Tucked in along a narrow winding bitumen track among the hills and overlooking Mount Bartle Frere is this "Out of the Whey" Cheesery and Tea House. Mungalli Creek Dairy serves a variety of snacks, light meals and drinks all based on their organic and biodynamic diary produce.
This is a working farm and visitors can take a sneak preview of the cheesery in operation through the viewing windows at the back of the Tea House. There is no guarantee of a particular product being made. Whatever is 'on the floor' at the time is what you watch. An interesting bonus with your dairy decadence...
I have been here plenty of times in the past. In fact I remember a visit some years ago with my mum when I recognised a gentleman enjoying coffee and cake on the verandah and kept thinking 'I know you'. I was so glad I didn't make a fool of myself going and saying hello - it was Neil Perry, the celebrity chef. Of course I didn't really know him - just his face from TV!... mum actually said 'who's Neil Perry?'
Anyway, this stop was no less enjoyable than those earlier visits. I find it a good place to recharge when touring the Tablelands. This time I was on my way to Undara's Outback Country Rock and Blues for the weekend and made this my cafeine hit to fuel the second half of my journey out.
I was looking forward to trying the little cheese tasting platter (FOC) with my coffee and was pleasantly surprised to be offered their new cheddar with the usual havarti and two types of quark (both herb & paprika and kafir lime & black pepper). I believe Mungalli couldn't start making cheddar and other more mature cheeses till they expanded the dairy and particularly the storage (maturing) areas. So seeing the cheddar told me they were growing, and tasting it told me they were growing with quality - smooth and just sharp. I'm not a big havarti fan but their marinated havarti (not on the tasting today) holds the flavours well. I've always liked their quark. Not a common cheese in Australia - a very young almost cottage texture and makes an excellent dip or cheesecake base. Quark is a traditional cheese in Germany and my German Australian friends went crazy with praise when they discovered Mungalli's - taking kilos home to start making their beloved, but cobwebbed, Strudel recipe again!
I also noticed Mungalli is now offering a yogurt tasting platter as an option to the cheese. An excellent idea. With the huge product range available it is hard to decide what dedadence to take home without having a nibble first.
The day up on the mountain was unseasonably cold, yes cold, and I had to get my jacket out of the car as the sneaky breeze caught me and the clouds sailed in to fill the view with thick grey fog. Mungalli Dairy is just out of Millaa Millaa on the Palmerston Highway to Innisfail. You turn left 11km from town just as you start the steep decent. Keep an eye out for the turning - the sign isn't very big or loud.
I chose a flat white coffee ($3.50). Made on Mungalli's own full cream milk, it was hot (thank goodness), not very strong but exceedingly creamy. Must remember to ask for a double shot next time to balance the creamy taste. Knowing I wanted to write about my experience I also bought a piece of cherry cheesacake to try. Being made on quark it was not sweet like many cheescakes, but very rich being made and served with double cream. It was a very generous slice and the ladies happily packed half into a doggy bag for me (I finished it off the next day for morning tea with my plunger coffee in the Undara campground - quite a treat I thought...). This slice could have been shared easily between 2, or even 3 - I'd say a good 250g of cheese went into the mixture, so good value for money at $5.50 a slice.
Mungali offers a range of 'sweet treats' in the $4-$5.50 range and 'light meals' from $12.50-$15. Looking in the cabinet the Pot de Fromage (Mungalli quark, havarti & fetta cheese & egg pie in a yogurt & ricotta pastry) and Spanokopita (Greek style spinach, fetta & ricotta cheese in filo pie) both looked very appetising with fresh salad for $13.50. I seem to remember trying the first about a year ago and thoroughly enjoying the OD on cheese. Definately not a place for anyone lactose intollerant...
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