A Dining Experience Review
Type: Fromagerie Food: 9/10 Service: 8/10 Value for money: 8/10
- Milk the Cow proudly boasts a cheese pantry of 150 artisan cheeses, including organic cheeses that can be paired with organic wines! The organic cheese and wine hamper can be purchased from their website.
When my friend Ellisa and I were in Paris, we were offered to stay at her cousin Thomas’ gorgeous Haussmannian – about a five minute walk from a local weekend market, around the corner from 2 cheese shops, and boasting a cellar door downstairs. When we arrived – as if being greeted by that delightful French accent wasn’t good enough – Thomas made a point to tell us which of the two cheese shops were his preferred choice. He then proceeded to pop open a bottle of one of his best wines in celebration of our safe arrival, and asked us what we wanted him to prepare for dinner. Man of my dreams or..?
Thus my obsession with wine and cheese began.
And maybe French men.
I felt like I was travelling back in time as we stepped into Milk the Cow’s tiny St Kilda establishment – greeted with that intense waft of cheese. You could miss the shop walking past – it doesn’t scream out for attention, and it is very cheesmongery. Dimly lit, with chic black Parisian canopy dressing the windows, and rustic farmhouse tables paired with dark, polished bistro chairs scattered about outside on the sidewalk. I was very much in Melbourne though, with the casual reminder being that right outside were rattling St Kilda trams, and the hipster – beards and all – were sitting outside having a craft beer and cheese tasting platter.
We were greeted by a chirpy a young woman with the most adorable English accent. All the staff possessed similar bubbly and excitable personalities. Maybe it’s because their job is to be around cheese and wine. I would be chirpy and bubbly too, come to think of it. They were also all very accommodating and unflustered despite how busy it was that night.
Milk the Cow does not take bookings for groups under 6 people, so we had to hope for the best for a table as walk-ins. Unfortunately they did not have any immediate tables available when we arrived, but it wasn’t a big deal. We were seated at prime position – at the bar next to the cheese counter whilst we waited for a proper table to clear up. I sat facing a block of cheese at the cheese counter that was larger than my head. Delicious. If there hadn’t been a glass between me and the cheeses on that counter, I would have been unable to control myself.
I’m not going to lie: we wanted to order everything off the menu. And it wasn’t a simple menu either – there was quite a lot to choose from. On the first page, we were tempted by their cheese degustation offering – 5 courses of cheese and wine accompanied with their house made breads, lavolish and relishes. So tempting…
The few pages after that covered a series of “flights”. Flights are tasting platters of 4 of Milk the Cow’s 150 cheeses, paired with 4 matching glasses of booze. They are grouped by booze type: wine, beer & cider, sparkling, fortified wine, and dessert wine. Each group had a different selection of cheeses to match the type of alcohol you are drinking. SOLD.
We chose the classic wine and cheese flight. None of the flights come with bread or crackers, so you have to order some to go with it, unless you’re happy nibbling on chunks of soft and hard cheeses with your hands..what are you a peasant? (joking… I do this at home without the judgmental eyes of wait staff and other diners).
Given that we also asked for a proper glass of wine each before ordering the cheese and wine flight, we decided to also go for something else to line our stomachs and prevent drunken struggles on our way home or a hangover in the morning. My friend Juls suggested we chose the Farmer’s Board, which was a selection of house made savoury items such as terrine, frittata, shiraz onion jam, and 15 month aged Serrano. SOLD.
We thought we were content with our order until we saw – or rather smelled – what the table behind us had ordered. Think grilled cheese with that punch of truffle and the nuttiness of good Gruyere. We turned around to see that the table behind us had ordered a cheese fondue set. They were listed on the menu as “individual fondue pots” so we had skimmed over it, thinking that they would be too small to share.
Fear not fellow cheese fiends – these are quite large and will fill the bellies of at least two people. We um’d and ah’d over which of the fondue sets to order and finally settled with the Grundlegend – purely because of the name. I mean, it has the word legend in it. You could even say that this fondue is… legendairy.
“Mike drop! Badum-chh! How’s about a round of applause for our dad joke finalist!”
The Grundlegend is actually quite famous. Milk the Cow boasts that it was named in Urban List’s ’50 Meals You Should Have Eaten if You Live in Melbourne’. It contains three main cheeses, none of which I can pronounce the name of: Il Forteto Cacio di Bosca Tartufo Stagianato, Swiss Appenzeller and Gruyere L Etivaz. The fondue is apparently cooked using Remy Martin VSOP, Madame Coco Blanc de Blancs Brut and truffle honey. Served at your table with crusty bread and a ramekin of topaque to soak the bread in before dunking it into the cheese. Try saying all that three times fast.
I was blown away by several things during this dining experience:
- The overwhelming hospitality of the staff. It was a very casual atmosphere at Milk the Cow, but we felt so comfortable as if we were at a friend’s house for a pot luck or supper.
- The creativity. We didn’t just get cheese you see – we got cheese themed things. They respected the quality of each individual cheese by carefully pairing it with the right booze or accompaniments. They even had a cocktail menu where cocktails were served garnished with cheese.
- The booze.
Ok the booze. I have to talk about this and give it special mention because there was a particular glass of Chardonnay (Chardonnay! I know!) that completely blew my mind. Part of the wine flight selection, the Kelly Brook 2015 Chardonnay was paired with a nutty Wyfe of Bath. THIS CHARDONNAY tastes like blue vein cheese, without smelling like it. I could happily drink a whole bottle and some more. That is how much I love blue cheese.
Other honourable mentions: the Yarra Valley Riesling Juls had by the glass tasted like a glass of summer. Juls has never had wine in her life and she was happy with her choice. It was rather entertaining watching her try the reds. I had a wonderful glass of a Cotes du Rhone variety which also displayed cheese-like qualities. It almost reminded me of light pecorino. So interesting!
We were pretty full after our meal but didn’t really want to leave just yet. There was still plenty of catching up and gossip to be done. When we were looking at the menu at the start of our evening, I remembered spotting the word “gelato” somewhere in the dessert section. The girls didn’t need any convincing when I brought it up, and before I knew it Ellisa had swiftly hailed over a staff member and was asking her about the gelato flavours available.
“We have two flavours made in-house this morning: the gorgonzola and fig, and the dark chocolate and whiskey pots,” said the waitress in her chirpy little British accent. Was it the accent or the description of the gelato types that sold us? We’ll never know. We ordered both flavours to share.
I’ve only ever had cheese ice cream once before and I must say, they should make it a thing. Gorgonzola ice cream? HELLO. It is punchy, sweet, salty, with bursts of smokey figs. Move over Salted Caramel, I have found my new favourite sweet-salty dessert combo. The chocolate and whiskey gelato was like the handsome, masculine date of our playful gorgonzola ice cream. A beautiful marriage of flavours. I couldn’t decide which one was my favourite.
*insert o del paso “why not both?” girl*
I left the restaurant with two cheeses from their cheese counter: the fabulous triple creme from our wine and cheese “flight”, and a beautiful Wyfe of Bath. We were all quite surprised that the bill was so reasonable – all of that for 30 per person? Not too bad at all. You can also sign up to Join the herd to get notifications about exclusive events held at the restaurant. Highly recommend popping in for a romantic date, a girls night out or a pre/post dinner treat.
Happy feasting, and do mind your table manners.