Cumulus Inc, Melbourne

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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