The Stinking Bishops in Newtown is named after the first-ever cheese to be judged as Britain’s smelliest. Although wheels of this infamous creation (which has the knockout stench of “a rugby club changing room”) have yet to turn up at this new cheese bar and deli on Enmore Road, there are many other (less pungent) drawcards to The Stinking Bishops.
The cheese selection, as you’d guess, is a big deal here. I tried ten types in my first two visits, and still hadn’t even conquered half of The Stinking Bishop’s range. Whether you’re keen on washed rind, blue mould, surface ripened or the hard stuff, this deli offers a multi-stopover trip to the world’s farmhouses and dairies. There’s the Bert 3 Latte from Piedmont, which has the triple hit (and contrasts) of cow, sheep and goat’s milk; the excellent “red cow” Vacche Rossa Parmigiano, so crumbly, well-aged and first-rate that it’s considered a sacrilege to just grate this Italian cheese into a pasta; the nutty Heidi Tilsit from Tasmania, which outranks its typical use as a Euro-breakfast-style serving – it’s a total score, no matter the meal (or unorthodox snacking time) you’re sitting down for. The oozy, over-the-top Delice de Cremiers from Burgundy understandably translates as “delight of the cheesemaker”, while the Isle of Mull cheddar (from where else?) hits lots of satisfying sharp notes (helped, perhaps, by the fact the cows consume the fermenting grain from a neighbouring whisky distillery?). It’s also hard to say no to a good strong dose of cave-aged Tellegio Dop from Lombardy; Spanish Manchego is always a winner, and even the biggest blue cheese haters have to admit that Dolcelatte is a good gateway choice.
The cheese boards start from 2 options ($20) and stretch up to four ($36); they come accompanied with quince, fig-and-walnut rolada, crackers, and bread by Grain Organic Bakery (a company that essentially started, impressively, with one dude selling loaves off his front porch – a fact we learn from the ultra-chatty and friendly Jamie Nimmo, one of the guys behind The Stinking Bishops, and a former colleague of Will’s). You can also top up the bread for $4, if you don’t quite nail your cheese-to-carb ratio.
Grain Organic Bakery’s thick-cut slices are also pretty great cheese-transmission-devices when used in the toasties, which you can get during The Stinking Bishops’ daylight hours. ‘Mr Crispy’ (as the pressed sandwiches are called) comes in various incarnations, and Will rates the Wagyu Smoked Beef and Gruyere with Bread and Butter Pickles ($10 takeaway; $12.50 dine in) as a knockout. There’s no official vego option, but if you ask nicely, you may end up with a good crusty cheese-melted slab that has a little kick and sass from added mustard and pickles. (This was my bounty from my third-visit-in-three-days to The Stinking Bishops).
A lot of people have asked me if there’s anything on offer besides cheese and, yes, the menu goes beyond getting your dairy fix on crackers or bread. The focus is on excellent comfort food, by co-owner Kieran Day (who has spent time as a chef at Eathouse Diner and District Dining). Try the English style Pork Pie with Spiced Fruit pickle ($18), Hot Smoked Mackerel with New Potatoes, House Labna and Sprouts ($26), or Slow Cooked Beef Cheek with Olive Oil, Creamed Corn and Manchego ($30) – but don’t procrastinate, as these dishes sell out (understandably) quickly. There’s also the salad of the day, but if that also speedily runs out (as it did on visit #1), it is worth asking about other vego-friendly options.
Also, The Stinking Bishops only just scored its licence, so you may want to follow its cheese-wine suggestions (from a tight local list) or even venture into whisky territory for a bit of cold-weather relief.
Definitely order the not-so-typical Cheesecake, which is loosely built around a light scoop of Pepe Saya creme fraiche, a bank of crumbly peanut butter, sweet slices of strawberry and little herbal hits of sorrel. We thought we were too wiped out for dessert, but we (ambitiously) tried this anyway, and it was so incredibly worth testing our limits. It’s a flat-out gem.
With its subway tiles, industrial lights and rustic shelving, The Stinking Bishops has a casual vibe that goes well with nursing cheeseboards, crackers, toasties and glasses of wine. You can also perve on the shelves of cheese wedges and wheels, or on the deli-style display of cured meats. The music selection is pretty great – and the service is incredibly friendly, too. If you prefer to get your cheese fix at home, you can order selections by the kilo and pick up condiments, house-made pickles and Griffin Jerky to go with that cheddar, gruyere or Manchego you’re planning to stockpile in your fridge. And the coffee’s good, by the way.
In fact, The Stinking Bishops is a winner on many fronts – even if it doesn’t yet smell like a rugby locker room.