45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9650 1445
Let me start by saying I don’t think I’ve ever read or reread a blog post as much as I have this one. I’ve toyed with the idea that perhaps I don’t have the right to say what I’m about to say about Cumulus Inc., given it is run by one of the country’s best chefs. I read an article recently by food critic Stephen Downes who said that a bloggers opinion was worthless as they don’t have the experience or the palate to justify their critique (available here taken from Voyeur, July 2011). But then again, you’ve arrived at my blog because you care about what I have to say. So here I go..
The other morning, Miss H and I decided to have breakfast before work at Cumulus Inc, Andrew McConnell’s iconic Melbourne eatery. Opened in 2008, it has a well established reputation for serving delicious food the McConnell way: simple, beautiful dishes that rely heavily on the quality of their ingredients.
I have previously had enjoyable experiences at Cumulus, visiting for breakfast soon after it opened and again for dinner more recently (an event I did not post), so on this occasion I had high expectations. With a reputation like McConnell’s it’s hard not to: Cumulus Inc. has received a chefs hat in The Age’s Good Food Guide the last three years in a row; his Fitzroy restaurant, Cutler and Co., won Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant of the year for 2011 and this year placed 3rd to NSW’s Marque and Quay; and his newest restaurant, Golden Fields in St Kilda opened in May last year and has been surrounded by positive hype ever since (it’s on my list of places to visit!).
When I arrived at Cumulus at 7.30am, I was surprised to find the place near empty but for a familiar face sitting against the back wall. The tranquillity wasn’t to last though, as by the time we left at 8.30am the place was full. Oh the difference an hour can make. As I slid my way into my seat, aided by our friendly waiter, I noticed how close together these tables along the back wall were. If you feel like a less intimate meal with your neighbours, grab one of the free standing tables.
I read the menu, but was disappointed to find that nothing really caught my eye. I’m not really one for sweet breakfasts, which instantly cut the menu in half for me, but if you like bircher museli, poached fruit and yoghurt, or beautiful preserves with great toast, there’s plenty for you. Surprisingly there’s no offer of just “eggs on toast” or the usual selection of extras. Instead, the only option for eggs available that day was either with a full english breakfast (including blood sausage), or as I chose, baked in a tomato sauce with roast peppers and feta ($16.00), a real oversight in my opinion.
My baked eggs wern’t bad, but they weren’t particularly amazing either – just another standard baked eggs in a tomato based sauce with some feta. Meh. The bread was good though – thick and dense. Miss H meanwhile went for the self titled Cumulus Inc. breakfast: a boiled egg served with a heaping pile of toast and preserves, yoghurt with poached fruit, organic orange juice and a choice of either tea or coffee ($16.00).
I loved how the preserves were presented in their jam jars – nothing worse than those little sachets that run out before you’ve covered a whole piece of toast.
All in all I had a nice time at Cumulus Inc. but wasn’t bowled over. Perhaps it is Melbourne’s growing obsession with brunch that by comparison makes Cumulus’ breakfasts seem quite ordinary. I feel terrible for saying this (or even feeling as though I have the right to), but I think the breakfast menu is lagging behind what many expect these days from such a reputable place such as Cumulus. I didn’t feel like I had a lot to choose from, and what I chose wasn’t amazing. When it opened in 2008, the menu may have been groundbreaking and inspiring, but by today’s standards it is just that: standard. Either that or I am just getting quite finicky in my old (blogging) age.
I think had I been writing about my dinner experience rather than breakfast, this post may have turned out quite different. On that occasion, some friends and I shared the roast lamb shoulder amongst other things which was lovely. But sadly, I’m grading them on their breakfasts. Yes, the quality of the ingredients was there, and I’m not saying the food was bad; it was nice enough. I just expected more. There are plenty of great places in Melbourne to go for breakfast, but I don’t think Cumulus Inc. is one of them.