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Fit for a King

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The Palace

505 City Rd
South Melbourne 3205

(03) 9699 6410

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Hours: Mon-Sun Lunch 12pm-3pm
Dinner 6-10pm


The Palace is not the kind of place you stumble into… I often drive up and down Bay Street to go to Thomas Dux green grocers, and although I knew roughly where I should be expecting to find it, it still took me a couple of times driving past to spot the Palace.

Basically, it’s on City Road, South Melbourne just before it turns into Bay Street, Port Melbourne. Even though I’ve now been there twice, I still need to keep my eyes peeled for it so I don’t drive past it.

Drive towards the bay, look left, and it’s just after a petrol station, in a blue double story period building.

Inside, there is a pub with the standard bar, but behind it a small, but warm dining room with white linen table cloths. The first time I went, we were seated in the dining room, which was very comfortable. The second time, we were seated just outside the dining room which wasn’t as comfortable, sort of in a dark  space between the bar and the dining room.

The wine list is approachable and reasonably priced with some pretty good quality drops. There is a selection of around 8 entrees priced around the $20 mark, around 5 mains around the $35 mark, a choice of 5 steaks and three main dishes to share, with a few changing daily specials. The best way to the describe the cuisine would be Modern Australian I guess.. though it is heavily influenced by other cultures such as Italian, or Chinese. Though, I guess that probably is the meaning of Australian cuisine – dishes with inspiration from the best from other cultures to highlight great quality produce. We’re lucky to be Aussies.

Anyways, I digress.

The only entree I tried on the two separate visits I had was the steak tartare.

Steak tartare $20

I have this horrible habit of staring at other peoples dishes shamelessly. During my first visit to the Palace, I noticed that half the tables seemed to be ordering the tartare. Thus, I vowed to order it second time round, however, when I arrived I was devastated to see it was no longer on the menu. My pout turned into a massive grin when the waiter said that the kitchen could make the dish for us.

The steak tartare is chunky tender minced eye fillet mixed with herbs and topped by a quail yolk. This is mixed up, and eaten on mini toasts with your choice of the perfectly quinelled condiments which I believe are minced gherkins, white anchovies, capers, shallots and Dijon mustard. A small bottle of Tabasco accompanied so spice could be added if required. The steak was wondrously soft and the condiments went well to highlight the flavour of the meat.

I’m a big believer of variety is the spice of life, but after my first visit, I had to order the next dish a second time around.

The Chateaubriand.

chateaubriand - in all it's glory

chateaubriand - plated up

The photos really don’t do this dish justice. I fell in lust at first sight, and in love at first bite.

The Chateaubriand consists of 500g (yes, half a kilo, this is why it’s for 2) of tender steak, cooked to order served on top of a bed of brussel sprouts and pancetta lardons, crowned with onion rings and served with bordelaise sauce. Accompanying is potato mash and rocket and parmesan salad.

This dish is as close to perfect as I’ve come in a long time. The steak is wonderful. I’m not the type to order steak unless we’re at a steak restaurant, but i would say this is one of the best steaks I’ve had. Juicy, tender, the accompanying sauce wonderful. My dining companions all claimed they didn’t like brussel sprouts, but I argued that they just hadn’t had well cooked sprouts. A taste of these buttery, perfectly cooked sprouts quickly changed their minds (the fat pancetta lardons accompanying also may have helped sway them). The mash was perfectly smooth and simply divine. And onion rings. Really. Palace – you had me at onion rings. These certainly did not disappoint.

At $42 a head, an absolute bargain, especially considering the quality of the meat and the fact it comes with two sides. It reminds me of a similar dish of a hanger steak for two to share that the Station Hotel in Footscray do, but I prefer this one. Though the one at the Station Hotel is fricken amazing also.

Sadly, I must admit that I went to the Palace a few months ago and I can’t remember the exact components of the next couple of dishes we tried.

jewfish - served with a stew of mussels and prawns

The jewfish was well cooked, the seafood was quite fresh. The dish was good, but not exceptional. I did enjoy it though.

confit duck leg, served on a bed of lentils

I really liked this dish, I am a massive fan of duck though, but it was well cooked and the lentil stew was a great accompaniment.

Excuse the blurriness of the photos of the desserts, I was losing the steadiness of my hands as I increasingly consumed the wonderful wine (who can resist Bass Philip Pinot Noir?!?!)

hot chocolate fondant with cookies and cream - $17

Crème brûlée with almond biscotti - $15

eton mess

The desserts were nice but not amazing. The fondant was wonderfully chocolately, and seeing the chocolate ooze from the pudding is visually orgasmic. The brulee was well flavoured, and the eton mess was a compliment from the kitchen (which I suspect was because we spent a lot of money on wine).

The service was exceptional both times I went. Questions were answered thoughtfully and knowledgeably. I often put myself in the hands of the wait staff, and I hate nothing more than when asking for a recommendation, receiving a response like “I dunno… what do you like,” or worse yet “I don’t know, I haven’t tried them.” There was none of this here, the staff were happy to guide us in our decisions and were very attentive and friendly throughout.

The Age Good Food Guide rates it 14/20.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 9. I think the food is amazing. Each dish is full of well balanced flavours.

Value: 9. For the price you pay, you’ll be hard-pressed to find similar quality. Food is surprisingly well priced for the quality and quantity you get.

Service: 9. Hard to fault.

Atmosphere: 8. The dining room is wonderful. The side part next to the bar is a bit dingy.

Overall: 9. Love this lace. Can’t stop raving about how much I love it. Can’t wait to go back. Best of all, only a 5 minute bike ride from home.

Gastropubs. Win.

Written by glutamatejess

December 8, 2010 at 12:56 am

Sunday Lunch at Cutler & Co

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This is a guest post by Jillian Liew, who will hopefully soon be joining our ranks as a regular contributor. The post was originally published at her personal blog. You can also follow Jillian on Twitter.

Cutler & Co.
57 Gertrude St
Fitzroy, 3065
(03) 9419 4888
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Cutler & Co on Urbanspoon

Not like the folks at Cutler need any more publicity and recognition but being awarded the Best Restaurant of the Year in the 2011 Australian Gourmet Traveller Awards and Two Hats by The Age Good Food Guide 2011 are totes more than reason enough for you to make your way there and soon.

My dining partner, A (who runs The MSG) and I made a booking for Cutler’s Sunday lunch special where Andrew McConnell and the talented kitchen staff plan and prepare the day’s menu with a focus on fresh ingredients sourced from the local farmers. The idea is to come in, dine with us, and enjoy a long leisurely lunch with good food and company. The menu consisted of several appetisers and entrees to share, which has been set by the kitchen, followed by your choice of main and dessert. And all that for just $69 pp, which is very reasonable.

We were promptly seated by our host in the dining room area that was decorated with gorgeous light fixtures and some palm trees around as well. I actually quite like the palm trees even though I thought it was a bit off with the rest of the decor but I digress. I ordered an aperol with blood orange drink to start the day off light while A went with a coffee. The waitress explained how the Sunday lunch menu worked and I was suitably impressed and excited with the way things looked and started already.

We started off with fresh Coffin Bay oysters to get our appetites going. It wasn’t the best nor biggest oyster I’ve had (PS: Tasmanian oysters FTW!) but it was a decent palate cleanser.

This was followed by cracked wheat salad, labne and barberries. This starter was rather surprising as I’ve never had cracked wheat before and it reminded me of barley and risotto combined together to make this delightfully light and refreshing dish. We promptly finished this and I would definitely go back for more if I remember the name of this dish in future.

Next was the wood-grilled prawns and celeriac remoulade in a tangy mayo dressing. The prawns was quite good and went well with the salad on the bottom.

The next dish brought out was carrots, walnut cream and shanklish. (PS: I knew you’d want to know what shanklish was.) I really enjoyed this one even though when it arrived at our table, my first thought was, “Eh? Carrots?!?” But when I tasted it, I went, “Mmm, carrots. And yummy yammy paste thing.” The “yammy paste” was actually walnut cream once I managed to get the proper menu names off A. The carrots were beautiful and had a lovely bite, which paired well with the walnut cream and shanklish. The shanklish was peppery and threw me off a bit but I really liked the combination. A hates carrots but had a try because you simply had to, so I had to take it upon myself to finish the dish. Tried as I might, I couldn’t but it remains one of my favourite of the lunch.

By this time, our stomachs were about ready to implode from too much food too early in the day with two more entrees, mains and desserts yet to arrive. A typically Australian breakie choice at most brunch eateries; avocado and spring onions on grilled bread arrived, following that a terrine of pork with a mustard fruit puree. The avo toast was nothing that remarkable but the next time I make it at home, I’m going to add some coriander on it fer shure. A thought that the terrine lacked flavour and tasted bland but with the marmalade, I thought it was good and was texturally fine, just not as awesome as I wanted this terrine to be.

We were given an interval between entrees and mains, which I am so grateful for, and A even more taking a short smoke break. A chose the pork belly and I the duck leg.

The corned duck leg was meltingly tender and crispy breaded skin on the outside which complemented the purple broccoli and creamed leeks. I would have preferred for the leeks to be cooked a little more because it was too toothsome for my liking but paired with the soft duck meat, the dish would have been a textural mess of mush on mush, so I won’t complain too much.

A thought the pork belly was good but the skin a tad less crispy than we liked pork belly skin to be. The cavolo nero and pearl barley were good garnishes to the plate.

Desserts arrived momentarily where I was about ready to fall into a food coma. A chose the Meyer lemon curd, rhubarb and blood orange granita. I decided to go for the Tomme D’Abondance cheese served with apple chutney, which was a slightly better choice because I very nearly went with the chocolate cake and chestnut ice-cream.

The granita was refreshing and a great finish to such a rich meal. I loved the cheese paired with apple chutney and maybe a little mustard seeds eaten with crisp crackers. Not the lightest end to a meal but certainly one of the more memorable ones.

To surmise, I will definitely be making my way back here again for their ala carte dishes at the bar for a different dining experience. I have to say that on a Sunday, the place was full on packed out by 1pm with likewise diners as ourselves who just wanted a relaxing day out. After this meal, I can see why Cutler & Co. are doing remarkably well. With almost perfectly executed dishes, delicious flavours with complementary textures, pleasant service and host, and awesome company, you’ll walk away from this restaurant happily satiated.

Taste: 9/10 – I loved almost every one of the dishes save for a few nitpicks of one or two components of an individual dish. The tastes and textures are unique and allowed me to explore new foods, which I hadn’t tried before this. Definitely would love to return here for their degustation dinner if I can get a booking at maybe some time next year. (Tip: Their weekend dinners are completely booked out til December 2010.)

Ambience: 9/10 – Very casual but keeping in with the fine-dining vibe, I love the restaurant’s design and look of everything. I managed to sneak a peek into their kitchen as we exited and noticed a stuffed duck tacked onto the kitchen wall. A quirky WIN in my book.

Service: 9/10 – The host and wait staff were very pleasant and good-natured with us. The waitress took care to explain the menu and how things ran for the Sunday lunch. The host was attentive but not too overly so that we felt that we were preyed upon

Value: 9/10 – I thought it was great value for the number and variety of dishes we had as I was ready to bust open at the seams of my dress at the end of the meal and go into food coma. The Sunday lunch menu is a more relaxed and more affordable way of getting a taste of what Cutler has to offer. I liken it to crack as I really, really want to return for their degustation dinner after this gastronomical lunch affair.

Overall: 9/10 – Almost perfect execution and excellent service and food. I am tempted to round it up to a 10 but nothing in life is perfect unless you’re eating at El Bulli or The Fat Duck, which both are still a long stretch to call perfect though everyone tries.