Archive for December, 2010

Cumulus Inc, Melbourne

December 20, 2010

http://www.cumulusinc.com.au

45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

We had a day out exploring Melbourne – the south bank, St.Kilda, Chinatown etc. The weather was suitably changeable from gales in the morning to sunshine, still with a bracing wind later in the day. It was a Sunday and so it demanded a good roast. I had my eye on giving Cumulus Inc a go and was hoping that it would nicely satisfy our craving.

It’s a small venue, slightly chaotic in a good way, with a utilitarian feel and an open kitchen dominating the room. There’s no doubt this is a restaurant all about the food. It reminds me of St.Johns in the UK. Having been to Cutler & Co. you know the quality is going to be good. We’re seated at a strip of seats overlooking the kitchen. It gives us an excellent and revealing view of how the kitchen functions – one man on salads, one on seafood, a chef on the grill and a couple of cooks bringing everything together. Conversation is brief and well natured with everyone knowing their role. It’s clearly a well organised outfit with a brevity of movement. It’s obvious to see how people would want to belong to a brigade like this.

Again like Movida, the menu at first glance looks limited – food designed to pick at and share rather than dishes you desire and want all for yourself.

We’re following a pattern here, but one dish quickly stands out – Roast Shoulder of Lamb with a green salad and rosemary duck fat roasted potatoes.

We know it will be a sizeable and decline to order any entrees. We instead get to settle into a nice red and very decent sourdough and focaccia. It means the expected wait is not a chore.

The roast when it arrives is glorious. It would be easily capable of feeding four. We know we have a challenge on our hands. But it’s a challenge well rising to. It’s simply a sensational roast. I’ve had my fair share of roasts. I cook a mean one myself and I’ve learnt from the best (my mother), but this is truly memorable. This is partly due to expectations. A shoulder of lamb is not a king amongst roasts, not even a prince. It can be fatty. It’s not pretty. It’s not a simple aesthetically pleasing fillet that people gravitate to. But when you’ve tried this, you simply won’t go back. The bone is where it’s at. The meat is slow cooked to a point where tongs are all you need to ‘carve’. The flavour is deep and intense with the fat being smartly diverted with a shallot and caper salad and a bowl of cut lemons. It’s not rocket-science, just a clear understanding of how to derive maximum flavour and enjoyment from a roast.

I fear I may never try a shoulder roast as good as this again. It pains me that in the end we’re unable to finish it. We almost make it. Again another couple of glasses wine help. But we have to admit defeat.

I can’t remember what we had for dessert. It’s immaterial really. It’s all about the roast. It’s not cheap and a little too hipster cool, but the food (if only one dish) does all the talking we need.

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Movida, Melbourne

December 18, 2010

http://www.movida.com.au

1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne

A roadtrip from Melbourne to Adelaide with my father to watch the cricket. It presented the perfect opportunity to try a few notable places along the way, starting with Movida.

Movida was booked up months in advance on Saturday, but an enquiry at 6.30pm, got us a table at the bar for 8pm. Perfect.

It’s a curious menu with tapa followed, by larger dishes that follow the traditional spanish method of dining. If I was dining on my own, I’d lap this up, but this a father/son evening out and as a result it’s perhaps not the most alluring menus to get stuck into and to be honest few dishes that jump out enough for both of us to get excited about. We begin to think about putting together a meal and then we hear the specials – It’s an 1kilo rib of beef and we’re sold. I know this means that we don’t get to experience the range of cooking Movida has to offer, but I’m sure there will be other times. We compensate with a few tapa to give us a good introduction:

We share the tapa, which looks a little tight to the casual observer, but it does ensure we don’t get too full and we do compensate with a couple bottles of wine.

We start with Cantabrian Artisan Anchovy on Crouton with Smoked Tomato Sorbet

It’s salty and sweet and is a good intro. Got to love the ‘artisan’ moniker. What has been done to the anchovy to make it artisan? Anyway it’s tasty and the tomato sorbet nods to some good experimentation, without killing the mouth with coldness.

We follow with oven baked Scallop with Jamon and Potato Foam

This is seriously good. A might scallop with roe and accompaniments that makes this a meal in itself. Again there’s the contrast of sweet, salty, starchy flavours and it’s fine. Could have happily dined on these all evening.

Things continue on a more traditional setting with jamon & egg Croquette followed by sardine on tomatoes on toast.

Again, good flavour combinations and clearly shows Movida to be a cut above most other spanish restaurants. It makes us happy and bodes well for the main event:

Rib of beef with chargrilled asparagus

Something compels me to ask for a side of chips/bravas, but this isn’t the sort of restaurant that condones this kind of plebeian ordering. I’m briefly irked, but then we get stuck into the beef. It’s as we expect, a cut of good provenance – the meat is well marbled and the fat has that smooth, but crisp yellowness. It also comes with a serious char, so there’s no uniform texture. Just good contrasts to get stuck into. I forget about the bravas and we enjoy the asparagus. It’s a great plate of food and not particularly expensive for what it was. It’s at this point the second bottle of tempranillo get’s a good hammering. My father has always been a good influence this way.

After a decent steak all is good with the world and we need something to go with a couple glasses of dessert wine. Clearly nothing dainty will do, so we opt to share a hot Chocolate Ganache Pudding with Vanilla Bean ice-cream and Nougat

It’s a classic combination and is well represented here. the ganache is suitably gooey and the vanilla ice cream not as placid as it could be.

It brings to close a great meal. The small restaurant has a lively buzz that creates an ongoing sense of fun. The service itself is jovial and enthusiastic. We have a lovely waitress who shows great knowledge of what we’re eating and drinking, while goading into banter with the chefs. It only adds to the evening.

We exit the restaurant after three and a half hours in fine spirits. We enjoyed the night. I would have preferred to try the range of cooking on offer, but I think our evening showed that a restaurant like Movida is as much a place to have an enjoyable Saturday night as it is to get all serious about food.