MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

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Posts Tagged ‘pork belly

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.


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310 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Phone 03 9620 1881
Lunch: Mon-Fri noon-3pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat 6pm-10pm
Cuisine: Japanese

Tucked away in Flinders lane, this warehouse restauraunt has very much a minimalistic fit-out, with exposed concrete and dim ‘moodlighting.’ It works though, and although noise invariably echoes in warehouse fit-outs, the tables are well spaced enough that you can still hold a conversation with your dining companions.


I hate having to yell to hold a conversation over dinner.

The menu consists of a few stalwart items on the regular menu, which is complimented by a rotating seasonal special menu.


I love the emphasis on using seasonal produce.

The wine list is limited, with about 30 bottles on offer. The list wasn’t cheap, but they were reasonable mark-ups for a restaurant. We chose one the ’06 Huia Pinot Noir from  Marlborough $64. This wasn’t anything to shout about, but wasn’t bad.

From the winter special menu, we chose;

blue swimmer crab meat and tobiko with shiso leaf wrap (1p) 5

This was pretty average. Well presented, and nice you could wrap it in the shiso leaf, but the crab meat was uninspired and could have been fresher. The tobiko balls were a nice addition, as they ‘popped’ in your mouth.

rare yellow fin tuna w yuzu spice 18.5

The flavours were good, however, the tuna had been cooked a little too much, so it wasn’t quite rare.. leaving the dish a little tough rather than tender and soft. The citrus yuzu spice was nice, and the tobiko roe worked nicely with the dish.

o ka san's special baked pork belly 14.5

This dish was excellent value – a few slices of thick, tender pork belly cooked on a bed of enoki mushrooms. Baking in the bag left this dish tender and moist, capturing the flavours.

oven baked harvey bay scallops w nasu and ponzu sauce 15.5

These scallop were ok, but nothing spectacular. They were quite small and uninspired for the price.

From the regular menu we also had,

agedashi tofu deep fried bean curd with bonito dry fish flakes 11.5

This dish is fine, but no better than what you can get at any other Japanese restauraunt. The tofu pieces are perhaps a tad small.

gyoza fried pastry stuffed with minced meat, cabbage with hint of garlic 12.5

The gyoza, again, are fine, but did not wow me, and again pricey at 4 for $12.50

omakase sushi head chef's selection of sushi e 28.5

In order from the front; grilled eel, oyster, squid, (some sort of fish – I forget what type), king fish, tuna.

The grilled eel was nice, probably the best of the 6. The rest were all nice, but again, but none of it was exceptional. Presentation was nice, but at $28.50, this equates to $4.75 per piece. Poor value.

beef steak char-grilled aged eye fillet steak with a thick garlic teryiaki sauce $35.5

This (and the pork belly) were the stand-out dishes. Thick slices of beef, cooked blue (to order). The teriyaki sauce was delicious, the beef a great cut. Even though I was well and truly stuffed by this stage, I still ate it. Couldn’t let it go to waste.

This was served with a side of

soba and potato salad with the beef

This was delicious, the soba and potato salad topped with a creamy-sesame dressing.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 7.0. None of the food was bad, but much of it was not much better than what you can get at many other Japanese restaurants, which are often substantially more inexpensive. The beef and pork belly were to die for.

Value: 6.0. Overpriced.  Good use of seasonal ingredients, but serves were too small for the prices.

Service: 7. Polite.

Authenticity: 7.0. Head Chef Masahiro Horie and his wife make a great team presenting well cooked a  traditional Japanese food with a modern twist.

Atmosphere: 7.5. Although they could have crammed much more tables in, they have obviously put a lot of thought into spacing the tables adequately. Love the fit-out, very intimate.

Overall: 7. I like Hako. I really do. I just find they charge too much for what they are, especially when there are so many other good places out there, such as Izakaya den. Having said that, I have been a few years ago, and their lunch menu is quite well priced.


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500 Victoria Street
North Melbourne VIC 3003

Tel: (03) 9329 5228



In May, Gem from eat drink stagger got together a group for a Sucking Pig Banquet at Libertine.

Located just around the corner from the bustle of Errol Street lays this charming French restaurant is tucked away between a couple of random shops.

Blink and you could miss it.

Walk inside, and you are welcomed into this elegant dining room by the very refined but friendly staff.

This tiny restaurant is decadent in many ways, from the large gold gilded mirrors, wood-panelled walls, the chandeliers, and the gastronomic delights that are to be had.
This place is so chic, and oh so French.

The Suckling Pig Banquet is available at Libertine for groups of 10 or more. It is served á la Normande with roasted baby vegetables, presented whole and then carved by Nick for $75 per person including a choice of three entrees and three desserts. The restaurant requires a weeks notice pre-pig.

Choice of entrees were; Chevre & potato paupiette with sweet corn basil soup, terrine du jour on toasted sour dough & pear chutney, or Hervey Bay scallops with a forest and mushroom ragout.

Everyone on our table chose either the terrine or the scallops.

The terrine du jour was a venison terrine. It was very appetising, and paired well with the pear chutney it was served with.

The scallops were absolutely devine. I’m so glad I chose this dish – this was my favourite dish consumed on the night. The  scallop was just- cooked, the texture was so perfect and I cannot think of another way to describe it other than ‘bouncy, yet soft.’ The forest mushrooms were a delight, in flavour and again texture, and I’m not sure what the smear of orange sauce was, but it was fricken amazing.

And then.. onto the main event.

The waitress arrived with this pig on a silver platter in all its grandeur.

The pig (although sans pomme to the dismay of some of my companions) almost looked like he had a smile on his face, that he was happy he was sacrificing his little piggy life to be delicious in our bellies.

He was paraded around for a bit of a photo-shoot (with all us foodies and bloggers pulling out our cameras and firing away), then taken back to the kitchen where he was carved and dished up.

Each portion consisted of slabs of pork and crackling served atop creamy mash and a mustard sauce with mustard leaves. The meat was deliciously tender, however the crackling was a bit leathery and tough. That would be my only criticism of this dish,  because it was wickedly heavenly.

In case we needed it, we were also given sides of extra creamy mash and buttered baby veggies.

After the main event, which I do not think any of us were able to finish, dessert was served.

Our choices were;

a passionfruit marshmallow with autum fruit and a seeded shard

a chocolate pave with warm plum mousse and almond crumbs,

and a crème caramel with Calvados, accompanied by herbal tea sorbet.

I chose the marshmallow, which thankfully, as I was already stuffed, was the lightest of the offerings. It was definitely an  interesting dessert, different to anything I’d had before, but in a good way. The flavours were not intense – rather they were quite restrained and highlighted with the wonderful textures – contrasting between the softness of the marshmallow, the tenderness of the fruits and the crunch of the shard.

I had a taste of the other desserts, the chocolate pave was nice however a little “dark” for my liking but would have been loved by anyone who likes intense chocolately flavours. The creme caramel was delightful.

Overall a wonderful night, and many thanks to Gem from eat drink stagger for organising us all together. Can’t wait for the next one Gem!


Several weeks later, K, my fellow food-enthusiast and I were chatting over drinks and got talking about Boullaibaise night at Libertine.  Both fans of Boullaibaise, well… let’s not fool ourselves, both fans of food with a shared craving for some Boullaibaise, we decided to organise a group together for Boullaibaise night at Libertine. On Wednesday evenings during half the year, Libertine puts together a Boullaibaise for $25. We finally got together a date, and I rang to book, only to be told that they had just had their last Boullaibase night and now that it was winter, Wednesday nights would be cassoulet night.

Disappointed, but not deterred, we decided to do cassoulet night.

On offering is a  traditional Toulouse-style cassoulet for $25, during all Wednesdays in the colder half of the year.

On the specials menu, was an entree of snails. Given that we were in a French restaurant, we could not resist, and six delicate little morsels of snail meat (sans shell unfortunately) were brought, lightly panfried in garlic and butter.

And then onto the main event.

Cassoulet of the night was a confit duck, pork sausage and pork belly served atop a mélange of cannellini beans and vegies.

…and a closeup.

The duck skin was crisp, its meat luxuriously tender, the sausage had wonderful spice. The stew was hearty and filling, perfect for warming our bellies on a cold winter night. The couple of bottles of Pinot we had also helped.  We consumed three bottles between the five of us, two of which included the 2007 Domaine des Nugues from Beaujolais – a wonderful, light, silky wine with nice berry overtones.

We also decided we needed some greens – and ordered buttered brussel sprouts – $8.50

and young beets, fennel & parsley – $8.50.

Brussel sprouts are one of those things that many people hate – and can be bitter and disgusting, but when cooked were are delightful. Libertine did not fail to please.

And although we were stuffed, we couldn’t resist the special souffle of the day – a white chocolate souffle. It was simply perfect – light, fluffy, delcieux.


Both nights spent in this wonderful little French restaurant were wonderful. Service was impeccible, food was perfect, the wine was wonderful and the company was amazing.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 9. Food is sinfully good. Very rich, but then, live a little.

Value: 9. With mains typically priced around the $35 mark, the $25 cassoulet represents excellent value. Eating a la carte is obviously not as inexpensive, however the food represents excellent produce cooked perfectly.

Service: 9. The wait staff are attentive, very professional yet friendly at the same time.

Atmosphere: 9. Wonderful.

Overall: 9. If you haven’t done it already, gather together some friends and head over to this charming establishment. Love it!