Freelance writer, mum of two who loves living in sunny Perth.
Published November 25th 2013
Enter cheese heaven; you'll not want to leave
Perfectly nestled amongst the vines of Olive Farm Wines, and looking out onto the beauty of nearby Susannah Brook, the Cheese Barrel is the perfect place to kick back and relax and indulge in your love of cheese. This chilled little place is fast becoming a favourite haunt amongst the frequent visitors to the Swan Valley, myself included and it's not just because I love cheese, although as I adore cheese, that's not a bad place to start.
The Cheese Barrel sets out to offer its cheese loving visitors a real treat by putting out a menu that allows one to really indulge in cheese further enhanced by creating an environment that encourages the visitor to stretch out, kick back and settle in for an un-rushed feast. The ambience here is rustic, the atmosphere casual, and the food simple and delightful. This is the place where you can chatter over camembert, clink glasses over gorgonzola and get wistful over Wensleydale. And you can bring your kids too. Whilst the upper deck provides a buzzing seating area ideally suited to adults who are sampling the cheese and wines on offer, the shaded lower deck was simply made for families with more relaxed style seating, huge sandpits and enough open space to run off any afternoon excesses.
The upper and lower decks provide ample space to relax
I'm going to be honest. If you don't like cheese, you probably won't love the Cheese Barrel. The name is a bit of a give away, and the Cheese Barrel unashamedly have cheese as the star attraction on the menu. If you don't like cheese (what's wrong with you), you can certainly still enjoy the wine, the ambience, the coffee and a sweet bite from the counter, but you'll be a bit stumped for your main meal. Filled baguettes can be purchased if you really can't be persuaded to try the cheese and when I have visited, these do look generous and tasty. The menu itself is largely made up of a number of tasting type platters, and they have cleverly coded the menu so that at a glance you get an impression of the type of size platter you are ordering. L1 - means lunch for one, L2 means lunch for two, SL1 means light lunch for one. You get the idea. Working through the menu, you can opt for a themed platter in keeping with whatever type of cheese you are in the mood for. So you could choose an all blue cheese platter, or an Australian cheese platter or a cheddar platter for example. In addition to the cheese, the platters typically include variants of bread, crackers, and garnishes including meats, fruit, relishes or olives. If you're up on your cheeses and you know exactly what you're after then a Do It Yourself board is likely your best option. A simple Ploughmans Lunch platter is priced at $23.50 which would easily go for a lunch for one or a tasting plate for two persons.
On my last visit I opted for the France regional board and was treated with four French cheeses, bread, crackers, fruit, pan de higo (figs and almonds) and fruit. The Labuch d'Affinois, a soft white mould cows cheese was an absolutely heavenly highlight. At $39.75 it is not the cheapest option but there was easily enough there for two persons so on a price per person basis, a lunch would cost less than $20 each, which is a lot less than I often pay when eating out. With the regional boards, you can also purchase a $10 wine flight, which provides you with a wine choice to accompany each cheese. I indulged myself with a wine flight and this really did add to my meal.
In addition to the cheese on offer, you can also choose a dessert from the counter and also French pastries if you happen to be in the area for breakfast. A shout out must also be given to the wonderful coffee served which is a blend freshly roasted by 5 senses coffee and delivered weekly to the Cheese Barrel for maximum freshness. This plus the skills of their talented barista provide an impressing cup of coffee that is worth travelling to the Swan Valley on its own.
The Wine Wine on offer is from the Olive Farm Winery, the estate on which the Cheese Barrel is homed. The Olive Farm Winery offers a diverse range of wines including reds, white, fortified wine and a range of sparkling wines. The menu provides recommendations of which wines should accompany the different cheeses, however, if you find yourself at the Cheese Barrel solely seeking a wine refreshment, the staff are very knowledgeable about their wine list and provide great recommendations If you're seeking to buy some wine to take home, or want to find out more about the Olive Farm Winery then pop next door to the wine cellar for tastings and purchases.
The Cheese Barrel is a cool hip place, one where you could easily come for a quick lunch and find yourself still there a few hours later, thoroughly relaxed and full of good cheese and wine. It is what it is, a cheese based dining option and does not profess to offer more than this. But in this simplicity and humbleness is perfection. What it does offer (cheese and wine), it does well and without complication. Its relaxed dining environment, invites people in from all walks of life, and as a mum of two boys, I particularly enjoyed the downstairs area where adults can relax, kids can play whilst also being introduced to the finer qualities of cheese. The cheese platters on offer make a perfect dining choice for families to pick and choose from, and kids seemed to be welcomed by friendly staff members. I wholeheartedly recommend the Cheese Barrel, but if cheese is not your thing, you might want to pass.
Fun Fact:I first came to know about the Cheese Barrel when I attended a course ran by the Cheese Maker who run a number of fantastic cheese making classes on the premises of the Cheese Barrel. If you're a cheese fanatic and fancy making your own, then click here to find out more.
I love the vast selection that they have. And if it is still not what you want, you can put your own platter together. Cool. I would be interested in 'What's the Diff?' I would like to be able to make a comparison between brie and camembert.