Monday, June 20, 2011

Taste Buds in the Clouds


Address: 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria, 2000
Telephone: (03) 9650 1445

Opening Hours:  
Monday to Friday - 7am to 11pm
Saturday and Sunday - 8am to 11pm 

Rating: 4.5 / 5 

The day after my brother's 18th birthday, the family decided to go out for a nice dinner to celebrate his coming of age. The lateness was not so much due to my parents' failing to celebrate their eldest son’s special day, but rather the result of a carefree teenager not minding if he worked late on his birthday. Nonetheless, a milestone meal was in order.

After twice attempting to simply turn up at Cumuls Inc. and be seated (they only accept bookings for 7 to 14 people), we arrived at 6.20pm sharp to snare a table. It was a wise decision; had we been ten minutes later we would have been forced to wait impatiently at the bar or to go elsewhere.

Located at the end of Flinders Lane in Melbourne CBD, Cumulus is a warm space that fits somewhere between a modern, wood cabin living room and an inner-city loft. The plain white walls are dotted with black window frames and light settings, while wooden chairs add a homely feel. As you enter, the bar on the left buzzes with young bartenders constructing cocktails whilst on the right, the open kitchen displays its culinary creations.

The service is attentive and although the eatery is certainly a little bit fancy, the prices are reasonable and reflect the quality of the food. 

To Start.

After arguing light-heartedly over what to order, we ended up getting a little bit of everything. We began with a selection of starters, the best of which was the raw king salmon with wood sorrel. The soft salmon was fresh and delicious, complemented by a pea puree and topped with crunchy wood sorrel and tangy pickled onion.

We also enjoyed slow cooked, tender octopus with aioli and dehydrated olive. The bite-sized morsels were incredibly addictive with sweet, acidic tomato, basil and a slice of fiery, green chilli that added an unexpected kick. The family mopped up the aioli remnants with fresh bread, dismissing suggestions that such actions could render us full before the main meal.


A couple of smoked corn and mussel chowders were ordered to share. The waitress kindly offered to separate the soup into five equal portions so no one was left out. A warming winter dish, the creamy chowder was broken up with a sprinkle of crunchy powdered croutons and a drizzle of olive oil. At the bottom of the glass, a tender scallop awaited as a tasty suprise. 

Salads and Sides.

Although my mother suggested we steer away from beetroot, seeing as we had eaten some for lunch, I could not resist the warm organic beetroots with goat's milk yoghurt. The mild sauce added a cool touch to the soft vegetable and was soon devoured, even by those who claimed they do not usually like beetroot.

I am often hesitant to order carrots, as images of overcooked, tasteless vegetables served with peas and mashed potato comes to mind. However, the organic carrots with almond cream and harissa was an original contrast of textures with a north African twist... although I very much doubt you would find anything of the kind on the street stalls in Morocco.

The grilled eggplant, tahini, cumin and fenugreek was to die for. The crunchy leaves of the fenugreek, whose seed is often used in curries, complemented the soft, flavoursome eggplant. The tahini added a creamy dimension that completed the dish.


One of my favourite dishes of the night was the superb tuna tartare with crushed green pea salad. The shiny yellow-fin tuna chunks were served atop a crunchy green pea salad that melted in the mouth. With a hint of lemon tang and a creamy yoghurt sauce, the plate was practically licked clean.    


From the Charcuterie menu we sampled Wagyu bresaola with pickled onions and horseradish. The paper-thin meat was delectable and instantly made you salivate in anticipation of another mouthful. The pickled onions also cut through the fattiness of the meat, with the horseradish adding a piquant bite. 


Although the whole lamb shoulder was tempting, we ended up ordering the Hickory smoked tri tip beef rump. It was a top grade cut, cooked to perfection and was crispy on the outside but still tender and pink in the middle. The sweetness of the meat was mellowed by the bed of barley that cushioned it, while the ever present green pea puree provided the necessary splash of colour as well as a smooth, creamy finish. I could have eaten more of this dish... but that would have meant missing out on dessert!


Although it failed to jump out at me from the menu, my father insisted on ordering the quince rice pudding, mead ice cream and quince jelly. I was pleasantly surprised. The spicy cinnamon flavours of the pudding cut through the subdued mead ice cream, which tasted subtly yeasty. The quince jelly was refreshingly sweet while the biscuit on the side provided a backbone to the unctuousness of the dish.

Ginger treacle pudding with fig and sour cream ice cream: now that is my kind of dessert! The thick, ginger sauce was absolutely delicious and soaked through the entire pudding. The sour cream ice cream was a zestier take on traditional vanilla which took the dish to another level while the fig acted as a palate cleanser in between mouthfuls of rich pudding.

Speaking of rich, the soft chocolate ice cream in the mandarin sorbet, soft chocolate and clove meringue dessert was like eating an ice cream ganache. Dark and smooth, the chocolate ellipse was offset by the tangy but sweet mandarin sorbet. Both were bedded on a meringue and chocolate 'soil,' which added a complementary crunch.

The meal at Cumulus Inc. was similar to the cumulus cloud upon which the name and logo of the popular restaurant are based: as close to gastronomic heaven as you can get. I will definitely be back to try next season's menu.

One last handy hint: Cumulus Inc. also does a good value breakfast! Choose from bircher muesli with grated apple and almonds ($10), candied orange and raisin toast ($8), house smoked sardines, parsley salad and a slow-cooked egg ($15) among other delights! For something heartier, The Full English breakfast includes farmhouse slab bacon, blood sausage on toast, fried eggs, and smoked tomato ($18) or sample the Shakshuka baked eggs with roast peppers and marinated Persian feta. 

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

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