Yes, another one of those goddamned too-cool-for-bookings places. On one hand I want to boycott them out of principle, but on the other I feel as though I can’t call myself a real foodie without having eaten at some of Melbourne’s most-loved establishments.
I have attempted to eat here a few times and each time I have been given some ludicrous wait time and left to stand awkwardly in the crowded doorway. This time however, we were told it would be an hour and they offered us standing room in a back corner. At this point it was about 8.30 and we were starving so we ended up ordering some starters and eating them off bar stools.
Tin of Ortiz anchovies, $22
The anchovies were served simply with toast, lemon cheek and dried chilli. These were absolutely lovely (of course!)
Grilled octopus, $10
The paprika-spiced smoky octopus was lovely and tender. The pieces of basil and creamy mayonnaise complemented it nicely.
Crispy tripe with chickpeas, $9
I hadn’t chosen this dish, so when it came out I dived in thinking it was calamari. My immediate thought was ‘hmm, this calamari is way overcooked…’ To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have tried it if I’d known what it was. But anyway. It was kind of rubbery and not particularly interesting. The chickpeas, however, were quite good. They were crisp on the outside and soft, almost potato-like, on the inside. The dried espelette peppers gave them a nice, slightly sweet smokiness.
Kitchen charcuterie selection , $26
There was a nice range of items from the charcuterie menu. Everything was quite good (it’s hard to screw up smallgoods) but the standout for me was the Wagyu bresaola with parmesan cream. I find bresaola’s rich meatiness to be a nice change from the usual pork-based cured meats.
Fried mussels on toast, $6
The fried mussels were served with a smooth corn puree atop toasted baguette slices. The mussels were nice and tender and the spiced corn was a great pairing. I would have loved to have another plate of these.
Larger shared dishes
Whole baby snapper, $36
The snapper with grilled leeks and burnt butter was fantastic. The flesh was tender and sweet and the simple combination of butter and leeks was all it needed (butter makes everything taste amazing…). The only annoying thing was having to watch out for bones.
Corned wagyu brisket, $28
The beef came with cabbage salad, pickled shallots and so-called ‘green sauce’. It was served cold, which actually made it quite refreshing. The acidity of the whole thing became a bit much for me however and I think a little sweetness in the dish would have added a bit of balance.
Grilled pork loin, $32
The pork was served with broad beans and cucumber. It was well cooked and reasonably tasty but not really memorable.
Whole slow roasted lamb shoulder, $69
Regular readers will know how much I detest lamb. My dining companions chose to share the lamb shoulder and I thought I should give it a mention as it is generally considered to be Cumulus Inc’s signature and was also recently listed as one of Melbourne’s iconic dishes. The general feedback was that it was melt-in-your mouth fatty goodness. Mmmmm.
Grilled asparagus with slow cooked egg, $16
The asparagus were grilled to perfection and the slow cooked egg was soft and delicate with a nice runny yolk. This was a great dish but it was a bit awkard to share. Perhaps best eaten alone?
Green and yellow bean salad, $15
The parmesan and buttermilk-dressed beans were ok but a little on the bland side. Not the best veggie dish.
Cracked wheat and freekeh salad, $12
I don’t know why I don’t have a photo of this but this was actually one of my favourite dishes. This simple mix of cracked wheat, freekeh, preserved lemon and almonds with barberry dressing and labne was an absolute winner and actually felt quite healthy too. I must try and make this at home. (I just found the recipe here, if you’re interested).
First of all, you may notice that we didn’t order dessert. Normally I never leave a restaurant without at least trying something, but given we had waited an hour and a half to be seated, by the time we were finished our mains we were all very full of wine and it was basically closing time.
Upon reflection, the quality of the food was pretty good and the menu was quite inspired. However on the night I remember that I left feeling a little annoyed and insulted at the wait. It seems the longer you wait for food, the higher your expectations become, until you reach such a point where you are starving, your expectations have soared into the stratosphere and almost nothing will be satisfactory.
It is with this that I find fault with Cumulus Inc and other restaurants of its ilk. I know I have said this before but I still don’t understand the whole no-bookings thing which seems to serve only to piss off customers and inflate the egos of restaurateurs. Perhaps it was my fault for going in a group of 6 on the first night of a long weekend and not making the decision to go elsewhere when told about the wait? Who knows.
I want to love Cumulus Inc, I really do. Although I’m not sure I can be bothered waiting again.Cumulus Inc. 45 Flinders Lane Melbourne