MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

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Posts Tagged ‘lunch

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
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.


Penang Affair

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Penang Affair

325 Brunswick St.
Fitzroy VIC 3065
(T) (03) 9419 7594

Penang Affair on Urbanspoon

Much like with my last review of Roundhouse Roti, this place is also a Malaysian restaurant that’s also not really on the map for Malaysians locally. However, I did read two positive reviews of the place here and here and there was also the high rating on urbanspoon so off I traipsed, with a friend on that day in Melbourne last week where it bucketed down with rain.

Firstly, I must commend Penang Affair’s slightly verbose and very over-the-top owner, he seems to have garnered quite a legion of fans! Many of the things I heard about this restaurant (including the comments on urbanspoon) all seem to recommend him as somehow the main dish… or at least a source of entertainment that alone makes the trip worth it.

Onto the food. The dish I’d heard most about was the spicy tempura eggplant ($16.90) so that was a must-try. My companion is a vegetarian so we also ordered the vegetarian mee goreng ($10.90) and I indulged in the chilli & garlic quail that was on the specials board as a random entree.Straight away upon entering the restaurant I had the feeling that it would be catered towards the Western palate, based on the uncluttered atmosphere with minimal decoration (apart from some large paintings, one of the owner (!)) and I was mostly right. The flavours in the food overall didn’t at all feel “Malaysian”.

Starting with the quail, while the bird was cooked to perfection (and kudos to them for that) and the meat delicious, the sauce it was swimming in was too strong and way too salty. I love quail as a meat and beyond basic seasoning and spices, I don’t think the bird needs to be smothered in sauce.

The mee goreng was by far the worst dish there, pretty much all I could taste in it was tomato sauce. I have no idea if they actually use tomato sauce in it but it reminded me a lot of bad mee gorengs I’ve had in the past (China Bar, I’m looking at you). Definitely no authenticity there. The highly billed spicy tempura eggplant was probably the best dish on the night but still wasn’t anything amazing. The seasoning was nice but there was something wrong with the tempura batter. Tempura is supposed to be fluffy and crisp, this was neither.

All in all, nice try Penang Affair, and I can see you have your group of loyal (probably mostly not Malaysian, sorry) followers over there in Fitzroy but we probably won’t be coming back.

Alex’s Ratings:

Taste: 4/10

Authenticity: 4/10. The kind of ‘innovation’ that we’ve seen at restaurants peddling Westernised food time and time again. Not the good kind.

Ambiance: 5/10. Extra points for the cool paintings, nothing else stood out.

Service: 7/10. A little slow but that was due to the owner being caught by various customers trying to talk his ear off. He explained that his staff member had called in sick so he was being a one man show. He was friendly, talkative and helpful.

Value: 4/10. Poor, you can get much better quality Malaysian food for much better prices, but to be fair the ‘hawker dish’ section on the menu at least doesn’t try to overprice things like mee goreng.

Overall: 4/10

Written by alexlobov

February 16, 2010 at 3:29 am

Three Bags Full

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Three Bags Full
56 Nicholson St, Abbotsford
(Cnr Nicholson & Mollison Sts)
(T) 9421 2732

(PS. Don’t go to like I did, they’re suppliers and manufacturers of top quality sheepskin and equestrian products. Right.)

Three Bags Full is the new cafe from the team that brought you Liar Liar in Hawthorn and based on those credentials (and not much else it seems but word of mouth) some serious serious buzz has been generated. I’d been hearing stories about this place packing out regularly. Nick from Broadsheet had to wait for 20 minutes in line for a seat six days after it opened, no mean feat for a cafe. Even the baristas weren’t prepared for the smashing they received, and all this at a time when you wonder whether this city can accommodate yet another specialty coffee outlet (in an industrial style, as usual it seems). The answer to that wondering is a resounding, Obama-style YES WE CAN.

The cafe is decked out in what we’ve come to expect. Mazzer Roburs, 3 group Synesso, Pour Over cups/filters and a Clover (this is a bit of a coup these days, so difficult to hunt one down since the company was bought by Starbucks). The decor is the same industrial, warehousey, gutted old building feel that we’ve come to know and love from such usual suspects as Seven Seeds, Auction Rooms and St. Ali. The coffee menu features a selection that includes their house espresso blend and several single origins offered through either the Clover or by Pour Over, all roasted by WA-based 5 Senses coffee in Cheltenham.

Coffee-wise, to start I had a strong flat white in the house blend. It included some adequately executed latte art (nice to see that despite how busy they were, the barista was still prepared to serve me something that looked interesting). I’m not sure what milk they’re using but it was lacking a little in texture, the mouthfeel wasn’t as pleasant as with the milk used by Seven Seeds for example. Nevertheless, the espresso came through the milk ok and was pleasant and fairly well balanced.

The single origin on offer through the Clover was the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, a bean that most people who taste coffee would be very familiar with. A washed coffee, the one we tried was particularly light on body, and it was a little too much on the sour/acidic side for me with a lot of orange coming through in the aroma and flavour. Jamie, the head barista, let us preview some of the Sidamo (another Ethiopian bean) that they had sitting out the back, a dry processed coffee, this one was much more pleasant to drink, more full-bodied and with a lovely earthy taste to it with a hint of berries.

The food menu was pretty impressive, a full page for breakfast (all day) and a full page for lunch. I had the smashed avocado, served on bread with fetta and pinenuts pumpkin seeds, Jess had the cauliflower fritters with halloumi and kasundi. Both dishes tasted good but not perfect, I felt my avocado could’ve been a bit more ‘smashed’, there should’ve been more fetta and the pinenuts pumpkin seeds didn’t necessarily mesh well with the rest of the dish. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the kasundi, but that could be because kasundi isn’t really a breakfast thing for me.

Nevertheless, overall, an excellent start for Three Bags Full, a commitment to coffee, good food, good service and good design, something we’ve come to expect here in Melbourne from our cafes and something we’re increasingly getting more and more consistently.

Alex’s Ratings:

Food Taste: 7/10 still some imperfections with the execution but the menu looks great and as it’s honed over the coming months it should improve a great deal.

Coffee : 8/10 with considerations given for the varied menu, all executed quite well.

Service: 7/10 still a little on the slow side with food and the strain was definitely visible, but carried off well overall

Ambience: 9/10 a great fit-out, attention to detail with bright yellows adding some spark to the warehouse feel, and a variety of seating options including a communal table, individual tables, booths and even a small side room with a big table for a larger party.

Overall: 8/10

Jess’ Rating:

I love love love this place! In a beautiful building, I love the way they’ve fitted it out with a warehouse feel. The plants in the windows are a cute touch, and the teacup light fixtures are adorable.

I really enjoyed my cauliflour fritters, Alex doesn’t do tomato in the morning, I don’t do avo or cream in the morning – but my kasundi perfectly complemented the fritters and the whole dish truly did hit the spot created from a night of drinking too much.

Food Taste: 8/10. There were so many things on the menu we wanted to order! Loved my fritters.

Coffee : 9/10

Service: 9/10. I don’t mind slow service, provided it’s warranted. Each dish seemed well thought out and carefully placed together. Food cooked with love. The staff were super friendly too, and came over to chat to us more about the coffees they had on offering.

Ambience: 9/10. Like I said.. . love love love it!

Overall: 9/10

Three Bags Full on Urbanspoon