Manly’s favourite cheese shop opens in the Hunter Valley
Cheese lovers rejoice! The Artisan Cheese Room of Manly is opening a Cheese Bar at the much-revered Mount Pleasant Estate in Pokolbin. Not that there can ever be enough cheesemongers in the Valley (not if you ask me anyway) but The Artisan Cheese Bar is not just a cheese deli.
In fact, the shop offers great coffee from Rozelle-based roasters, The Little Marionette, a range of platter goodies, grazing boards, hampers and a delicious menu of mouth-watering cheese laden dishes that you’ll be dreaming of long after you visit!
Case in point, their famed classic Fondue Toastie, the Burrata Cheese with Peas and Pancetta and the piece-de-resistance, Raclette - melted over potatos and served with cornichons. Lordy, lord am I in trouble.
Just chatting casually to owner Paul Thompson, you get the sense that he and wife Joanna are super passionate, not just about cheese itself, but about educating their customers on cheese pairings, storage, aging and the like, in a way that’s fun, and sometimes, a little tongue-in-cheek. “Our aim is never to condescend to people and it’s great when people build up a trust with us. We’ll often have customers call up and say ‘I’m having some friends over tonight, we’re opening XYZ wine, what cheese should I get’”.
In talking with Paul, another thing’s clear too, The Artisan Cheese crew are serious about providing visitors with a cheese experience they aren’t going to find elsewhere.
“We try and differentiate on quality, you know, a lot of people say that, but it really is true for us. We spend a lot of time, not just sourcing amazing cheeses and accompaniments, but getting the store fit-out right too. We aren’t just here to sell a product. The service experience is so important to us. It’s what keeps our customers coming back.”
And the differences don’t stop there. Artisan not only offer cheese and wine pairings, but cheese matched with gin, beer and tea too.
Paul and Joanna's passion for cheese, in all its splendid forms, began many years back. A chef by trade and graduate of the acclaimed ‘Leith’s School of Food and Wine’ in London, Joanna has been working with cheese for over 10 years, after training and working at one of the world’s great cheese shops, Neal’s Yard Dairy in London.
Joining forces with husband Paul, the pair opened The Artisan Cheese Room in 2016 and have been sourcing delicious cheeses the world over ever since. Their latest project, opening the Cheese Bar in Hunter Valley, was a natural progression after working with a few Hunter winemakers and making tiered Cheese Wheel “Cakes” to send up for local brides. “All the winemakers were really complimentary about how well we knew our product and they kept saying ‘How can we get your cheese up here’. Having a shop in the Valley to expand on these great relationships and for weddings too, just makes sense”.
It certainly does. Indeed, it seems the stars aligned when a space at one of Pokolbin’s most respected wineries, Mount Pleasant, became available for lease.
“I remember driving up here with Halliday’s 2012 Wine Companion in my hand and going in for a tasting of the 95+ point wines. Knowing Mount Pleasant’s story and having bought Rosehill and OP&OH Shiraz’s from 2011 (that I still haven’t opened), makes it all quite surreal. Mount Pleasant is a brilliant fit for us and to be honest, it’s really affirming to be working with such a respected winery” Paul notes.
Walking into this cool new space and checking out the menu, you can’t help but get a little excited. There’re around 50 cheeses on display which you’re encouraged to taste before you buy. And, while the cheese menu often changes due to seasonality (which affects quality), you’re sure to find a cheese that speaks to you and, on occasion, one that challenges your taste buds. If you don’t mind experimenting, the Daily Tasting Board which Paul explains “is a list of the cheeses which are tasting good today” is a good place to start. Either way, the friendly and knowledgeable Artisan Cheese crew will be sure to provide you with a personalised and memorable cheese experience.
Not surprisingly, the team at Mount Pleasant are excited to have The Artisan Cheese Room on board too. None more so than Chief Winemaker and General Manager, Adrian Sparks. “The Artisan guys have the best cheeses you can buy in Australia. They’re a real drawcard and we’re really pumped to be collaborating with them to provide visitors with such a unique cheese tasting experience” said Adrian.
In what’s set to be a very tasty collaboration between the two business, visitors will be able to enjoy a cheese and wine matching experience featuring four Mount Pleasant wines alongside a selection of The Artisan’s finest cheeses for $25 per person. You can try this, and other lovely cheese and beverage pairings or something equally delectable from the Artisan menu starting this Saturday, 5 October from 8am, when they open their doors for business.
Let’s give them a warm Hunter Valley welcome!