Ok ... I've said this before and I'll say it again ... there's nothing that screams a good night out more than a fantastic meal, beautiful wine, engaging and warm company ... oh and cigs!! Wendy's happy/sad news notwithstanding, nothing could have possibly marred our evening.
We had planned a catch up with the "girls" but D texted a last minute exam woe panic, and in the meantime the H's had thrown up the idea of having a fancy dinner as they were N free for the night. So it was"too bad lets catch up during hols" for the former and "bring the mutha on!" for the latter.
And our venue for last night's culinary hi-jinx - Cumulus Inc.
Unless you are a table of 5 or more, you can't book. This being Saturday night, I was a little anxious at not being able to (a) find park, (b) get in. We had no real plan B, so I kept my fingers excitedly crossed throughout the day. And I was excited!! I've been wanting to have dinner here for ever so long.
The H's were safely esconced in a corner when we got there. We had our names on a list and were informed that there would be about an hour's wait. The staff were terrific and with a glass of prosecco in hand, we hunched into our wooden stools and enjoyed each other's company as the minutes literally flew by. It felt more like 15 mins before we were shown to our table right next to the open kitchen. Admittedly a second glass of viognier helped to push the ticking hands on the clock a smidge.
Our tattooed waitress helped with a few menu translations and before long we had our gastronomic itinerary laid out for the evening. We started off with a few skewers of smoked eel served with Japanese turnip and fresh horseradish:
The eel was perfectly smoked, minus the acridity and wonderfully pliant in texture.
Next came the slow cooked ocotpus with aioli and dehydrated olive:
This was an OMG moment on the palate. The octopus was melt-in-the-mouth tender and melded perfectly with the sweet tangy aioli.
Then came the enterprising part of the evening. We delved into unchartered territory with our next set of choices. We had the Smoked Wagyu tongue with mustard fruits:
This was an extreme nostalgic hit for me. I remember tongue sandwhiches from my early childhood. Sliced meats were strictly the provencance of the wealthy and the cheapest cut we could get was tongue. So when I bit into my first bite I was transported back to my primary school days at recess under the banyan tree lusting after Nicholas' roast beef. This was more ham than ham. A real savoury hit and not gristly at all!!
Along with the tongue, we were served our Pheasant terrine:
This was served with shallots, cornichons, what looked and tasted like a mayonaisse and baby beet leaves (perhaps). This was a little more subtle than expected. I was hoping for a gamier touch but it tasted like, as M said, a cross between chicken and duck. Still I would have been happy to have had this all to myself.
Our biggest leap came next, which was the Boudin Noir (or black pudding):
I wasn't sure what to expect, but this was rich as!! It did not taste in the least bit bloody, or iron-ey. I could only manage a couple of mouthfuls before the flavour was starting to pall ever so slightly. But you really need to try this. It is amaaazzziing!! That first mouthful was like nothing I've really ever tasted. I would love to replicate that flavour and cut the richness somehow. It would have been heaven spread on toast!
Our shared mains came next. First up, was the Barramundi:
When fish is cooked well and with respect, it really doesn't matter how it comes or is served. This was cooked well and well respected!! Simply served, simply sauced and simply put - marvellous!!
It was served with one of the sides we ordered which was the spiced cauliflower with goats curd:
This ellicited the busiest response from our more than captive crowd. We talked over each other frenziedly trying to figure out where the smokiness was coming from and what spice combinations were used. This is one of those must haves ... a not so simple side. And the pomegranate seeds like ruby red jewels ... lush!
Next up was the Mustard crumbed pig's tail with garlic snails, pickled shallots and watercress:
Hands down for me this shot to number one with a bullet!! The crumbed batter was delicious!!! And the pig's tail was all gooey and gelatinous, a morass of fat that was a veritable heart stopper. I'm always up for garlic snails but they just paled into little chewy nuggets of insignificance. This was indeed the highlight of the evening for me.
Wisely they served this with our second side for the meal which was the Rocket, radicchio, salted ricotta & candied walnuts:
This helped to counterpoint the richness of the pork, but in itself was no simple afterthought. It is to the restaurant's credit that a seemingly simple salad can consist of so many sapid touchpoints - the quality of the salt used; the crunch of the candied walnuts; the creaminess of the tiny shaved bits of ricotta - all distinct yet perfect in combination.
To libate us through all of this we chose a Heathcote Shiraz from Carlei Green Vineyards:
And as standard, we had room for sweets. We chose 2 from a small selection.
Pear sorbet, burnt butter shortbread and almond milk:
Steamed chocolate pudding with hazelnut toffee and creme fraiche ice cream:
I'm reluctant to report that in comparison with the taste sensations gone before, our desserts were a little underwhelming. That is not to discount how good they actually were but in relative terms they didn't quite deliver that dessert punch that we have experienced in other establishments. In fact, I go so far to say that in spite of the interesting components, these were rather prosaic.
MH was taken by the pear sorbet but I was more inclined towards the almond milk which was more of a pannacotta ... I do love my pannacotta!!
M and K were more enthused by the chocolate pudding. If it was a tad richer and served a little hotter I think it would have made all the difference. I have to say that our homestyle chocohotopots are better. Lets be real.
Right. Thats one more tick! Now onto Press club, vue de monde, attica, cutler & co ... the list goes on.
And you know what, this is how I imagined part of my life to be ... maybe things aren't as bleak after all.