Whilst we were in Melbourne for the weekend, our travelling companions had already booked themselves in for a night in with The Lion King musical production, so we gave it a miss as we had already watched the fantastic musical early last year in Sydney and went ahead with a date night out instead. A fancy pants degustation dinner was booked at Cutler and Co., and it was of no surprise that the Stranger had already dined there before and thoroughly enjoyed it. Round two for him, and round one for me!
Cutler & Co is located just on the outskirts of the Melbourne CBD in Fitzroy and what should have been a ‘short’ drive from one end of the city to the other (roughly 15 minutes), took us close to 40 minutes as we were met with crazy gridlock traffic. Crazy I tells ya! We were running pretty late for our reservation so we made sure we gave them a quick call to let them know we were coming and was stuck in traffic and not a ‘no-show’ for the evening.
We got there–finally!
From the street view, the restaurant didn’t look like much with a simple front window and an illuminated bright neon sign. But once we entered Cutler & Co., the space was HUGE and the space ran deep. The laid back snazzy contemporary restaurant is housed in an old metal works factory, complete with really high ceilings, large industrial poles still intact and exposed brick walls with a small greenery oasis towards the back of the restaurant, which was where we were seated. We did notice that there was a sliding wooden door beside the large luscious green plants, so our bet was that the door opens during the day to let in some natural sunlight. Very cool. The open plan kitchen is situated towards the front half of the restaurant with surrounding bar seating, they looked like the best seats in the house in our books as diners got to see the chefs work systematically and focused at their craft.
We opted for the degustation menu that evening at $130 per head and chose to enjoy a glass of white each along with a bottle of red for the remaining dishes as dinner progressed.
But as always, bread and butter to start!
House made bread, butter and beetroot relish
The quartet of breads (dark rye sourdough and roll) came out warm and toasty, the perfect temperature to slather on the house made butter for it to melt through, and then a generous scoop of beetroot relish with each bite. A bright and vibrant relish with loads of beetroot flavour and hints of sweetness as well as a variety of textures, both soft and slightly chunky to excite the palate. The rolls were our favourite carb morsel with its crunchy toasty bread crust and soft cloud like centre. Carb heaven.
I wouldn’t mind a whole jar of this every morning for breakfast! So good.
Shortly after, a box of ‘cigars’ was presented with a pair of olive and crème fraîche (?) filled cigars for our eating pleasure. Start on the olive end first and finish towards the creamy end. THe wafer pastry was delicately fine and thin but sturdy to hold, it shattered upon each bite with a strong punchy bite from the olive end which was eventually tempered down by the cooling creaminess filling–much to the Stranger’s dismay (cue: lactose intolerant) though! He had half of his and I
smoked had the rest.
Tuna tartare, fromage blanc & bottarga
Introductories aside, our degustation kicked off with this bright zippy number. Fresh tuna tartare accompanied with fromage blanc (white cheese), bottarga (Mediterranean delicacy of salted, cured fish roe) and a deep fried crisp. At first, I thought it was a salad starter of watermelon or something! A colourful and light start to the evening with light and clean flavours.
Golden broth, shaved abalone, black fungus & scallop congee
The warm golden broth which was presented and poured into our bowls of shaved abalone, black fungus and scallop congee at our table was divine. The extremely clear and crisp broth was warm, comforting and layered in depth of flavour; it was rich yet light and there clearly wasn’t enough of it! We had to refrain from picking up the shallow bowl to slurp up all the goodness and instead, we attempted to scoop the broth out as best as we could. The other components of the dish was beautiful too. Delicate pieces of sweet shaved abalone, a chewy firm black fungus and a smooth delicate scallop congee paste. Delicious!
Flounder, black leek, pickled onion
Flounder is actually one of my favourite fishes, but one I don’t eat much of. Cutler & Co’s take on it was cooked to perfection, the flesh flaky but moist and tender paired with a crispy burnt black leek and pickled onion. Unfortunately I don’t think my onions were pickled long enough resulting in a rather crunchy, sharp and pungent mouthful of raw tasting onions. Hopefully the remaining dishes would be enough to dissipate my very evident onion breath! Haha.
Roast turnip, confit chestnut, Jerusalem artichoke & bread sauce
Uh oh! Look at all that cheeseeeeeee~ Yay for me, but a definite eye-bulging nay from the Stranger.
In case you’re wondering if we informed the staff at Cutler & Co. about the Stranger’s dietary requirements or not, we did and as we had a look at our menu that evening, there was no evidence of any cheeses or cream in the menu description with the exception of the tuna tartare but he had no issues with moving said component aside… SO, when this number came out, we were a little bit concerned. I insisted that he send the plate back and ask for another minus the finely grated cheese piled on top, instead, he scraped every bit of cheese he could manage to get in contact with and pushed it to the side and soldiered on. I still think he should have asked for another but oh well! It’s a shame that I didn’t take a snap of the meal after the cheese was lifted off as there were different sized discs of golden roast turnips, chestnuts and artichokes arranged orderly on the plate with a thick bread sauce, the latter of which I wasn’t too fond of. I also found the turnips to still be a little raw as it required quite a bit of effort to cut through them with a knife and they still had a crunch to them with each bite. Overall, this was our least liked dish from the degustation and in the Strangers words, ‘I didn’t picture the [roast] turnip dish to look like that…’ Hear hear!
Smoked duck breast, confit leg, boudin noir, endive & quince
Our final savoury course was of smoked duck breast, confit duck leg, boudin noir, endive and quince. ‘What is quince again?’ mutters the Stranger… I remind him it was the same thing he had at The Corner Store on Semaphore last year and those memories came rushing back as he comments… ‘Oh yes, that was too much quince!’… haha! Moving along, the course was lovely. Perfectly cooked duck breast; firm, juicy with a touch of pink and a subtle smokey flavour with a cube of creamy dense boudin noir and sweet quince pieces to balance the flavours and textures. Very tasty!
A palate cleanser of yoghurt sorbet, mandarin sorbet and mandarin pieces was presented in preparation for dessert. The Stranger had the same minus the yoghurt sorbet, the palate cleanser itself was bright, zippy and super refreshing with the mandarin flavour intense on the palate and aroma. Delightful little thing.
Whipped ricotta cake, soft chocolate, sour cream & clementine
Unfortunately for the Stranger, the same thing that happened at Tetsuya’s happened at Cutler & Co. when it came to the dessert course!
I got the delicious chocolate cake whilst he was presented something else… but before we delve into his dessert, let’s take a moment and savour the whipped ricotta cake with soft chocolate, sour cream and clementine.
It. Was. Delicious. A chocolatey mini cake that was light and incredibly fragrant on the nose and palate with citrus notes from clementine along with complex flavours from spices used. There was a play on texture with bits of crunch, crisp, soft, smooth, creaminess and a cloud-like cake. It was really, really good. Shame there was ricotta cheese in the dessert so the Stranger didn’t get it but really, you couldn’t even tell it was part of the dessert!
Instead, he got the following…
Meringue, raspberry, rose & lychee
A contrasting and vibrant dessert plate was presented with an airy meringue dome with crisp thin shard like meringue pieces with the most perfect quenelle of raspberry sorbet, rose and lychee jelly pieces and poached rhubarb. A vibrant finish on the palate that rounded off the meal nicely! Yes, I stole a few spoonfuls of his dessert, and I did share some of mine too. 😛
Throughout our degustation dinner, the Stranger couldn’t help but look at what our other neighbouring tables were ordering. He spied pork scratchings with kimchi ($6), a dry aged 1.1kg monster Angus rib-eye steak served with salad and condiments ($160), and even an intriguing side dish of broccoli, mustard emulsion and Jamón crumb ($10)… it’s safe to say, if we were in town and back at Cutler & Co., we’d be ordering from the a la carte menu that’s for sure!
Looking back, we had an enjoyable degustation dinner but I think we were expecting something ‘more’–I think our expectations were set quite high! Nevertheless, it was a lovely experience, the food was great, well balanced and presented beautifully and the service was attentive and friendly. We did find that the degustation as a whole was quite slow and drawn out though as our breaks in between each course were a lot longer than anticipated. On another note, congrats to Cutler & Co for recently finishing 5th on the list of Australia’s Top 100 Restaurants! Well deserved.
Cutler and Co
55–57 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
P 03 9419 4888