Friday, 30 March 2012

Dinner for three at Cutler & Co

Cutler & Co
55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy (map)
9419 4888
Open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday, plus lunch on Friday and Sunday

Cutler restaurant

Carla (author of the excellent blog Easy As Vegan Pie) and I had been talking for a while about going out for a nice lavish dinner together and each writing about it afterwards. Hopefully it'll turn into a semi-regular collaborative blog series. We decided on Cutler as our first destination and booked a table, advising them of our dietary requirements well in advance (me: omnivore but for mussels, her: wheat-free vegan). I was confident that they'd cater for an omni just fine, but was looking forward to seeing what they'd serve Carla.

We brought along Dan, editor of Milk Bar Mag, as our innocent bystander. Apart from the omnivore entrees and mains that Dan and I ordered, everything else that was brought to the table was both vegan and wheat-free.

Cutler bar

In the interests of transparency I'll point out too at the outset that we were treated very very well that night. While none of us sought special treatment (ugh, the tackiness of those who actually call up restaurants saying that they're food bloggers makes my skin crawl) a number of dishes arrived at our table compliments of the house. Upon review of the receipt some days later we noticed that there was an apparent mix up with one of the bottles of wine we'd ordered, but given all the little extras that came our way we still easily came out on top.

Crackers with smoky eggplant mousse

As we downed the Junipero gin and tonics we'd ordered from the charming Lachie, we were brought a trio of complimentary appetisers: seaweed crackers with smoky eggplant mousse and sesame, juicy Manzanilla olives and fried pimientos de PadrĂ³n with sea salt. Loved the smoky fluffy eggplant with the crisp crackers in particular.


I'd been sorely tempted to choose the pretty entree Dan decided to order, the smoked and fried duck with morcilla, golden raisin and beetroot ($27)...

Smoked and fried duck

...but I loved loved loved the entree I ended up ordering, a delicate arrangement of hand picked spanner crab, corn custard, mushrooms, sweet radish, pickled ginger and nasturtiums ($29), served cold. My new favourite dish at Cutler.

Spanner crab

Two small salads arrived unbidden with our mains, one crunchy with shaved cabbage and fennel, and the other with rather meaty heirloom tomatoes, muscatel vinegar, purslane and different kinds of basil.

FennelHeirloom tomato salad

For main course Dan ordered the pan roasted snapper ($44). It was served with mussels, slivers of cuttlefish, green tomatoes, pickled onions and parsley sauce. And foam (afraid I can't recall what the foam was). Dan confessed to being a little underwhelmed by this one.

Pan roasted snapper

I really enjoyed my main though. It consisted of two variations of beef: grain fed strip loin ever so lightly seared then sliced down the middle, and a wonderfully unctuous and rich braised short rib with onion and pureed cauliflower ($46).

Two ways beef

I asked our highly professional waitress to bring a vegan dessert for the three of us to share. It was composed of white nectarine, white peach, blackberries, frozen dehydrated raspberries and verjuice granita ($18). Delicious, but I confess to wishing I'd ordered whichever dessert includes the Cutler & Co violet ice cream, cos it is goddamned glorious.


Oh and some complimentary fig drizzled with thyme caramel (pictured here half devoured by Carla) and fudge arrived with our coffees.


Now click to read Carla's far more entertaining version of events and see what she was served for entree and main (I think the entree she had is usually served with raw Hervey Bay scallops). Carla is also running one of her vegan cooking classes in a few weeks, so make a booking if you know what's good for you...

And get yourselves down to Cutler! Head chef Jean-Paul Twomey and his kitchen are at the top of their game.


Shannon said...

Great review. So glad that you've got pics up of the duck entree and the beef main - we were at Cutler last Friday and they were definite higlights.

Service was also faultless. We were there for four hours and not once did we get hurried along.

Truly lovely special occasion dining. Really enjoyed the little complimentary touches too - those seaweed and eggplant appetisers would be great beer food!

Temasek said...

Just had dinner at Cutler & Co for the first time myself and it was brilliant ... I have to say that the pics of the vegan dishes on Carla's website looked the most amazing ... so much colour ... and so much on the plate. We missed out on the Peppers de padron because they had run out on the night. Spewing!! Anyways its an excuse to go back because they look scrumptious!

Anonymous said...

They obviously knew you were writing food blogs- so how is that different from the experience of a lesser known blogger who rings up to say they are coming?

claire said...

Thanks for your comments, Shannon and Temasek... agreed about the colours of Carla's entree being gorgeously vivid.

Hi Anonymous, I'd've thought the difference was obvious. When I call to make a booking I give a first name and a phone number, I respond when the restaurant asks what our dietary requirements are, and I don't say a word about blogging. I don't ask for special treatment. If a restaurant does give me special treatment (either because they know/recognise me or simply because they see my (small) camera and assume food blogger) I'm polite about it, and I always disclose when I write about it later.
You might like to read Mel's blog post about related ethical issues in food blogging: I agree with every word.

Anonymous said...


My point is that if the object of doing a food blog is to inform ordinary punters about what they are likely to experience at a particular establishment, then what you write becomes largely irrelevant to the ordinary non-blogger once you are recognised and accorded special treatment by the restaurant, as
you are not describing the experience that the man on the Clapham omnibus is likely to have.

Not suggesting anything untoward on your part, but just pointing out the consequent shortcomings of your review from a users perspective.

Anonymous said...

As a mature industry member, I agree totally...
Once you are recognized as a prominent blogger and the kitchen takes measures to capitalize on your blog with self promotion the only "ethical" thing to do is not post a blog at all

Take a blogger sustaining profile by eating at "in" establishments, add chefs sustaining profile by special treatment and sprinkle on a touch of name dropping for credibility purposes and you get a regurgitated hospitality journalism

Silvan Silversteid said...

Anonymous... I think you have bigger fish to fry than Claire...

You are also assuming that any free-bies sent by the chef are going to be reviewed positively. That isn't the case from my experience with Claire's writing.

As a mature industry member, I'm surprised you chose this avenue to voice your discontent... Oh.. Wait... You don't even have a voice with respect to mainstream media... I think you should be happy that these avenues provide a new means to review restaurants... Even if 90% of bloggers do it badly, Claire does it well.

Phil said...

It changes things but there is no way of getting around it. Nobody who eats for a living these days is anonymous. If the restaurant has a decent customer relationship management system, nobody who hands over their cellphone number is anonymous. The best you can do is arrive unannounced and not on a press junket, and then point out anything that seems amiss with your treatment.

If you like restaurants, you form a relationship with the people behind them. This is the antidote to the hundreds of pointless capsule-sized reviews out there because you can begin to tell a story about people and not about a plate of food that you once ate. How often do you read reviews by someone who is a regular and can build a narrative about eating somewhere rather than a single meal?