Cumulus Inc.

It was the day of my birthday, I was in Melbourne and I hadn’t booked anywhere for lunch. You may say that was silly but I had so many options I couldn’t go wrong. All weekend I had wanted lunch seriously early. I seemed to be starving by 1130am and pacing the streets waiting for lunch service to start.

Cumulus Inc. was busy with people still finishing brunch or having a morning cake stop. I hoped I wouldn’t look like a starving earlybird sitting at the marble counter, which overlooks the open kitchen, waiting for lunch service to start. The kitchen area is small and it’s packed with chefs bumping elbows with each other.

One of the first things I liked about Cumulus Inc. was that their menu was a tapas and sharing plate style where most of the sharing plates can be halved. Fantastic news for people who like to try alot of different dishes or for solo diners. The choices just became all that harder or maybe easier because I could have more.

Slow Braised octopus with aioli and dehydrated olives came out first. It was a pretty picture with a touch of chilli and basil. The octopus was soft and the there was a good balance to the dish. No need to take that olive oil back to the kitchen either, I’ll be finishing that off with my bread.

Sitting in front of the kitchen lends itself to some enlightenment. I was sitting in front of the youngster of the team who was continually getting nudged, sworn at and berated by the head chef.  Now I’m guessing that in some kitchens this is the norm and it wasn’t done loudly but enough for me to hear. It made me feel so uncomfortable that at times I didn’t know where to look. I’m soft, I know.

The next dishes took a little more time to come out as the morning crowd were swapping their tables for the lunch crew and the place was continually packed. The menu reads so well it was hard to make a choice but I had to try the tuna tartare with crushed green pea salad. A dish this simple needs the tuna to be perfect and it was. Slicked with olive oil, the tuna melted in my mouth.  

It was recommended I try the spiced cauliflower salad. I didn’t need much convincing. This was my favourite dish, so much so that I tried to search the web to see if the recipe was out there anywhere. I couldn’t find it but I did notice alot of others loved this dish too and have tried to recreate it at home. The pan roasted spice flavours tasted moroccan inspired along with pine nuts, goats curd and a twinkle of pomegranate seeds on top.  This was a half serve, it was so good I could have had more. 

What do you have for dessert when you don’t really feel like it. Not the pearl barley ice cream, soft chocolate, caramel and rye desert. A very rich dessert of smooth chocolate and vanilla with the rye biscuit being a thin slice of toasted rye bread. It gave the dish a bitter taste. It just didn’t do it for me.

Another Melbourne haunt ticked off the list, yes, but it was more than that, it’s another place added to the would go back to list. The two ladies out for lunch beside me were tucking into a slow roast shoulder of lamb that I wanted to pinch. The charcuterie board the father and son were having the other side looked worthy as well. I’ll just sit the other end of the bar next time.

MoVida

I knew about the reputation of MoVida. I even have Frank Camorras’ cookbook, MoVida Rustica but when I managed to grab a last minute table there I never imagined I would love it quite so much.

It was my last day for a Melbournian lunch. I had a few places on my list to try but MoVida was the first. At 1pm the place was packed. Did I want to come back in 45minutes, you bet ya.  As soon as I walked into the place it exuded an unpretentious cool atmosphere. Dim lighting, a long timber bar, relaxed music and people looking like they are having a good time. I was back bang on 45mins.

I couldn’t go past trying the hand filleted Cantabrian artisan anchovies on croutons with smoked tomato sorbet ($4.50 each). The crispy toast and anchovy were warm enough to take the cold sorbet. I really did imagine myself on a hot Spanish day sitting in a outside a tapas bar.

As I waited for my next tapas to come out from the kitchen, which is open to the dining room via a large window, I sipped on a 2009 Paco and Lola Albarino ($13). Next to come out was a special of the day sea urchin and goats curd crostini. The crostini was warm, providing gentle heat to the curd and sea urchin. It’s a small touch that makes so much difference to the taste of a dish.

Two beautiful pieces of Pyrenees wet roast lamb with fino and paprika sauce ($4.50 each). They fell apart at the touch and I felt like I was melting into my chair and never wanting to leave. By this time I had stepped up to a 2008 DJP Petalos Mencia ($17).  A Spanish wine elegant enough to glide me through the rest of my meal.

I was starting to become full but I was determined to eat more. It was just that good. It was suggested by the waitress I try the Cecina, an award winning dish of air-dried wagu beef with poached egg and truffle foam ($19.50). The advice was to mix the ingredients together let them sit together for a few moments to let the flavours mingle and then indulge. It was like the best ever brunch dish you could come up with. The runny egg with soft potato, strong beef with a hit of black truffle.

I thought a full dessert would really do me in so I asked for the selection of cheese ($22). They were two Spanish cheeses, a firm Bica and the blue, a Valdeon, both very fine cheeses. Bica means ‘bag of cheese’ and is a buttery mix of goat, cow and sheeps milk.  The Valdeon is a smooth creamy well rounded earthy blue cheese. I had a taste of each and hit the wall. Lucky for me the waiter pinched some foil from the kitchen so I could stash the cheese in my bag to enjoy later.

I LOVE MOVIDA. I’m just thankful it’s in Melbourne otherwise I would have a permanent seat at the bar.