489 Marrickville Rd Dulwich Hill, NSW 2203
|Opening hours||Wine & Cheese Bar: Wed-Sat, noon-9.30pm; Sun, noon-5pm. Retail Tues, 9.30am-5pm; Wed-Fri, 9.30am-9.30pm; Sat 8.30am-9.30pm, Sun 8.30am-5pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
"A dessert without cheese is like a beauty with only one eye." So said Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, an 18th-century French lawyer, politician and gastronomic essayist who loved cheese and knew a thing or two about memorable cheese sayings.
Monique Emmi, co-owner with Raymond Carbonaro of The Larder, a cheese and wine deli and bar, also loves cheese.
"If you eat a piece of cheese, I feel like it transports you to somewhere else," she says. "I love the story behind it. I love the producers that make it, usually amazing people with incredible stories."
Emmi, who has worked in cheese importation and food marketing for decades, and Carbonaro, former owner-operater at the The Deli Erskineville, both judges for the Royal Agricultural Society, bought The Larder from previous owner Dominique Durand in May.
They refurbished the interior, a mix of French blue walls, wooden shelves, banquette and table and chair-seating, and opened in July. Lockdown restrictions quashed immediate plans for the wine and cheese bar. But on-site and online shopping for their range of local and international cheese, charcuterie, wine and fine foods swelled.
Now The Larder is open for sit-in customers who, tonight – busily QR-coding and wide-berthing each other at the door – carry an air of excitement and hesitancy at eating and drinking away from home.
But cheese, and wine, is every reason to put on proper clothes and smear Chèvre D'Argental goat's milk brie on poppy seed crackers in full view of strangers.
The Larder's welcoming staff give this novel experience a soft landing, in particular Emmi, whose affable joy at helping customers select wine, cheese, cured meats, pâtés and terrines, suits cheese-lovers and novices alike.
She is the reason I can recall the beauty of pairing glasses of 2016 Abadia de Acon Roble Tempranillo and Angas and Bremer Shiraz Cabernet with four lovely cheeses: Brillat-Savarin triple cream, 18-month cave-aged Herve Mons comte, Langres, a washed-rind cow's milk cheese, and some "King of Blues" sheep milk roquefort.
These wonders, selected from a specials board of white mould, semi-hard, washed rind and blue cheese varieties are savoured with duck and cognac pâté from charcutier Romeo Baudouin and oft-replenished crackers and crusty bread.
Soothed and sated, we finish with glasses of Chateau de Cerons AOC and Zardetto Treviso Prosecco.
The menu ranges from differently sized cheese or cured meat grazing boards to pâté or terrine boards and the Harvest & Graze platter featuring cheese, cured meats, dips, antipasto, nuts and olives. Emmi is increasing the menu's Australian cheeses and tasting evenings are in the pipeline.
Post-cheese highs can be spent perusing shop shelves stocked with oils, vinegars, spices, sauces, crackers, chocolate, jams and grains. Yvonne's free-range eggs from Portland are available, there are fresh pastas and ice-cream in the fridge and high blue shelves reveal bottles of wine and beer (including non-alcoholic) from Australia, France, Italy, Argentina, Spain and beyond.
The cheese and cured meats display case offers further cheese arousal.
Daytime visitors can order warm pies, savoury rolls and a Reuben toastie oozing with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and Lucas Pastrami. There is no coffee machine. Emmi and staff are obsessed with other longed-for, nobly created provisions. Time to leave the house, enter the real world and roll around in cheese.
Main attraction Cheese. Also cured meats, pâté, terrine and good wine in a relaxed bistro-style bar.
Must-try dish Put yourself in the hands of co-owner Monique Emmi for matching cheese to wine. Check if Brillat-Savarin triple cream and 18-month cave-aged Herve Mons comte are available.
Insta-worthy dish The Harvest & Graze Platter: two cheeses, two meats, two dips, antipasto, nuts and olives. Order extra cheese from the specials board. No judgment.
Drinks Wine by the glass $11-$16; wine by the bottle $45-$110; beer and cider $8-$12; non-alcoholic drinks $5-$9.