Melbourne's Maker & Monger Is Heaven On Earth For Big Cheeses
Shove over America, Australia has a thing or two to teach you about the grilled cheese.
I'm a massive fan of all food as long as it's good. That should be the rule for anyone who loves food. But I learned at a young age that just because food tastes good doesn't necessarily make it good food, and that there is always a better alternative. That's my mother talking through me. But with that in mind she raised me a cook. The cook of my family.
One thing I've become really good at is a grilled cheese. Not just because my partner adores a grilled cheese but because it's a really quick, simple way to satisfy a craving without being too unhealthy. I'll post my own perfect grilled cheese recipe on Foodtribe some other time. But there's something both my partner and I agree on. I don't make the best grilled cheese on earth. That accolade, by far, goes to a little hole in the wall in Melbourne's Prahran market known as Maker & Monger.
Maker & Monger is inconspicuous, as most of the best cafes and eateries in Melbourne are, but it also has a charm about it. Sitting about 100ms away from Melbourne's famous Chapel Street precinct, it's known for it's fantastic and wide range of both Australian and French based cheeses. Originally that's exactly what Maker & Monger did as well, they sold cheese. They sold it alongside the best produce and meat in Melbourne. But the owner, Anthony Femia, decided to do something else upon opening in 2015 somewhat radically at the time. He decided they should also make grilled cheese.
I personally have worked my way through the entire menu at Maker & Monger over the past 4 years. My partner actually works down the road from the Prahran market, and despite living over an hour away we both try to make the pilgrimage as much as possible. In fact, last year I distinctly remember us both agreeing to make the hungover journey on my birthday. There was nothing else we felt like at the time.
Let's start with the All-American grilled cheese. If you've ever seen the film John Favreu's Chef, there's a grilled cheese shown part way through, which in reality is a creation of celebrity chef and Kogi Korean BBQ food truck owner Roy Choi. But the sandwich looks perfect in every way. I've recreated that sandwich and I can promise you it tastes just as good as it looks. But the All-American grilled cheese at Maker & Monger knocks that sandwich off it's throne. Starting with two American style cheddar cheeses and finishing with onion, parsley and seasoning is a stroke of genius. American style cheddar tends to be very strong, but the addition of the sweet onion and the even more subtle addition of the parsley levels this intensity off and the result is a sweet gooey crunch on first bite.
Femia didn't stop there, oh no, he created my personal favourite grilled cheese; The Fondue. It's a combination of a Swiss Gruyere and Comte, with the purview of recreating a true Fondue mix in a grilled cheese. And does it work or what. I love a good Gruyere at the best of times but the way this is combined into the grilled cheese it is is somewhat genius. It was so good that I added Gruyere to my own grilled cheese, and it's become somewhat a staple in that sandwich ever since. Add ham off the bone from the local butcher and that cheese becomes a Fondue Special, something I've been known to frequent as a hangover cure.
Just recently Maker & Monger have done a large scale renovation and a re-conceptualisation of that menu as well. I haven't personally tried that new menu, but I do know that they've continued their core grilled cheese; the All-American, Pimento, Fondue, Fondue Special and Flaming Reuben. But added and are planning to add core favourites to any comfort food such as the Calabrese special, a Cubano, Bruschetta and Swiss Raclette. You'd be surprised though if I haven't tested them all within the year.
Maker & Monger embody everything that the Victorian food scene is, if not everything the Australian food scene is; multi-cultural, exclusive and simple. And I really do believe that is key to success not just monetarily in Australia's hospitality industry, but in creating what is considered a genuinely really good dining experience. Even the atmosphere of being in a genuine gourmet food market in Melbourne is enough to make you feel warm inside. Much more so than the hustle and bustle of the Queen Victoria Markets.
So there it is, add it too your list, tick it off, do it. Next time you manage to make your way to Australia? To Melbourne? You need to experience the one place I would say on earth which manages to do it better than the place where whatever it may be was invented, Maker & Monger.
Maker & Monger, Stall 25, Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Road, South Yarra (Melbourne, Australia)