Cutler & Co
7/10 on Wednesday 2 August 2018
The Walrus: We have not been to Cutler & Co for a number of years. The last outing was quite a memorable visit with Cutler & Co being classified easily in our “top 5” . This outing sees a newly renovated space with much focus on the front of house and the private dining rooms out the back. The middle space has been updated but has the same basic form. The feeling is a much more relaxed and accessible venue that the previous iteration.
The Carpenter: It was a clear June Thursday in 2012 when we first pulled up at a table in the “old” Cutler & Co. This was our first foray into the ever trendier Brunswick eating scene - one which we have become more and more enamoured with over the years. While my google records are accurate, my memory is less so - all I can confirm is that we were at a table on the western edge of the dining room, and I was sitting with my back to the West wall. They refit didn’t strike me as dramatically different, although I didn’t remember the oddly positioned sliding greyed glass wall for entry to the toilets. I could have saved them about a thousand bucks on that particular folly. The chairs this time were adequate - I wasn’t uncomfortable. We were seated on the Eastern wall of the dining room. A square table, not oversized, with minimal superfluous decoration and sufficient space to feel quite comfortable chatting amicable about many and varied a topic. Of note in the news today was a piece on the main stream emergence of sex robots for remedial therapy with residents of aged care facilities. Oh, and punters at the local South Korean Blow n Go bar….
W: We usually go for a Gin Martini, slightly dirty with whole olives as the starter to any dinner outing. However, this is one of the few establishments in town that stock Lillet so I feel it's time to indulge in a classic: the Vesper Martini. The result is quite a refreshing change from our normal fare. The main difference: the Olive/Brine components being swapped out for the much cleaner and clearer citrus notes from the Lillet and lemon twist. Overall, a good start and finally happy with a Vesper under my belt. 8/10
Being a Chardonnay fan, but not wanting to go overboard on the volume of drinks, the “by the glass section” offers a Tolpuddle Vineyards Chardonnay for $35 (although the same “by the glass” menu on their website prices this at $25 which is a little annoying) and this is the recommendation from our server to pair with the entree we are going to try. The wine is quite creamy with a green apple citrus profile with a good level of acidity. Very nice. 7.5/10
C: I like to sit back and relax - let the wait staff and the sommelier do their work. And follow the flow of the evening. The Vesper was a great opener. That glass of Chardonnay was tasty. The dessert wine, something from Italy somewhere, was a great distraction from my poorly considered dessert. 8/10
W: Roasted bugs, cauliflower, bagna cauda & sunflower seeds. Basically, cauliflower three ways: stalk shavings, roasted rosettes and a bed of what is a cauliflower couscous. Also some seeds and sweetness from raisins. The cauliflower is well prepared and for someone who really only goes for cauliflower in its puree form, it was quite enjoyable….however, bugs are one of my favourite foods and there is a lot of cauliflower on the plate. Overall, the delicate taste of the bugs is swamped by the cauliflower. So as a complete dish, it's a slight miscalculation of the balance. The fact it was under seasoned didn't help its cause. 6/10
C: I went for the bugs too. Not because it was a stand out signature dish, but because of the other three entrees on the menu none warranted consideration. Hard to put my finger on why - they just didn’t. In a way that evolved throughout the night to amount to an underwhelming menu overall.The bug was delicious - the mustard sauce (bagna cauda I guess) was delicious. But there was double the amount of cauliflower required, or was it half as much bug? So the dish was lost. 6/10
W: Roast suckling pig, sweet & sour onions and potato cake. I was a little wary after entree, but have no fear because this dish was outstanding. Some of the sweetest tasting pork with delicate crackling you could ever hope for. The pickled onions added nice acidity and the potato cake provided exactly what it says on the label. Really top notch cookery here. 9/10
C: Agreed. Another case of only one choice on the menu worth considering. Out of four. Of course with an obligatory shaving of truffle if you wanted it for an extra $22. The pig was outstanding. The crackling actually a thin sheet of toasty goodness. Delicious potato cake - an actual slice of cake made of potato rather than the deep fried beauties of the downtown fish n chip shop. And beautifully paired with that chardy. Highlight of the evening. After the vesper. Bounded within the walls of the restaurant. 8.5/10
W: Before we were presented with dessert, a nice surprise was delivered to the table in the form of a “pre-dessert”. This consisted of two frozen halves of a passionfruit filled with vanilla bean ice cream and topped with freshly made passion fruit sorbet. Fantastically smooth and flavoursome, quite a revelation and great for cleansing the palate after the heavy pork main. 9.5/10
C: Cracking little passionfruit dish jam packed with flavor. Quite an unexpected oddity after the clunkiness of the menu up to this point. Maybe more the clunkiness of the service - there was a distinct lack of sophistication from our server that downgraded the whole experience. Unlike a sophisticated single bite packed with flavor this was a chunky half a passionfruit. Literally. The lack of delicacy again creates a bit of confusion. Tasty but a lost effort. 5/10
W: My pick for dessert was the dutch baby with cherry blossom ice cream, candied almonds and sour cherries. Not a bad dessert. It's a pancake with sour cherries and a dollop of cherry blossom ice cream. It did need a little something to bring it together as a dish though, the ice cream wasn't enough. A sweet sauce maybe? 7/10
C: Nothing beats a warm apple pie a la mode on a cold winter evening. Well, if that’s what you’re thinking definitely don’t order the terrine.Cold, gelatinous, blandly flavored but slightly bitter slug of apple terrine sitting in a deconstructed apple pie setting. I’m not even sure why this is on the menu at this time of year, or all really. And across the table that dutch baby was an ugly looking piece of work. Uninspired stuff. 3/10
W: We were only shown the “by the glass” list of dessert wines with the recommendation being the Bissoni Albana di Romagna Passito, which was ok, but I would have rathered a nice botrytis wine with dessert. The Bissoni tasted a little bit too much on the fortified side of the equation for me. 6/10
C: That italian number was a cracker. Hard to really rate it though when the dessert wasn’t worth pairing anything with. I vaguely remember them coming late too - but I’ll defer to my esteemed dinner mate. By then I was losing interest - nothing saddens me like a disappointing dessert. 8/10
W: Prompt and efficient. Not much in the way of personal service, but not offensive. 7/10
C: A little too prompt with the bug - we were still enjoying the vesper. And sadly lacking in that personal dutch - refused to acknowledge a hilarious dad joke about how the dutch baby was served. And walked off in the middle of an attempt to clarify the actual nature with some inquisitive dutch baked goods banter. The initial greeting was extremely cordial, efficient and thoughtful - it was a pity the handover fell into some sort of over-practiced aloofness. Noly saved by the good drink reccys. 6/10
W: Not what it used to be but I can see what they are trying to do with a heavy focus on the more casual front bar aspect of the restaurant. They seem to have lost the consistency of the overall experience as it felt very fragmented. They have also joined in the multiple seating per night gimmick. Gone are the days when a table at a top notch restaurant can be booked for the evening. Tends to feel rushed when you book an early session. 7.5/10
C: Ditto on the rushed feel. In a neighborhood where there are more and more crackingly good restaurants, Cutler & Co has invested in a refresh that has seen it lose it’s edge, present a second rate menu and a confusing meal plan. So disappointing after it’s long held top 5 nostalgia position. 6.5/10
W: We managed to stick with the sometime tradition of an after dinner drink to finish off the night. Where possible we always make our way to the Smithward bar in Smith Street Collingwood where Graham behind the bar not only remembers us each time, but happily re-creates one of the best drinks I have learned to appreciate later in life. The Boulevardier. Along with the complimentary bowl of smoked almonds it's the perfect way to finish up…..it even makes up for any shortcomings of the dinner. 10/10
C: Nothing will make up for the shortcomings of that dinner - but Graham sports a cracking hairstyle and serves the best boulevardier we’ve found in the city. None of this pretentious single ball or brick of ice. No gimmicks. Just an expertly made drink with exactly the right balance of flavor for a battle hardened palate. We’ve been here half a dozen times after an initial accidently pop-in, and it just fits like a glove. An intimate space that seats about 15 is you arrange yourselves well. With about five bottles on the wall Graham’s offering is specific and deliberate. Masquerading as a wine bar it’s actually something very special. 10.5/10
C: We often use UBER at the end of the night, with a drop off in East Melbourne before the long trip out to the burbs. In the past this has been an easy one touch transition after the first drop - thank you UBER. And as of now, it just got even easier. Get the latest app update and you can now put in up to three stops on the trip home when you order. With auto recognition of the way points. Did I mention Thank You UBER? Actually though Mustafa (not the lion) did almost get me wiped out a couple of times with a few lazy “those line markings are just guides” bit of road surfing…..