55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy (map)
Enjoying an Aperol Spritz in the front bar section at Cutler and Co, the latest baby of Andrew "Cumulus Inc" "Three, One, Two" McConnell.
You'll find Cutler and Co on Gertrude Street between Nicholson and Brunswick Streets, at the other end from Ladro, Birdman Eating et al. Yes, it's a restaurant (and a damn fine one at that, as best-friend-K and I discovered last Wednesday night), but it also has a generous bar which can be enjoyed in its own right rather than as a mere prelude to eating in the back dining room.
We couldn't make up our minds about the light fittings: b-f-K thought they looked like mushrooms, I thought they looked like shower caps.
We had an appetiser before our entrées: I insisted we get the pimientos de padrón ($9). Borrowing from Wikipedia, this is what the menu had to say about them:
'Os Pimientos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non' - Galican for 'Padrón peppers, some are hot and some are not'.
The most famous produce of Padrón, which are small green peppers from the capsicum family. They are served fried with olive oil and salt. Most taste sweet and mild, though some are particularly hot and spicy.
All but one of them were sweet and mild and satisfyingly salty, but boy oh boy the single one that was spicy (which I had the "luck" of chomping) brought a tear to the eye!
For her entrée, b-f-K chose the tomato salad with fromage blanc, lemon basil and aged balsamic ($17). As she ordered it I thought to myself that it sounded like exactly the sort of ostensibly basic dish that Andrew McConnell would do really, really well. I was right! The salad was stunning, including black Russian and zebra tomatoes as well as the more common red varieties, and Thai basil and lime basil as well as lemon basil. Shards of rye wafers finished it off.
Given my recent fanaticism for figs while they're in season, I couldn't go past the entrée of wood grilled quail ($20). It too was sensational. Spread on another rectangular plate of pleasing proportions was a smear of parnsip and vanilla purée (!), upon which were heaped fresh figs, leaves, pomegranate seeds, the portions of quail and a curious little pastry cigar.
I bit into the cigar. "Ohmygodb-f-KyouHAVEtotrythisimmediately!" It was made from Tunisian brik pastry and filled with parfait de fois gras. *swoon*
Given that we'd ordered the appetiser and two entrées AND were planning on desserts, we decided to share just the one main course, washed down with an Albariño. We opted for the grilled rock flathead, served with a salad of school prawns with a honey and chardonnay vinaigrette ($36). We'd explained when ordering that we'd be sharing the main, so when it came out it arrived pre-divided on two plates. Aw, bless.
Photo of half below. B-f-K didn't like this one much (she felt the prawns "didn't do much")... while I agree that it didn't quite live up to the entrées, I quite liked the fish mixed with the smear of whipped potato and shellfish reduction with tomato that surrounded it.
When I'd told him that I was going to Cutler and Co, Ed had recommended the ginger granita ($16). Just as well he told me, because it's the sort of dish I probably wouldn't have ordered, but I'm certainly glad that I did!
The ginger granita is served on a bed of creamy coconut tapioca, with fresh lychee and baby basil seeds looking like they're about to sprout tadpoles at any moment (an aside: like salted caramel, baby basil seeds seem to be what all the cool kids are using these days - they're also featured in the smoked trout broth at Attica).
It was the perfect combination of sweet creaminess and refreshing palate cleanser, with a wonderfully clear flavour of fresh ginger. The texture of the basil seeds and tapioca against the icy granita was brilliant.
Aha, but that wasn't all - we also ordered the chocolate ice cream sandwich which came with vanilla parfait and *cough* salted caramel ($16). Completely different to the granita, but equally fabulous. The ice cream sanga was every bit as sweet and indulgent and caramelly as it looks... a must for you dedicated sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) out there. It also went extremely well with the complimentary sticky our lovely waitress brought out for us. :)
So, hie you hence to Andrew McConnell's Cutler and Co: it may be one of the most expensive restaurants on Gertrude Street, but it's very probably also the best.