Hacked By BALA SNIPER
It had been a very long since we went to Cutler & Co but finally we were back! Hooray! Hooray for Cutler & Co! Talk about spoiler in the first sentence, huh? Well, I am a food blogger, not Agatha Christie.
It was a celebration of sorts, when six of us (including Mini, who was four) ended there on a Sunday afternoon. This was the second time we had Sunday lunch at Cutler & Co. The first time was for my 21st birthday. Well, one of my 21st birthdays, that is. And Mini was 6 months old at the time. With previous fine-dining-with-baby experience, which went well, I figured I would take a punt and take Mini again. What the hell, It was Sunday and more importantly Mum lent us her iPad.
(‘Whipped cod roe and radishes’)
We got there slightly late, having found a free park (goal!) on the other end of Gertrude St. and had to walk the whole 500m to the restaurant (hey I just had major surgeries, I had an excuse to grumble every single one of those metre) I had forgotten how gorgeous the dining room was. Mum got there first and being a true tourist that she was, started taking photos and send them through the group chat that I was fortunate enough to be a part of. That was how much she admired the dining room.
(Jamon Serrano & Padrón peppers)
So anyway the six of us sat down to longggg lunch. A kid’s menu was offered to us at $25 but I have asked her if it was okay we didn’t order anything special for her as a) Mum and I just had surgery, we would struggle with our share of the food to start with b) I wanted Mini to try all the different things that we were eating and c) she eats so ridiculously little anyway. The waiter let us know that there was no obligation to order a special meal for Mini. The one thing I have experienced was that they didn’t seem to mind having Mini there (at 6 months or 4 years) – I was quite nervous about taking a child to a fine dining restaurant but I did my best that she wasn’t disruptive and both meals went on quite wonderfully.
(Chicken terrine, prunes & cauliflowers)
The Sunday Lunch at Cutler & Co. is a set menu at $75pp (it was that much four years ago, it still is now, amazing) with shared entrees and individual mains and desserts.
(Stracciatella, yellow capsicum & broccoli)
The menu changes every Sunday and is based on whatever is in season at the time and you get a number of shared entrees (I have to say they are the highlights), one main each from a choice of two and one dessert each from a choice of two plus the cheese plate option.
(Heirloom tomatoes, black olives, fennel and basil)
Between the five (plus one) of us, we had five entrees (description taken directly from the menu): Whipped cod roe and radishes’; Jamon Serrano & Padrón peppers; Chicken terrine, prunes & cauliflowers; stracciatella, yellow capsicum & broccoli; and eirloom tomatoes, black olives, fennel and basil. As I am more of a vegetable person, I have to say these blew my socks off. When a really fabulous Melbourne restaurant gives you something as simple as tomatoes, you betcha they were going to be the best damn tomatoes you’ve had in a long time! And the broccoli! Oh, the broccoli! So smokey and delicious. I also loved the radishes too.
(Lamb tenderloin, radicchio sauce and daikon)
The jamon and Padrón peppers were really awesome. These are the peppers that have (roughly) one in ten chance of it being really spicy and the rest are mild, but flavourful. We ended up getting two spicy ones out of about ten. The spicy ones were really lovely and spicy but they did temporarily kill your taste buds. The lamb tenderloin was also amazing. It was beautifully tender and yet had the most amazing flavours. Yeah, just go. Get thee to Cutler & Co. (And I haven’t even finished the post yet)
(Berkshire pork, cauliflower purée & chicory)
Because our entrees were so fabulous and interesting, I have to say our mains of ‘meat and veg’ became a bit boring. The pork, even though served medium, were not as tender as I’d hoped and it wasn’t well seasoned. I just found it really boring. I think all of us with the pork choice agreed. Compared to the lamb entree which blew our socks off, this was lacking somehow.
(John Dory, chickpeas, eggplants & preserved lemon)
The other main was ‘fish and veg’ but this was slightly better. Josh and I did the usual thing of ordering both mains and switch with each other half way through (as you do.) The John Dory was better. It was well cooked, the eggplant puree had a lovely smokiness to it and it went well with the chickpeas and the caper berries. But again, compared to the entrees, it was slightly on the boring side.
(Pistachio & cinnamon panna cotta, Sablé biscuit, strawberry)
By this time, we were quite full (and Mini was a champion at eating all the things I put in front of her – she particularly loved the jamon “Mummy! This is the best ham ever!” and the prune sauce that came with the terrine, ate a bit of a pepper that I had made sure wasn’t spicy, a bit of broccoli and cheese, radishes but wasn’t a fan of the cod roe and a bit of the John Dorry which she loved but then spent most of the time playing with the iPad until dessert was served. Deprived child. She only gets to play with a tablet when my mum is in town) but there were desserts to be had!
(Soft chocolate, coconut sorbet, lychees & hazelnuts)
I know. It’s a tough job but someone had to do it. Because there were five of us, we got two each of the choice of the desserts and the cheese plate.
(Ferme de Jouvence Brie, quince & lavosh)
They were smashing. Everything was really good. The cheese plate was unexpectedly the highlight. I have to admit, I never ordered a cheese plate in place of dessert before. Often, you go to one of these degustation type dinner and it’s meant to be romantic dinner for two and there are two dessert options plus cheese, the cheese gets neglected. But this time we got the cheese platter, and oh did we not regret it!
So two lessons for everyone: get thee to a Cutler & Co Sunday lunch, where the food is amazing, the service is impeccable, the atmosphere is relaxing, the lunch is long and the booze is aplenty. And get the cheese plate!
Cutler & Co. [ web site ]
Address: 55–57 Gertrude St., Fitzroy VIC 3065
Phone: (03) 9419 4888
Hours: Dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm, lunch Friday & Sunday from 12pm
Public Transport: Trams 11, 86, 112 (120m)
Happy new year 2014! I would like to start, like any another blog post nowadays, with an excuse on why I haven’t updated this blog. You see, 2013 marked the year where both of us were now back at work full time. Unfortunately, in our line of work, part-time work is almost non-existent. And so 2013 was a crazy year of adjustment. And of course the blog suffers. But I’ll try better and do what I can to update this little baby a bit more.
We started off our new year by waking up. This is what old age does to you. You have done absolutely nothing special on the day, were ready for bed at 11pm on new year’s eve and YOU WERE OKAY WITH THAT. Which was how we woke up on a Wednesday morning and thought they it was new year! Hooray! So a celebratory breakfast was in order. We had decided on Orient East because I had been craving their kaya toasts and I wanted to take Mini and my mum to the Shrine of Remembrance. Mum, because it was a lovely, touristy thing to do and Mini because the Shrine is one of the most beautiful space for toddlers to run around. Most importantly though, Orient East was opened on new year’s day.
Kaya Toast – Texan toast, pandan kaya, 62’c egg, sweet soy* – $12.00
Orient East is a unique restaurant/cafe which acts as the Seasons Botanic Gardens Hotel on St Kilda Rd. It does your usual hotel breakfast catering towards hotel guests but it also doubles as an interesting modernised Southeast Asian restaurant where most of the dishes are from the Malay Peninsula. I had previously tried breakfast at Orient East and really quite liked its unique breakfast menu and so was keen to go back. We were seated and I quickly ordered a few dishes mostly from ‘Shop House’ breakfast dishes which I found to be most interesting and have tried, and liked, previously.
My favourite, the one I looked forward to the most, was the kaya toasts. A sandwich of two thick-cut toasts buttered and spread with kaya (Malaysian-style thick coconut custard spread) and it was topped with what was called 62’c egg on the menu. Unfortunately in this instance, the egg was overcooked with the white jellied and the yolk set (I have previously had it runny and much preferred it then) but overall it was still a really nice and well thought out dish albeit not being perfectly executed.
Jian bing crepe – eggs, pork floss, Chinese doughnut, hoi sin sauce, sourdough toast* – $14.00
Another dish that I previously had and looked forward to was Orient East on the jian bing crepe. I have tried to traditional jian bing crepe and have not been that impressed by it but Orient East’s take on it was definitely an improvement. A rich combination of running egg, pork floss, hoisin sauce and scant sprinkling of Chinese doughnut was perfect combination. My one concern about this particular visit was that there was too much hot chilli in it. Definitely too hot for my breakfast standard which probably meant it would have been more than way too hot for other people (and I’m known to eat leftover hot curry for breakfast.) But nevertheless being too stubborn to pick out the chillies (mum did,) I did enjoy the dish quite a lot. The crepe also came with a side of toast and Mini, upon seeing the toast, demanded that she wanted Vegemite on toast and nothing else. The cafe was kind enough to provide us with margarine and Vegemite and so she was happy munching on her Vegemite toast (crisis averted!) for the rest of meal. This excused me from having to share my kaya toast with her. Win win.
Rolled roti, egg, lap cheong sausage, chilli and coriander* – $9.00
I also ordered the rolled roti for Josh as he had had it on previous occasion. He ate most of it without complain (though I would like to complain that he is a terrible breakfast-out companion as he pretty much is not interested in cafe breakfast. I only get around this by taking him at brunching hours when he’d order lunch dishes and I, breakfast.)
Corn fritters, smoked salmon, avocado and sour cream* – $16.00
I also ordered the corn fritter and smoked salmon which I thought would go down well with Mum and Mini. I found this dish quite disappointingly bland but the group didn’t mind it and polished it off.
Overall, I had a really pleasant new year’s breakfast experience. I really enjoyed the ‘shop house’ breakfast dishes and found them to be an interesting, welcome break from the usual Melbourne cafe breakfast scene. Coffee was also decent. Unfortunately, the food and service were not faultless on the day but it was new year’s day and it seemed to be the only cafe opened for miles around and so was quite swamped. Having been there previously, I know it would definitely do better on better days and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for its unique breakfast dishes.
* Please note I have used menu description here rather than my own
Orient East [ Website ]
Address: 348 St. Kilda Rd. Melbourne VIC
Phone: (03) 9685 2900
Hours: Lunch 12:00pm to 2:30pm, Dinner: 5:30pm to 10:00pm – Everyday
It was Josh’s birthday last week. Unfortunately, Josh does not approach birthdays like I do. I like a little bit of birthday – not too much, mind. Not a big piss-up party or anything (okay, maybe, sometimes) but at least a nice dinner out to mark the occasion and a few nicely chosen presents from loved ones. That’s me. Josh? Nope. Don’t care. No, he didn’t want a party. No, he didn’t really care if I didn’t buy him a present*
But this is me, right? So I figured, it doesn’t really matter if he doesn’t think that highly of birthdays – he does like to eat. And I do like to eat. And we rarely get to go to a nice dinner with just the two of us anymore – so let’s just go out! And if there is a secret to Josh, it is that he is a little bit of a Italophile. And we live in Melbourne! How fortunate.
So after consulting a few blogs, Instagram and Twitter posts, I decided that Franco Choo’s it would be. It seemed like a nice little Italian place that Josh would like. I made the booking online (technology wins!) a week before hand, a phone confirmation on the day and everything was all sorted. Too easy.
We arrived at about 8pm on a Thursday night and took the last couple of seats. The place was already full and buzzing. Franco Choo’s is one of those tiny cosy restaurants – so tiny it must seat only around 20 people. It has that great small Italian hole-in-the-wall vibe that we both liked. Our lovely waiter (with his lovely Italian accent – let’s face it, we’re all suckers for Italian accent) went through the short menu on the blackboard (two choices of entree, two choices of main, two choices of side, two choices of dessert and a cheese platter). The menu, I’m told, changes often. The chef bases the menu on high quality produce that is readily available at the time.
Because there were only two choices of everything, of course, we ordered – well, everything. Because we were there on a week night and I had booked online, we were entitled to the fixed price set menu special ($35 for two courses and $45 for three.) We didn’t order any drinks because Josh doesn’t drink and I went on a complete bender the week before and swore off alcohol forever (at the time – you know how it goes) – we stuck to water. I always feel bad about not ordering drinks but our waiter was completely lovely about it (believe me the number of places that actually gives you attitude for not ordering drinks!)
Some fresh chewy bread and the fruitiest olive oil on the house were brought to us to whet our appetite. Followed by our entrees – I decided on the saffron risotto with asparagus and Josh on pork ragu and pasta (I think strozzapreti but I can’t remember that well.) My risotto was delicious – it was creamy while each grain of rice was still bitey and the asparagus was tender and sweet. Josh’s pasta was gorgeous with generous amount pork ragu (surprise factor being it wasn’t tomato-based) tossed through with radicchio and a few other bits and pieces.
For main, I had opted for the crunchy crusted barramundi fillet which was served with lemony potatoes and peas. The potatoes were gorgeous and the peas were sweet and poppingly fresh. It was amazing that the wow factor came from how well the simple vegetables were cooked and how amazingly fresh they were. Josh’s lamb was very tender and flavourful and the same can be said about the carrots and the mash – beautiful quality produce simply but perfectly cooked. Sure the meat and the fish were great but the veggies sneaked in and won the race.
The star of the show, unbelievably, was the sauteed broccolini with chilli and garlic that we ordered as an extra side. The broccolini were so fresh, tender and sweet. The fibrous stems were peeled back slightly to reveal the soft tender core. I was impressed by the care that went into this simple side dish. It was so delicious and well cooked that I actually ended up ordering two extra serves (3 serves in total.) – our waiter was very amused and I stopped feeling bad about not ordering drinks.
When it was time to choose desserts, I notice our fellow diners on both sides only ordered desserts to share. Weak. By then I was getting rather full but this ain’t a birthday celebration for no reason! So we said yes to a dessert each. Josh ordered the vanilla panna cotta which was served with pieces of figs that had been marinated in marsala and poached rhubarb. It was creamy and satisfying but light and refreshing at the same time.
I went for the dark chocolate semi-freddo with black olive caramel sauce. The sauce was rich, sweet and salty. Love the salt in desserts and the grapefruit, blood orange and orange segments balance out of the richness of the chocolate.
The meal was a lovely relaxed one and the courses were spaced out in that relaxed manner (I suspect there is only one person cooking) – so it is not a good place if you are after a quick in-and-out dinner. However, if you want a long lingering dinner in a cosy setting, preferably with someone you can really have a conversation with, and you want good simple Italian food then Franco Choo’s is definitely the place for you. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will definitely be back.
Franco Choo’s Italian [ Website ]
Address: 179A High St Prahran VIC 3181
Phone: (03) 9529 7310
Hours: From 6pm – Tuesday to Saturday