157 Spring Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Kathy is by far the most cheese-crazed person I know, and if I had realised how cheese-centric the European Cheese Lunch was going to be, I would’ve asked her to be my plus one. Here’s to beginning this post with an apology!
Although most people are probably familiar with the artisan produce and gourmet gelato of Spring Street Grocer, I imagine not everyone knows about the cheese basement. Hidden amongst the tottering piles of groceries is a secret staircase, spiralling steeply into a cool room and an old-fashioned cellar.
The smell was what gave it away. Just halfway down the stairs, we were submerged in the musty, hazy aroma of a thousand ripening cheeses. I made it to the bottom to find that all my dreams had come true. Spread across three tables were French cheeses of every type you could possibly imagine – sweet and waxy comté, crumbly and stinky blues, ooey gooey fromager des clarines, pungent orange wash-rinds, and of course, the king of cheeses – enormous rounds of brie made with 75% milk fat. Given that there are over 1200 types of cheese in France, what I’m seeing here is but the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Still, my stomach was more than satisfied; here are some highlights:
There were also a few cheese experts on the scene, including the big cheese himself – Laurent from CNIEL: French Dairy Interbranch Organisation.
To wash down the cheese were a few bottles of red and white, plus the most enormous and upmarket charcuterie platter I had ever seen. But then again, this is Spring Street Grocer.
The choice available was stunning. There were about half a dozen types of cured meats, from soft velvety folds of prosciutto, to dry and spicy salami. We feasted on plump slices of cured ocean trout and bowls of oily olives, but it was the fingers of mild, meaty terrine that stole my affections. For greens, there was a large variety of pickled vegetables, and a salad of broad beans with mint. I scoffed down the caprese salad; the combination of basil, sweet tomatoes, and creamy chunks of mozzarella tasted like a late dinner on a warm summer evening.
Unfortunately, these cheeses are hard to get in Melbourne for the time being. Not only is import a bit of a tricky devil (all that mould in the blues!), Australia isn’t nearly as crazy about cheese as some other parts of the world. If you’re really keen however, give some specialty delis a go; at the very least they can probably point you towards something similar.
I didn’t have to worry though; I left with such a massive goodie bag that I doubt I’ll need to buy any cheese for the next 6 months. They did start getting smelly on the train home, but that was a price worth paying.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork attended as a guest of the European Cheese Lunch.