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Posts Tagged ‘Fine Dining

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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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.

Attica

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Attica
74 Glen Eira Rd
Ripponlea
(03) 9530 0111
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February marked the departure of one of my very good friends, so to send him off, we decided to take him out for one last supper. He chose the Age Good Food Guide’s Restaurant of the year for 2009, Attica.

Located on the quiet end of a high street in Ripponlea, it’s very easy to to pass this place without realising the magic that happens behind the doors. In fact, our guest of honour parked right in front of it and spent a good ten minutes looking for the place. The dining room is cosy and comfortable, we were seated in the quiet side room next to the entrance.

First to come out was the complementary bread accompanied with;

house-cured butter, tomato relish, almonds and olives.

The relish was delightful. Very addictive, the perfect accompaniment to the house-made bread.  In fact, it was probably a little too nice as some of our dining party struggled to get through some of the ensuing dinner. Great presentation.

We were brought out a petite amuse bouche, of carrots.

amuse bouche with carrot

It  was a very pretty dish but did little to whet the appetite. It didn’t taste of much apart from carrot.

Our first dish, described on the menu simply as ‘snow crab.’

snow crab

snow crab closeup

Threads of blue swimmer crab, dotted with puffed rice and salmon roe resting underneath a liberal dusting of horse-radish snow. Well, not so much dusting, perhaps a better description would be an avalanche of snow.

This dish was delicious;  a real texture and flavour explosion; the delicate tender pieces of snow crab contrasted with the cool, punchy horseradish snow, the puffed rice adding texture and then finished off with little explosions as the salmon roe popped in your mouths.

Peas entailed..

young peas, grains and natural pea juices

A couple of dining companions didn’t quite get this dish, they thought it was strange to have a dish of just peas. But my, when you can make peas into peas, you can really impress me. To take something so simple, but make it into something so refined, with a wonderful mini-explosion of textures and flavours, this dish is a tribute to good produce. I can’t remember exactly what else was in the dish, but there were quinoa grains.

Our next vegetable dish; potato.

a simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown

The potato had been slow-cooked for 13 hours in a combination of roasting and steaming, it sat on a dollop of sour cream and a pile of salt-bush leaves and coconut husk ash.

This dish again divided our party. Some really liked it, whilst I didn’t. It sounded and looked impressive, an smelt amazing. We all raised our eyebrows knowing that this potato had been slow-cooked for thirteen hours. I think this dish showed me that potato did not need to be cooked for thirteen hours. It made the texture somewhat chewy and gluggy.

Moving away from the vegetables into the ocean..

bass groper, garlic, rosemary

A beautifully cooked fillet of fish, as with all the other dishes of the night presented beautifully, but also smelt amazing due to the liberal use of garlic chips and sprinkling of rosemary. Perfect. I could eat this every day for the rest of my life. This was one of my favourites of the night

And then onto some meat..

beef, sour milk jam, dandelion salt, witlof

I can’t remember what cut of beef this was, I think it was rump? It was slow roasted, and cooked to medium. I loved the witlof in this dish, it was beautifully caramelised. It was also accompanied by some  mushrooms. Another favourite of the party.

Pork followed,

pork loin, morcilla, wild fennel pollen

A fillet of slow cooked pork loin, sprinkled with fennel seeds and pollen ? There were so many components of this dish (as with all the other dishes), the black ball in the front was a delicious black pudding; encased in a delicious crust, the insides melting in your mouth. Very mild for a black pudding. This was accompanied by a shelled out cucumber filled with some greenery, which was ok. Dotted in the middle was a delicious apple cider gel produced from pink lady apples. A fantastic dish.

The next dish tied the savoury dishes to the sweet dishes.

terroir

Terroir, or French for “earth bridged the salty to the sweets with the combination of a carefully chosen range of mild flavours from the sweet and savoury spectrum.

The “soil” was composed of fresh and dehydrated berries and beetroot, with the “leaves” composed of a granita of sorrel leaves.

smashed terroir

Underneath the soil, was a citrusy fromage frais sorbet and I believe some of the other components were avocado oil jelly, kiwi fruit and white pepper. A bizarre combination, our waitress advised us that eating the dish in parts was not advised; they really need to be combined together for the full effect. So we ‘smashed’ our terroir and mushed it together.

A cool, refreshing dish, lovely to refresh the palette tempting the taste buds for more sugary delights to come. I really liked this dish, definately different, but well thought out with each element carefully selected to excite the taste-buds.

Our final dish, our dessert, the violet crumble.

violet crumble

A triumphant end to a stunning meal, in the centre a delightful ball of ice-cream literally made with violet flowers. It sits above a pile of smashed honeycomb and a river of caramel, then dusted with a chocolate powder. Brilliant, each component unique in flavour, but lovely as it is mashed together, with the chocolate powder melting through to lift the other flavours through. Love it.

Taste: 9/10. Wonderfully thought out dishes, each one obviously with extreme care and effort. Some flavour combinations did not work, but most were stunning.

Value: 7/10. Tricky one to score. It was a very expensive meal, and I certainly wouldn’t be going there if you were starving. The food was filling, but it wasn’t the type of food to stuff you. It was more about the experience, the tastes, rather that to sate.
Ambiance: 8/10. Nice fine dining restaurant.
Service: 9/10. Attentive and friendly. The dishes came slowly, but were well timed.
Overall: 9/10. A dining experience. Brilliant.


This post’s for you Jason. Miss you already. xo

Written by glutamatejess

February 28, 2010 at 11:42 am