IS there any food more comforting than cheese? A big crumbly slab or a warm soft sliver of cheese, spread over a fresh piece of sourdough?
We found five of the best cheese experiences of the northern beaches.
1. The local providore with more than 50 cheeses
When The Artisan Cheese Room opened across from Manly Wharf four years ago, locals realised what they had been missing: cheese. The sleek boutique offers the huge range of French and other cheeses (our pick is the soft creamy brie), with warm and knowledgeable service and regular monthly feature cheeses, wine and cheese tastings and masterclasses.
With these guys in the neighbourhood, there's really no excuse not to pull together the ultimate cheese plate.
The Artisan Cheese Room, 1/40 East Esplanade, Manly
2. The secret melty cheese surprise
BEHIND this unassuming but quite chic door is a great place for a cheese fix. Well, two places actually. The funky Cove Deli is a charming delicatessen serving meats and cheese until late most days - but scoot down the stairs to The Cumberland, take a seat at the bar and discover another hidden surprise in the form of their delicious melty raclette. They grill their Heidi Raclette (from Tasmania) upstairs in the deli, then bring it down to the table, and scrape it over artichokes, cornichons, ham, fresh bread, porcini potato chips and thyme. Sounds good? Stay tuned (or be warned) for their bottomless raclettes nights, coming soon!
The Cove Deli and The Cumberland, 19 Central Avenue, Manly
3. Cheesy comfort pizza
Think cheese and think pizza, and then it's hard not to think about The Italian Room's Quattro Formaggi pizza. The $16 circle of joy features fior di latte, gorgonzola, ricotta and provolone, and is best, say owners Santo Manuele and Seetha Brewster, served with their radicchio salad, with caramelized walnuts and a citrus dressing. They have 12 pizzas on their menu and - gasp - this one isn't in their top five but surely sometimes we all need gorgonzola goodness?
The Italian Room, 9/11 The Strand, Dee Why
4. Suburban with style
A newer entrant getting rave reviews from local families is the Dee Why edition of Italian restaurant group Salt Meats Cheese. But don't let the suburban and family mentions deter you - these guys do some super-cool things with cheese. Like their famous flaming cheese wheel every Wednesday. If you haven't had the chance to experience this phenomenon, it goes like this: a giant cheese wheel acts as a saucepan, pasta is thrown into the cheesy-pan, it's stirred until it becomes melted cheesy goodness, which can then be combined with mixes such as creamy carbonara, gorgonzola and pesto. They are open weekday nights and all weekend, when they also run a pop-up market.
Salt Meats Cheese, 20 Oaks Avenue, Dee Why
5. The cheese that takes the cake
They're famous for a decadent cheese toastie that went viral but imagine bringing out this cheesy cake-with-a-difference at the end of your long lunch? Cheese On Wheels also serve great coffee and have a food menu featuring house pickles and cured meats. Oh, and baked camembert. Cheesemonger Aurore Ghigo will also get in any pined-for cheeses for you and, outside COVID, hosts BYO wine with cheese tasting nights.
Cheese on Wheels, 397 Sydney Road, Balgowlah