Cutler & Co

February 21, 2013

57 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

Cutler & Co, Andrew McConnell’s first foothold on Gertrude Street, was the location of our family dinner celebrating my brother’s birthday. McConnell has made quite the impression on the Melbourne dining scene, what with his triumvirate of Cumulus Inc, Cutler and Golden Fields recently strengthened by the addition of the Builders Arms Hotel, and the attached Moon Under Water, possibly my favourite restaurant that I visited last year. The point of listing these accolades? To make the point that when you dine at a McConnell restaurant, you know you’re in good hands, so sit back, relax, and let the good times flow!

Much like the surrounding suburb of Fitzroy, Cutler & Co has a sort of urban, post-industrial look to it. Partially exposed brick walls, concrete pillars, and longs shards of mirror along the walls, it is a large and dark space that manages to evoke both a slick and romantic feeling at the same time. Any feelings of l’amour are undoubtedly due to the ethereal, cloud-like chandeliers that hang from the ceiling. I was quite taken with them, as you can see from my photos…

Ok, ok, enough of the cloud lights!

… last one, I promise.

Nothing like a smooth G&T to kick off the evening. Tanquery gin, a chopstick, and as much tonic as I please. My philosophy insofar as gin & tonics are concerned is ‘less tonic, more gin!’, and this phrase has served me very well so far.

To whet our appetite, a cluster of seaweed and tapioca crackers with eggplant puree. Quite an innovative idea; they’re made like prawn crackers are, dried and then deep fried until puffed up.
Mum, Alex and I all went for the same starter – but really how could we not? A gorgeous, smokey-charred Western Australian marron, with buttermilk potato, softened leeks and slivers of jamon iberico. I have only two words: BUTTERMILK POTATO. Say no more.

Dad went for a delicate little dish of peas, broad beans, sunflower seeds and bergamot flowers, all sitting in a fragrant broth. Just beautiful, a little dish of spring. (I should add that we ate at Cutler in September, and I thought I’d lost my photos but then recently managed to find them – hoorah!) Cutler & Co do vegetarian food very, very well. Interesting, flavoursome combinations that any vegetarian should be happy with!

I was browsing through the shelves of Books for Cooks today and found one novel written by an English cook who I didn’t recognise, but whose writing is filled with swear words and has an annoyingly urgent and angry tone that is funny to begin with but gets tiresome very quickly. I didn’t buy the book in the end, but I did come across a rant about people who eat the in-house bread at fancy restaurants.

I know restaurant chefs usually aren’t as good as bakers, I know you should really be saving stomach room for all the other delicious things you’ll be eating later, and I know we shouldn’t jump on the free bread like starving, yet fatter versions of Oliver Twist. But dammit I love bread. Love of bread > intellectual argument about not eating bread.

But I digress; Cutler does their bread as individual sourdough loaves, and they were great!

Alex, self-professed carnivore of the table, predictably ordered the wood grilled wagyu rump cap with hay baked carrots and ash. I have to say, I thought the portion size here was a little mean; it’s definitely a good idea to order some sides. The King Edward potatoes and the green salad with buttermilk dressing are particularly good.

Mum went for a dish of local line-caught snapper with squid, nettle and oyster sauce. Again, quite a small size for a main dish, but a lovely, light dish all the same.

Dad and I had what I deemed to be the dish of the night; a sweet piece of john dory with shiitake, octopus, seaweed butter and sesame. It doesn’t look very appetising in the photo, but it was fantastic, a perfect mingling of sweet fish, salty sesame and earthy mushrooms. Just brilliant.

Dessert time! They brought out Alex’s dessert with a candle to celebrate his birthday, although unfortunately they’d gotten the order mixed up so promptly took it away to replace it. Bit of a silly mistake really, but at least I manage to get a shot of the chocolate ice-cream sandwich all lit up!

I (correctly) ordered the chocolate dessert, having heard others rave about it. Served with a vanilla parfait and salted caramel, it’s the rock star of the dessert menu; very rich and unashamedly awesome.

Mum went for a small refreshing plate of strawberry sorbet, buttermilk snow and sour cherry shortbread. Served in McConnell’s recognisable style, it looked like everything had just been smashed together, belying the careful placement of ever component that I’m sure went on in the kitchen.

The dessert Alex had actually ordered was the earl grey ice-cream, chocolate, pedro ximenez prunes and honey jelly. And I’m sorry Mr Chocolate Ice-Cream Sandwich, but I reckon Earl Grey over here just stole your crown! I was lucky enough to try a mouthful and it was sublime. I couldn’t get over that fantastic, fragrant ice-cream – if McConnell made that stuff available for retail sale, I’d buy it by the litre!

To finish, much like at Moon Under Water, salted caramel chocolates, such a treat.

I forgot to mention earlier, but the service was also flawless the entire evening (except for the small glitch of confusing our desserts). Our waiter had a good sense of humour too, something that I’d like to see more at restaurants.
Writing about this meal so long after having eaten it has me hungry again for McConnell’s food – methinks a quickly executed trip to Cumulus Inc is in order…

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Filed under: Fitzroy, Modern, Uncategorized