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Melbourne, Australia
All pictures taken and edited on the Samsung Note8
It seems naive, premature even, to declare a place the best anything while on a trip because pragmatics dictate that a traveller cannot possibly try every single place in a new place and be able to definitively declare one the best. But for Self Preservation, I cannot imagine how another wine and cheese place could even begin to surpass this experience.

A mere two minute walk from our Airbnb, we passed Self Preservation several times but finally went in on our fourth night in Melbourne. In the day, it is a cafe, at night, a wine and cheese bar. The place is classy, understated, with a wall full of wine bottles – my kind of place, essentially. And the people there know their stuff – we were debating what to get when the manager walked over and asked us what we were considering.

“We want to get a red wine and some cheese. Do you recommend the Yarra or Clare valley?”
“What will you eat? Cheese?”
Yes, we indicated.
“The Clare is perfect with cheese, I drink it all the time.”
“We’ll get a bottle then.”
“Wait – if you’re getting a bottle, don’t get the Clare. Get the 2015 Beynat – it’s nearly the same price, it’s biodynamic so there are no preservatives and chemicals and the farmers work harder for it but it makes a better wine, and it will go perfect if you are having cheese.”
“The Beynat it is.”

And it turned out to be the perfect recommendation. Perfect! She not only knew her wine intimately (later she told us that everything was hand-selected by her), she also knew exactly how to recommend it based on the quantity you would be having and the food you were going to order. I love wine myself, but I dont know the intricacies of it – I can only tell when I do and dont like something. And this? I loved.

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The face of a happy happy vinohead
And the cheese we had? Upon first taste, it made us close our eyes in pure delight. We had her recommendation of a soft cow cheese with truffle in the middle from Burgundy, France. It’s called a Cremeux aux Truffles, and it came with a side of figs, jam, sliced apples, and an assortment of toasted breads, all of which were fantastic pairings. The cheese itself, though, was something else. It was Something. Else. It may just be my new favourite cheese – till this point my standing favourite was the TĂȘte de Moine, a ribboned semi-hard cheese from Switzerland. But the Cremeux aux truffles melted in our mouths, spread perfectly over thinly sliced and toasted bread, and the truffle layer was perfectly balanced. It was great on its own too, but the tasting layers were enhanced or muted depending on what you wanted to pair it with – figs or jam or apples – and overall I thought to myself, this is what wine and cheese is supposed to be, a whole experience. Jeez. The emotions, i felt them man.

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Close up
We also had the baked camembert salad, which came in a hot pan with normal garden salad spruced up with lemon zest. So simple, but so incredible. The lemon zing brought the cheesiness of the baked camembert to a less cloying level, and the hot pan meant the cheese kept it’s soft, viscous movement all the way till we were done. I really liked how the manager told us beforehand that our options would keep us full while we were debating if we should get an additional cheese option – some places like to upsell you more, but for her, it was about getting just the right amount so our experience would be perfect. And it was.

The cheeses served at Self Preservation change often according to season, but they are all from the cheese cellar a street down in Spring Street Grocer, which is also owned by the same people, so if one wished to purchase a whole slab for home after tasting it at the wine bar, they could. We checked it out the morning after, and the selection was FANTASTIC. Ended up buying a bunch of peanut butters and jams from the grocer cos we weren’t sure if the soft cheeses could travel home to singapore, which means that our experience with that amazing truffle cheese will forever be immortalised in our memory as that one perfect moment over a crisp night in Melbourne.

Self Preservation
70 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000