Sunday, 20 July 2008

Floating on a Cumulus Inc. in Flinders Lane

Cumulus Inc.
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne (map)
9650 1445

Cumulus Inc

"At the risk of sounding completely outrageous, how about we meet up for a fancy dinner tonight at Andrew McConnell's new place in Flinders Lane, Cumulus Inc? Yes, they're open for dinner - apparently they got their liquor licence last Friday. Meet you there in an hour?"

And thus an impromptu Decadent Thursday for two was born. Best-friend-K had already cased the joint for breakfast - she works a block away - and now we were going to see if the new dinner menu matched up. As I walked in, I couldn't help thinking back to the Disastrous Decadent Tuesday we'd had at Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons last month. Would this be a similar experience? Are my Decadent Weeknights doomed to fail?

But no - our night at Cumulus Inc last Thursday was a smashing success. The food and drinks were brilliant, the service professional, the restaurant decor and ambiance quietly fabulous. Decadent all over!

Pimms deliciousness

B-f-K and I had both had frustrating days, so decided to start with a drink up on the bar stools while waiting for our table. Listed under Delicious Drinks (a separate (and cheaper) list from the cocktail list) was a concoction that sounded right up my alley, albeit slightly summery considering the season: Pimms, Tanqueray gin, fresh mint, lemonade and dry ginger ale ($9.50). Served in a tall glass and looking positively technicolour, it was refreshing and delicious - loved the slice of blood orange.

Rusty Wire oysters

We started with a half dozen Rusty Wire oysters ($4 each) from Moonlight Flat Oysterage (in Batemans Bay, NSW). The Rusty Wire oysters are a random selection of whatever happen to be the best oysters on the day, and the menu provides a cute little story about how they got their name. To be perfectly honest, this was the one dish that left b-f-K and I a little underwhelmed - the taste of salt water was too strong, so we had to drown the poor things in lemon juice.


Our next dish more than made up for the previous one. The menu has a separate section entitled Charcuterie and from the mouthwatering selection we chose the wagyu bresaola with remoulade and fresh horseradish ($15). Maybe it's the Northern Italian in me, but I just ADORE bresaola and order it whenever I see it. Generally we have it the traditional way (with olive oil, pepper, a few rucola leaves and shaved parmigiano), so I was intrigued to see it with remoulade (which you can see poking out from underneath the meat in the above pic) and fresh horseradish (the little shavings on top). It tasted fantastic - as you might expect, the wagyu bresaola simply fell apart in one's mouth, and the French-style céléri rémoulade was particularly fine. B-f-K had never had bresaola before, but was similarly impressed. Probably my favourite dish of the night.

Beetroot and lentil salad

Next we had a salad of beetroot, shanklish, lentils, raw apple, mint and fromage blanc ($12). I loved the way the raw apple was cut into little matchsticks, just like Ed had had it here for breakfast with smoked salmon and egg. I'm not wild about lentils as a rule (too many bad experiences with bland bland bland dhals during my student days), but puy lentils? Done like this? Yum.

Tuna a la plancha

The tuna a la plancha, served with raw and cooked artichoke and caramelised garlic ($28), was also excellent - the triangles of tuna had been seared on one side only, leaving the sashimiesque side pouting pinkly at us. The caramelised garlic added a gorgeous pungent sweetness to the dish.

Mencia vs Chianti

Did I already mention the top-notch service? One example was when I asked our friendly waitress for advice with the wine list - I wanted a glass of lightish red, but didn't know anything about the 2006 DJ Palacios 'Petalos' Mencia (from Bierzos, Spain, $14). I asked her whether it was lighter or heavier than the Chianti on offer (the 2005 Casa Sola Chianti Classico, $12) and immediately she offered to bring me two glasses with a taste of each... I was impressed (and the Mencia won hands down, by the way - b-f-K agreed an ordered a glass for her too).

We kept commenting how much more ENJOYABLE our evening was to that disaster at Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons. Cumulus Inc looks like it's been put together with so much love and care (Ed already picked up on details like the finishes on the chairs and bar stools, and Jack mentioned the coat rack and the lighting). For me it was the little touches - the cake fresh out of the oven cooling on the benchtop, the row of cook books stacked neatly on a top shelf in the open plan kitchen, the Aesop Resurrection Aromatique hand wash in the bathrooms (also seen at Auction Rooms and The Press Club), the tables spaced a goodly distance apart...

Cracked wheat and freekeh salad

An extra salad mysteriously arrived at our table with our mains, "compliments of the kitchen" (!!!). I'd been eying off this salad as I'd perused the menu - cracked wheat and freekeh salad with preserved lemon and barberries ($10) - wondering over and over what the hell freekeh was. As a result I got the Alexander Downer "I'm too freak-eh" song from Keating! stuck in my head... :)

Our waitress explained that freekeh was a relatively new grain made from unripe wheat. On its own the freekeh didn't have a particularly strong flavour, but I liked it with the preserved lemon and the little red barberries studding the salad.

Braised wagyu

Our final dish was the braised wagyu with shallots, field mushrooms and nettle ($29). It's funny... a month ago nettles were not even registering on my foodie radar and now I'm seeing them everywhere - on the menu at Mama Ganoush, on the blogs of Stickfingers (Deep Dish Dreams) and Neil (At My Table). Neil in particular seems especially enamoured of nettles this month.

Seeing them on the menu here at Cumulus Inc b-f-K and I decided to take the opportunity to give them a try. B-f-K was not a fan ("they taste like pureed cos lettuce" was her assessment), but they had a difficult-to-define tangy flavour I rather liked. The wagyu beef had been braised to hearty perfection and the field mushrooms were full of flavour.

Bertrand Poire William

Digestivi liqueurs were ordered to follow our meal. B-f-K nursed a glass of All Saints Muscat; I liked the look of the Bertrand Poire Williams ($14); again, our waitress was only too happy upon my inquires to bring forth the bottle for an inspection and a sniff. That eau-de-vie had a kick like an angry mule, but a lovely sweet warm aftertaste.

Madeleines with lemon curd

Although we'd already eaten like royalty I managed to con b-f-K into us ordering a pair of Madeleines ($2.50 each, allow ten minutes as they are made fresh!) - they arrived warm and filled with melty lemon curd. SO GOOD!

Following the success of Circa, the Prince and Three, One, Two, Andrew McConnell is on to another winner here, one that is more accessible and relaxed but still characterised by great food. I'm going there again this week and can't wait!

Cumulus Inc bar


Anonymous said...

May your second visit be as delicious and successful as this first one! I'm enjoying the news about Cumulus Inc... who knows, I might even pop by too!

Iron Chef Shellie said...

mmmmm those madeleines sound sooo yum!

By the way, I've "tagged" you. To see what that means, there's an explanation on my site when you've got a spare minute.

Sarah said...

Omg those madeleines!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

xox Sarah

Jackie Middleton said...


I'm looking even more forward to getting in there for dinner when i get back.
We had a couple of the same dishes and they look identical, definitely a good sign.

thanh7580 said...

You had me at Wagyu. The food looks really good.

You have a lot of decandent days Claire. First decadent Tuesday, now Thursday, soon it will be decadent week.

Nettle must be flavour of the month. I always just saw it as a weed.

Thermomixer said...

Sounds like it was worth the wait.

Nettles must be this year's belly pork. Recipe in VE+T for Aug/Sept from Sarti.

Love remoulade - I did it on Sunday, (in the TMX of course) so simple, but so delicious.

How was the raw artichoke?

neil said...

Glad your decadent day rediscovered its mojo, sounded like pure bliss. You have no idea what I had to do to get those nettles into the apartment, though my wife is coming around a bit more now.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, what does one expect of oysters - they must taste of salt water, and if they don't someone has probably committed the cardinal sin of rinsing them. They looked and sounded great.

Mutemonkey, having just been to GAS during a relatively quiet lunchtime, where the waiters were extremely professional and the food very good to excellent - try the raw artichoke and lemon salad - I think it's worth another trip.

Agnes said...

Lovely! It all sounds good. So glad that your decadent Thursday went well!

claire said...

Thanks Duncan! I'll be there again in a few days, might see you there.

Hi Shellie - ooh, I haven't been tagged before! Thanks. I'll try and think up something to write soon...

Sarah, those madeleines are senSAtional. And at $2.50 a pop I can't see how I'll be able to turn down ordering another one next time... don't think I'll ever get around to sampling the "proper" dessert menu! :)

Hi Jack - yes I am most impressed. Good to know they're being consistent early on in the piece, eh?

Hey Thanh - yes I am being rather decadent at the moment, aren't I? I'm just excited about my raise and my annual bonus, I guess. Promise to cut back soon ;)

Hi TMX - it's funny how when you start dining out a lot and reading food media that food trends become so clearly apparent, eh? The raw artichokes were lovely, a good textural contrast to the cooked ones.

Thanks Neil! If it's any consolation to your wife, at least nettles don't stink like, say, blachan! :)

Ah Rumpole, so your lunch at GAS was a success. I still feel pretty disgruntled about my experience there and don't feel like forking over my hard-earned again in a hurry... maybe you could shout me dinner there???? :)

Aw, thanks Agnes! It was a near-perfect dining experience.

thanh7580 said...

Don't cut back Claire. If you've got the money, by all means, spend it. Good job on your pay rise. If you can say, which firm do you work for?

I wish I got a pay rise too, and an annual bonus. It's looking most likely that we won't be getting any pay rise or bonus as the company hasn't made money this year. :-(

So there won't be too many decandent Thursdays for me. Instead, Thursdays are now Squash Thursday as I need to get fit.

Cindy said...

Any sense of the range of meat-free options? McConnell has a good track record for pleasing us vegetarians. As it is, I might just go for the madeleines anyway... *drool*.

Johanna GGG said...

I am a little slow at reading posts these sometimes but I see the place you were talking about this afternoon - looks v interesting - well the salads are promising and I only came across shanklish for the first time last week - maybe I will see it everywhere now like your nettles! Nice to meet you this afteroon

claire said...

Hey Thanh, thanks! I prefer to keep coy about where I work here on the blog, but I'm happy to talk about it with you next time I see you at a food blogger event :)

Hi Cindy, nice to see you on Saturday! From memory there were about five vegetarian salads and some entrees, but rather a substantial charcuterie and fish/meat selection... if I were you I'd check it out for lunch first.

Hi Johanna, great to meet you yesterday! I first came across shanklish two years ago at Animal Orchestra in Carlton, together with their coddled eggs. Happy shanklishing! :)

Johanna GGG said...

that's weird because I came across shanklish at animal orchestra too - first time i have seen it there although I go there occasionally!

Anonymous said...

After a visit to Cumulus Inc. ast week I must say that in general, I agree with your comments. The food, is superb. However, for me, it was the service that was very sadly lacking.
After waiting 2 hours for a table (we really wanted to try it, OK?) and having bigger 'names' walk in the door to be seated immediatley, it was rather frustrating that at no time were we encouraged to begin ordering while we perched at the bar. At no time were we offreed a complimentary drink while we waited.
And then, when finally seated, we recieved indifferent service at the best. I'm not sure if the situation would have been different if it were not the night that the GFG awards were announced, and there hadn't been tables from Press Club, Attica and The Age alos in the resturant???

claire said...

Hi Anonymous - sorry to hear the service was so lacking when you went! That sucks about all those 'big name' queue-jumpers, ugh. I guess the rules don't apply to the industry elite, eh??

Anonymous said...

my husband & I escaped our 2 kids, sydney responsibilities and headed to Melbourne for a 3-day food & drink adventure :)

Cumulus Inc was on the list and we had breakfast at 10am, suffering hangovers from dinner & 2 bottles of wine at Il Bacaro (another great place) . . . I ordered the TURKISH EGGS!!!!!!!! WOW!!!! Served in a cast iron pan were the best baked eggs ever!!! Tomato puree with baby spinach, 2 eggs, herbs & aliol mayo and great grain bread toasted. Worth a trip to Melbourne just for these eggs!!!!