even come with a garnish of cheese. And with all the cheeses changing weekly you never quite know what you’re in for.
Our group of four settled on a cheese and cider flight (Ben), a cheese and sake flight (husband Jude), a cheesemonger’s cheese board paired with a goblet of Coonawarra shiraz (Jess) and a cheese and sparkling flight (me). All served with a mixture of crispbread and fluffy white bread (hot tip: do ask for more bread if you run out because unless you’re carb-intolerant you will). We then also shared a mac and cheese; the gooey baked camembert, which was incredible with rosemary – cheese on toast will never be the same again; honey infused with truffle; and pears.
This was after Ben insisted that he couldn’t make up his mind between the cheese and beer, cheese and cider, and cheese and whiskey flights, and wanted them all. Despite us telling him he’d be a big rolling ball of brie if he did, he tucked the menu under his chair for safe keeping and safe ordering later.
One of the best bits is when the cheeseboards come out, listening to the waiter detail each cheese and admirably trying to pronounce the names of the Japanese sakes. We were told that one cheese was two weeks old, fresh from France, where the sheep have been dining on lots of lush grass, creating a ‘mushroomy’ flavour in the cheese.
Our cheese banquet was nothing short of delicious! And the best bit about Milk the Cow is that it enables you to try cheeses that perhaps you wouldn’t normally try. I politely, I mean bossily, encourage you to go with the flow and don’t ask to deviate from the menu pairing – these cheesemongers know their cheese. Hell! Who knew that I’d like ‘mushroomy’ cheese so much.
No sooner will you leave, feeling like you’ll be sick at the sight of another wheel of camembert, having eaten so much cheese, you’ll be craving the gooey-goodness that is cheese again.
Milk the Cow | 157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9537 2225