Cumulus Inc.

December 19, 2011

45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

This post is a milestone: my 100th blog post!! How very exciting it is, and affirming really, to still be going almost a year after starting, hesitantly, in England in January 2011. A big thank you to everyone still reading my words – I’m always so happy to hear that people read my blog, because often I feel like I’m writing to an unknown audience. So feedback is always good to receive.

I know I haven’t been posting very much recently, but what with exams and now a summer job I’ve been very busy and haven’t had much spare time to write. But I will endeavor to catch up soon! I think the subject of this post is appropriately tasty and impressive for my hundredth post: the highly lauded Cumulus Inc.

Fronting onto Flinders Lane, I’ve been to Cumulus a couple of times before, but before the blog. Naturally, I’ve been keen to get back for some time so when the opportunity arose in the form of an invitation from C to celebrate/mark her birthday/going away, I literally jumped at the chance. We were joined by Miss B, who kept us wide-eyed with tales from the Kingdom of Bahrain (tres exciting).

Cumulus Inc is a high-ceilinged, bright space with simple wooden tables and a curious chandelier that reminds me of a DNA strand. As well as the floor tables, there are seats across both the bar and the kitchen bench, and punters gladly fill them if it means getting a seat and a meal. We visited on a Saturday, and arrived just before 6. The restaurant was busy but not yet packed thankfully, so we grabbed a table in the corner and set about drooling over the menu.

While deciding, C and I each ordered a house-flavoured spritzer, she the lemon, myself the rhubarb root beer (I simply cannot go past rhubarb). Below is the lemon; mine was a wonderful pomegranate-pink colour and tasted strongly of cardamon, cinnamon and a little bit of mint. Quite spicy but refreshing.

I was using the Canon SLR this evening, and I forced myself to use the manual focus, as a sort of bizarre self-imposed exam. Some of my photos turned out quite well, some not so much. Thankfully C was on hand and, being a keen photographer herself, helped me fill the gaps for this post. Hers are the lemonade, the crab and the freekah.

We did take an awfully long time though, focusing and framing and then refocusing and forcing our limbs to stay still as each dish was brought out. At one point poor B exclaimed, exasperated “Oh let me eat it already!” So eat we did, and it was marvellous.

Like I said, some photos didn’t turn out very well…but we all know what olives look like so you’re not really being deprived of much here.

I’d call the menu Modern European, although there were a number of Asian influences. Small bites lead on to charcuterie, which is followed by salads and fish and finally meat. A delicious sounding selection of desserts and cheeses rounds it off.

To whet our taste buds, three serves of the spanner crab on toast with avocado. This was beautiful, the crab flesh so delicate and sweet with a hint of lemon and pepper from the Tarragon. A truly excellent starter.

We moved on to another cold dish, the tuna tartare with crushed green peas salad. As it came out B exclaimed “it looks like Turkish delight!” And it did, cubed and glistening and soft. Such an incredible dish, wonderfully fresh tuna that had been expertly cut. It worked so well both aesthetically and gastronomically with the bright green peas and the salty tang from the dressing.

Next up was the cracked wheat and freekah salad with preserved lemon and barberries. I had this years ago and remember falling in love with it, so pushed the others to order it again. Eating it for the second time, perhaps because of the other brilliant dishes we’d ordered, it seemed to pale in comparison. But it was still an delicious, light salad and, I may add, very good value for money with a huge bowl of tummy-filling wheat and nuts for $12.

The dish that really blew me away was the spiced cauliflower with goats curd, such an amazing and flavoursome dish. Miniature trees of cauliflower, blanched then crisped up in a fry pan with mustard seeds, coriander seeds, white pepper, parsley and onion? HELL YES. Do not even question me on this one, just order it please.

The sole meat dish that we ordered was one I was eager to try as soon as I read it on the menu: pigs tail. C was eager because she’d had it before, B was hesitant but after a little convincing we ordered it. Crumbed in bread and mustard, deboned (thank goodness) and served with a kohlrabi remoulade and caperberries, this was a great dish.

The remoulade was nice enough, but for me the sheer excitement of eating pigs tail was what made the dish. The meat was velvety soft and gelatinous, quite fatty I suppose but so so blissfully good, with the occasional mustard twinge from the crumb.

Very full, we ordered three Madeline’s as a sweet treat. They were soft and warm and filled with a gorgeous tart lemon curd. Loved the crisp outer shell and heavenly scented interior. What a night.

Have you met my new blogging notebook yet? Perhaps he’s popped up in a few of my earlier photos, I’ve had him since Ora. Anyway, here he is, pleasant and cool against the Cumulus Inc menu.

That evening, while walking into the restaurant and fiddling around with my camera, I dropped my cardigan in the street outside (quite a nice cardigan actually, and one I would be sore to lose). It wasn’t till we were thinking of dessert that I went to put it on and realised I didn’t have it! Semi-frantic, I asked the waitress who said, “Oh, the cream one with flowers? Someone’s hung it over my bicycle out the front, it should still be there”. And there it was, slung over the handle of her black fixie. Faith in humanity: restored. Thank you Melbourne.

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Filed under: European, Melbourne CBD, Modern