Big cheese comes to Ainslie

Kirsten Lawson
The cheese section at Ainslie IGA.
The cheese section at Ainslie IGA. 

The Ainslie supermarket has made a sudden and extreme lurch into the world of French cheese, offering a cheese cabinet with 150 specialist cheeses, including the washed-rind French cheeses normally found only in upmarket delicatessens.

The family-owned supermarket, managed by Manuel Xyrakis, employed James Duffel, a well-known name in the Canberra restaurant scene, to revamp its delicatessen.

It has been rebranded the Ainslie Pantry, and Duffel has started his revolution with the cheese display.

He's using Adelaide importer Say Cheese, which runs the Smelly Cheese Shop. Duffel was reluctant to claim his 150 cheeses as the biggest range in Canberra, but it would outstrip most places.

The challenge will be to move some of the shortlived cheeses while they're at their best – some have shelf lives of as little as two weeks – but Duffel says Ainslie is the suburb for it.

He referred to one customer who he says looked like a biker, complete with tattoos, and came asking for gorgonzola.

This unlikely customer knew more than you might expect about the blue cheese, discussing the merits of piccante vs dolce.

Such is demand that while the cheese display was installed less than a week ago, the supermarket was already getting in new stock yesterday.

Duffel says he's also sourcing more interesting and artisan charcuterie for the supermarket deli.


His next task is the butchery, with plans to open it to the public so people can talk to the butcher and order not only cuts of meat but prepared meals ready for the oven.

And ultimately, the IGA is considering an on-site chef.

Duffel was part of the Chairman and Yip team, managing the Lanterne Rooms in Campbell before heading overseas to work in an Italian winery.

Back last year, he works part time at Rubicon, in Griffith, and helped set up the Loading Zone café in the Melbourne Building laneway.

He also dips is hand in winemaking with friend Travis Cutler, now an apprentice chef at Aubergine Their label is Hunting on Sundays, and they're about to release their 2012 grenache shiraz.