Cutler & Co.
Andrew McConnell is a big name in the Melbourne dining scene, responsible for some of the most influential restaurants in town including Cumulus Inc, Supernormal and the former Golden Fields (now Luxembourg). His flagship Cutler & Co has rated consistently with critics and diners alike year after year since its inception in 2009. That may not seem like a long time, but Melbourne restaurant years are like dog years – six years is almost enough to earn you a senior’s card. It’s a wonder it took me so long to actually eat here.
Without question, we order the degustation ($130pp). It’s always the best choice at a establishment like this.
My gin is presented in an ‘interactive’ format. As an engineer I generally prefer a scientific approach to things, however I’m not sure I like my tonic in a beaker.
One of the most important aspects of any fine dinner: bread. The little buns were my favourite; they had an almost crumpet-like sponginess that made them the perfect vehicle for the house-made butter and jammy beetroot relish.
Our starting snack of crispy wafers laden with parmesan and herbs are reminiscent of the cheesy rice crackers of childhood – albeit slightly more virtuous.
Our first course is a deconstructed sushi of sorts – tuna sashimi and calamari pieces meet classic partners avocado and horseradish.
The creamy richness of burrata is balanced with zucchini flowers and a grassy sorrel dressing.
In another Japanese inspired dish, springy lobster tail is complemented by a silky sea urchin custard. Shiitake broth, wakame and fried shallots round it out and keep the umami levels high.
Lemon-scented brown butter sauce is the perfect match for crisp-skinned flounder. I’m not entirely convinced by the onions, though – perhaps meant as a foil against the blackened leek, in a sort of onion-two-ways type of exercise? Sadly, there’s nothing particularly pleasant about chunks of the raw white stuff for those of us who are not former-prime-minister-level alliophiles.
In the first dish of the night actually of interest to seafood-averse Bob, meltingly tender beef short rib is given a charred crust and a sticky, peppery glaze. Crisp saltbush and pureed nettle finish it off nicely.
It’s at this point that our waiter presents us with the option of adding a cheese course, consisting of up to three cheeses. Once she is out of earshot, we laugh. ‘Optional’ cheese course? Is there such a thing?
The selection included a Cantal, a Stilton and a white mould goat’s cheese, served with sultana paste and lavosh.
The pre-dessert palate cleanser is a winning combination of classic flavours and contrasting textures: fresh strawberries, frozen fromage frais, freeze fried raspberries. I would happily order this as a dessert.
I’ve often found that champagne desserts can be overwhelmingly boozy, however that is not the case here. The light and creamy chiboust has the balance right, the champagne flavours tempered with vanilla bean and just enough sugar. Hibiscus granita and rhubarb add the requisite amount of tart freshness.
I can see why Cutler is an enduring favourite after all these years – it’s fine dining, with (for lack of a better word) no BS. There is no pretense, spectacle or unnecessary complication (save for the gin and tonic, of course!). It’s refreshing to see this level of restraint in a higher-end establishment. The overall balance of the degustation was good too: there was a good mix of lighter and heavier dishes which left us satiated but not uncomfortably full. Will definitely be back.
Cutler & Co.
55-57 Gertrude Street