It’s a quiet, languid, late afternoon at The Cheese Ark. Soft, jazzy beats permeate the cozy retail area, while aromas of different exotic cheeses mingle in the air. Rows of neatly stacked crackers, nuts, wines, and cheese knives sit on shelves waiting for the next customer to pick them up.
Never would you suspect that this humble cheese shop is tucked away deep in the heartlands – Stirling Road in Queenstown, to be exact. A windowless shopfront devoid of any signage stands out from a row of neighbourhood eateries and provision stores.
A self-proclaimed collector of ancient and old fashioned cheeses, The Cheese Ark is the physical culmination of founder Ai Ming Syu’s passion for cheese. Formally located in the now defunct PasarBella at The Grandstand, The Cheese Ark is not only home to some rare and exotic cheeses from around the world, but also two aging cellars where Ai Ming continues to age select cheeses.
Like the Biblical Noah’s Ark it was named after, The Cheese Ark is where customers can try rare, artisanal cheeses from family-run farms in France, Switzerland, Holland, and the like. Some of these cheeses are slowly dying out as a result of labour constraints, so it’s a plus for cheese lovers to get to savour these rare goods.
Customers can take their pick from The Cheese Ark’s array of cheeses, or wait for announcements of new drops on the shop’s phone list. One thing I found lacking was the lack of display of cheeses available at The Cheese Ark. Service is also admittedly not the warmest, although I could observe a steady efficiency and precision in the way Ai Ming works to create every platter.
While there is a small dining area for groups to enjoy intimate cheese and wine pairing sessions, you can also take away a cheese platter to savour in the comfort of home. Think of it as a cheese omakase of sorts, which each component selected to take your tastebuds on a journey. Prices range from $30 onward, and you can take your pick of nuts to go along with them.
Each cheese is accompanied with a label that explains its origins, weight, and price. The Truffle Gorgonzola Macaron ($2.50) is a real treat that marries sweet and savoury!
If you are a cheese lover looking for your next gastronomic treat, The Cheese Ark is worth the journey to Queenstown. See what surprises await in your cheese platter!