Cutler & Co
55-57 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
+61 3 9419 4888
I was almost never going to post this review of Cutler & Co. Firstly, because it happened so long ago (we’re talking March, peoples!) and secondly, because all one needs to do if they want to read up on the jewel in Andrew McConnell’s expanding empire is to type in “cutler co” and google will give you pages and pages of blogs that have praised the Fitzroy eatery. In the end, I decided that it would be foolish of me to NOT write about one of the most amazing Melbourne dining experiences I’ve ever had. It was a dinner that the member of The Dinner Crew and their partners had been looking forward to for quite some time. The seven of us were looking forward to an epic Tuesday evening dinner in what used to be a nondescript warehouse on Gertrude Street, but seven became five when unforeseen circumstances saw Shirley and Bill pull out at the last minute. Never mind, thought the remaining five, as we sipped on alcoholic drinks of various descriptors at the bar before Alison, the general manager, led us to a cosy alcove towards the back of the restaurant.
It might have been Tuesday but the place was as full as Loft nightclub on a Saturday night, albeit with less Supre and coronas and more suits and Scotches. Smartly-dressed waiters were always on hand to happily answer questions about serving sizes, wine selection and what a ‘Pommes Anna’ was. After much discussion, it was decided that we’d order all five entrées to share, a bowl of olives to nibble on, two mains, and desserts. You might be wondering, ‘Why only two mains?’ Well, one of the mains we ordered was the 1.1kg rib eye that was enough to feed 2-4 people. Bring it on.
I can’t remember what wine I had. It was most likely a riesling.
Warm sourdough bread rolls. Hard crusts, chewy centres. And lots and lots of butter. Mmmm.
Selection of really, really good olives ($8)
Our first entrée was a serving of heirloom tomatoes, house-made ricotta, brik pastry and white balsamic ($20). Here, McConnell proves that all you need to make a dish look and taste beautiful are simple and fresh ingredients. The fresh heirloom tomato halves were so sweet that I can’t help but wonder whether the boy tending the Cutler & Co vegetable garden forced the tomatoes to listen to Bush’s ‘Glycerine’ as they grew. Rough balls of creamy ricotta diffused the sweetness of the tomatoes while a lightly tangy white balsamic dressing brought them all together.
The wagyu beef tartare with Ortiz anchovy ($25) was another example of a beautifully simple dish. Tessellating jigsaw pieces of soft, raw wagyu mingled with Ortiz anchovy fillets and wafer-thin potato lattices. The result was an exquisite melt-in-your-mouth sensation succinctly punctuated by a gentle crunch.
Unfortunately, we were underwhelmed by the light potato soup, Hervey Bay scallops ($24), despite the fact that this dish was the one I was looking forward to the most. The soup was very bland and the scallops, despite being sweet and succulent, did nothing to elevate the soup into even the realm of ‘above average.’ It was a shame though, because the soup looked rather pretty.
Thankfully, the textures, flavours and colours represented by a beautiful cured kingfish, octopus, fresh wasabi, avocado & cucumber dish ($25) made up for the disappointment of the soup. This dish was almost too pretty to eat but thankfully our tastebuds overrode our eyes, enabling us to enjoy the fresh combination of lime-cured kingfish and tender octopus married with avocados and cucumbers. A hint of house-made wasabi, probably the best I’ve tasted because I didn’t feel my throat burn for ONCE, was there to provide a mild kick.
Finally, the poached chicken, foie gras parfait, quinoa and prune ($25) rounded off the repertoire of (mostly) excellent dishes. The chicken fillets were tender to the touch, and laced with a hint of smokey flavour which blended seamlessly with the rich, gooey and slightly (and pleasantly) metallic-tasting foie gras parfait. Although I thought the quinoa served no purpose but to make things look more balanced, I thought the sweet prunes balanced out the flavours really well.
Along came the monster: the dry-aged 1.1kg Angus rib eye ($160). DA-DA-DUMMMMMM!
It came, armed with a shaved cabbage, dried chilli, orange and fennel salad. And a creamy and mild house-made horseradish paste. And an assortment of condiments, from a Dijon mustard to a sweet wine sauce from from Madeira, shallots, star anise and ginger.
I can honestly say that this was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. It was cooked perfectly medium-rare. As in, textbook-perfect med-rare. The meat was wood-grilled, on the bone, over a Mallee root which then gave it a subtle smokey flavour while the soft ripples of marbled fat made the steak literally melt in your mouth when bitten into. All the sauces matched the meat perfectly, though I was happy to eat the steak on my own because it was that flavoursome. Oh effking awesome rib-eye, I reach out for you and our hearts collide… mmmm.
I should have took this baby home for my dog, Vega.
Meanwhile, the John Dory with Pommes Anna and local mushrooms ($44) paled in comparison. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was still an excellent dish. The fish was well-cooked all over and the earthy mushrooms complimented the sweet, flesh of one of my favourite fish. And even though I would have preferred a mash or something, I couldn’t really fault the Pommes Anna. Still, it was nowhere near as epic as the rib-eye we had eagerly devoured. Sorry.
We ordered a bunch of desserts, too. Dave had the lychee sorbet with raspberries, roses and lemon sorbet ($18). One of the prettiest desserts I had ever seen, this dish, to me, was an ‘adieu’ to summer and days of sitting in English gardens, waiting for the sun (especially if you, like me, had to endure a shitty Melbourne summer with lots of rain and barely any sun). Incorporating the last handful of lychees from the summer months and pairing them with a lychee sorbet and a tangy lemon one, with hints of subtle rose flavour all over, was nothing short of brilliant. Loved it.
Linda also scored big with her violet ice cream, chocolate ganache, sour cherry and clove meringue ($18). While Dave’s dessert represented summer, hers represented the transition into the cooler months. The violet ice cream was a lovely soft and silky sorbet-like quenelle that boasted small hints of floral notes. It went well with the equally mild and sweet chiffon-like sponge squares that sat next to the ice cream. And although I liked the spiciness of the clove meringue, the richness of the chocolate ganache and the tanginess of the cherries, I did feel that they overpowered the delicate violet ice cream so I had to enjoy them separately rather than WITH the ice cream.
The rest of us, including myself, had the chocolate ice cream sandwich with vanilla parfait and salted caramel ($18). It was a dish that I enjoyed with Shirley a few months ago when we stopped at Cutler & Co for dessert, and a dish that I would order again and again. The photo might be awful, but the dish not so. I can’t decide what I liked most about the dessert: the sweet, soft vanilla parfait, or the crunchy chocolate biscuit ‘sandwich slices’ or the lovely, rich gooey salted caramel. It was magnificent like that U2 song.
And just when you thought that you had enough sugar to last you a month, they brought us some petit fours with our bill. Chocolate fudge squares with black sea salt – can’t ask for anything better, really.
We all walked away, feeling very happy. The food, especially the desserts, were all very understated yet still left us spellbound (well, except for that potato soup). I can totally see myself coming back to, dare I say it, split that rib-eye with one other person. And have three servings of chocolate ice cream sandwich. Nom.