Fitzroy VIC 3065
Ph: (03) 9419 4888
Website: Cutler and Co
Cutler and Co is one of the hottest restaurant in Melbourne, and with good reason. The restaurant hasn't been opened too long, but it has maintained a constant buzz amongst the media and food blogosphere. It's head chef, Andrew McConnell has won numerous accolades, inlcuding The Age Good Food Guide chef of the year 2010. His working experiences from his stints in London, Hong Kong and China have translated in his food, with the degustation menu showcasing a variety of cuisines influences.
Cutler and Co is located in the not so trendy part of town, Gertrude Street. But the restaurant and bar itself is trendy to the max, with an ultra modern feel. Upon entering the restaurant, you are greeted by an inviting bar which opens into the restaurant. The layout of Cutler and Co is not what you would normally expect of a top end restaurant, with tables being place up against walls that provide booth seating. The lighting in the room is used to excellent effect, with the adequate amount of lighting provided by beautiful overhead lamps to create mood without making the whole room too dark. One of my pet peeves is definitely dark restaurants where you can't see anything.
We decided on the full degustation menu to get a feel for what the restaurant can do. The meal started with a entree that consisted of four small servings. The Moonlight Flat Oysters were extremely fresh and perfect with a squeeze of lemon. Calamari crackers were definitely something different to the usual prawn crackers that you find in most Chinese restaurants, but I actually prefer the prawn crackers. Maybe I'm accustomed to that flavour. The Wagyu bresaola was sublime, and when eaten with the anchovy pastry, a great blend. Finally, a soft octopus was paired with some spicy Chorizo and aioli, a bursting mouthful of textures and flavours.
Clockwise from Top Left: Oysters, Calamari Crackers, Wagyu Bresaloa with Anchovy Pastry, Octopus with Chorizo and Aioli
The next dish of kingfish loooked magnificent. The kingfish itself was already great on its own, but when paired with a touch of extravagence in the Aruga cavaiar and creme fraiche, it was further enhanced. The smoky flavour from the onions and the sharp acidity from the beetroot cut through the creme fraiche perfectly.
Cured kingfish, smoked onion, seaweed vinegar, beetroot & rye
The crab and abalone soup instantly comforted me as it conjoured up images of mum's comforting abalone congee. The abalone was so tender, but still maintaining flavour. The crab gave yet more seafood flavour, swimming in the clean tasting sweet corn soup. White cloud ear fungus and ginger made the soup even more comforting and reminiscent of a Chinese abalone congee. I'm sure Andrew picked up some of these flavours in his travels in China.
Spanner crab, abalone & sweet corn soup
This dish of vegetables was clearly my favourite of the night. I can't believe that a)I prefer any savoury dish over dessert, and b)a vegetable dish too. It was truly a highlight, and I still can remember all those flavours bursting in my mouth and melding together to produce a vibrant painting for the mouth. The combination of raw vegetables (providing crunch), cooked vegetables (providing softness) and pickled vegetables (providing sweetness) was all cut through by the sharp and acidic shanklish and some crispy items in the walnut and something that tasted like rice bubbles.
Raw, cooked and pickled carrot salad, walnut cream & shanklish
While I was still reminiscing about the previous vegetable dish, the mandarin duck was served and nearly wiped out the previous thought. An assiette of duck was presented. Each element was so brilliant it could easily have been the whole dish by itself. The duck leg was served with lentils and two types of caramelised onions. The sweet burnt flavour of the onions paired perfectly with the duck leg. I moved from the leg to the smoked fillet of duck, served with a mandarin sauce and mash, well matched again. I left the foie gras cigar for last, and that was indeed indulgent. The ultra crispy pastry gave way to a smooth foie gras parfait.
Mandarin duck — crisp leg, smoked fillet, foie gras cigar
When I hear Wagyu, my ears are already pricked up and my mouth salivating. The Wagyu steak with the nettle salad was good, but paled in comparison with the previous two dishes. The meat was unctuously soft, but for me, it needed a sharper sauce to offset it so it didn't taste a little bland. It was still a delicious dish, but not brilliant.
Slow cooked Wagyu oyster blade, potato, parsley root & nettle
I was very full by this stage, but dessert always kicks my second stomach into gear. This dish of sheep's milk yoghurt was a strange one for me. I wouldn't say that I disliked it, but I didn't necessarily like it either. The elements, separately, worked for me, but not together. The sheep's milk yoghurt was topped by a jelly, which didn't really add anything for me. The various textures of the carrot was interesting, with a biscuit like crumble, mandarin and some grains adding further interest. However, the whole dish tasted a bit muted. I would have loved the yoghurt to be paired with a stronger flavoured, extra sweet sauce to lift it up.
Sheep's milk yoghurt, mandarin and carrot granita
The final dish of the night was yet another dessert and I smiled from ear to ear. I was a little disappointed with the sheep's milk yoghurt and had assumed that was the only dessert. I still craved something sweeter and was delighted by this final dessert. As with all the other dishes throughout the degustation, the plating was pure art. A honeycomb cake sat between immaculately produced quenelles of violet ice cream and chocolate ganche. Some biscuit crumbs and sour cherry finished the desert. I love violet and tried to find it everywhere whilst I was in Paris recently, without luck. So when I heard that Cutler and Co used violet essence in their ice cream, I almost wanted to ask if I could buy a bottle off them. Anyway, I ate the wonderful violet ice cream and paired it with both the cake and ganache. What a sensational mix of flavours, textures and temperatures. I haven't mentioned it earlier but quite a few of the dishes had different temperatures, intentionally, to provide even more of a sensation. The abalone soup acutally had some granita in it and when you had the soup, there was a cold hit temporarily, which was nice. The sheeps milk dessert had granita too, again giving a quick cold bite.
Violet ice cream, chocolate ganache, sour cherry
The meal was an absolute delight and one I shall remember and compare a lot of future meals with. The hype surrounding Cutler and Co was met for me. At $130 for the degustation menu, I thought that was excellent value. There were some great pairings of flavours that I haven't tasted elsewhere, so I'll be trying to go back soon. Reading all the other dishes on the a la carte menu already had me wanting to return.
The ambience in the restaurant was excellent. We got there at half passed six and the room was still emptier. It was quieter but the music in the background kept a nice ambience. When the room filled up fully, it was extremely boisterous and buzzing. As mentioned earlier, I found their lighting levels to also be perfect for mood without making me want to sleep. The service was efficient, comfortable and informed. Water was replenished, requests met, meals brought over and warmly explained and even when I spilt my glass of water, it was quickly mopped up with minimum fuss.
Reviews from other bloggers highlight some other aspects of the resturant. Cindy from Where's The Beef loved their vegetarian degustation. Agnes from Off The Spork loved their Sunday lunch menu. Claire from Melbourne Gastronome is a massive fan of their a la carte menu, whilst Brian from Fitzroyalty provides an opposing view with some bad service issues. Read the other reviews to give yourself a more rounded assessment of Cutler and Co.
For me personally, I rank this restaurant right up there with any other current Melbourne restaurant and would go back anytime. I felt relaxed all night and the food was of the highest standard, with lots of surprises that I loved. Who would have thought I would ever like a vegetable dish the most. Andrew McConnell has definitely created a restaurant worthy of all the talk.
Overall Rating: 19/20, Food and service exceptional. Ambience is very relaxing.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.