Cutler & Co.

57 Gertrude St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
03 9419 4888

Gertrude St, Dec 2010
What comes to mind when you see this picture? Doesn’t it look like somewhere old and nostalgic? This picture reminds me of an old Western town set in the 60’s, with low-key businesses, workshops and tradesmiths lining the main street. Gertrude St is a little bit like that. Historical, industrial and nondescript. On that very stretch of road, sits Australian Gourmet Traveller’s 2011 Restaurant of the Year.
I love unobtrusive entrances. Jo was driving along Gertrude and she said “The restaurant’s on the left, look for it”. I immediately said “There are no restaurants here!”. An old metal-work factory has been converted into a great place to eat, everyone’s been calling it “Cutler & Co.”. Where could it be? Turned out it was indeed there, I just had to look harder.

The place had modern architectural elements kept in a workplant’s landscape. I like stuff like that. I almost wanted to live in Fitzroy, with its warehouse loft apartments. So sexy. The restaurant was similar. I especially liked the walls. Textured old factory bricks painted white. Against that, dark modern tables and chairs laid order to the panorama, through which black polished waitstaff would weave about in a polyglot of elegant service.
Carolyn unceremoniously dumped her baby with her husband so that she could join us for tonight’s degustation. Such was its pull. Poor hubby, lol. Isn’t he a catch? Jo also had to banish her ancient but adorable chihuahua back in her apartment after work. The pooch looked at us quietly, trustingly and curiously as we shut the door on her. There was a small bark from behind the door when we entered the elevator. I have such caring and wonderful colleagues, ha ha!
This 8 course degustation would be a first for Jo and I. I don’t think I have ever forked out more than $100 for any meal in my life (except for wedding Ang Paos). I justified this expense by comparing dining this way to a major concert. You pay over a hundred bucks to get squashed with (potentially smelly) people in a concert, and you don’t even get a meal or drinks out of that! In a degustation dinner, you spend your evening in beautiful surroundings, seated at a table, you can hear yourself talk, and you get served with amazing cuisine. Think of it that way and it’s worth the price.
Our waitress could’ve almost been Julia Gillard’s look-alike. She was really nice to our table, plus her accent’s better. We were greedy, we wanted two of us to go degustation and one of us á la carte. That way we get to see even more of the menu. Most restaurants would probably say no. But Julia was happy to discuss and create any options we wanted, mix and match. We decided to all go with the degustation in the end. But we appreciated the flexibility. Before she left, she also asked politely asked if any of us had any dietary needs or restrictions. I had to stop myself from saying “my religion disallows small portions”.


Marinated olives, roasted soy pepitas in soy sauce
Nice variety of olives. Good quality, especially the tiny ones. They’re not the overly vinegary sort. The girls loved the soy pepitas, but I thought it can be so easily recreated. Just sprinkle soy sauce over pepitas, add a tinge of fine sugar and roast. They were addictive.

Freshly shucked oysters
I like my oysters small, the giant meatier ones are scary. My boss choked on one of those humongous ones at Movida, lol. These are nice and small. They were quite good but to be frank, I’ve tasted fresher oysters. Jo agreed.

Wagyu bresaola with anchovy pastry
Interesting concept. The bresaola tasted like any other good cured meat to me —> salty. But it had good texture and resilience and looked like top grade meat. You are meant to wrap the bresaola around the fried stick of anchovy pastry and eat. Fun thing to do, but I bit into it and didn’t think much about the mix of tastes.

Smoked trout and caviar on biscotti
Amazing. Oh my god, amazing flavours! You know how sometimes you bite into something and your mind screams “yes, yes yes!”? Gosh, I had a food orgasm here. Far better than that somewhat similarly arranged tapas dish Anchoa at Movida. The description of this appetiser might be incorrect, I didn’t take note of what the waiter said as we got served. The smoked trout tasted great. There was a mild tangy twist somewhere too, maybe it was the pickled onion slice. And all of a sudden, the smack of deeply mouthwatering caviar creeps in, wow.


Cured kingfish, octopus, fresh wasabi, avocado & cucumber
Look at that extraordinary presentation. Goodness, what’s that teeny purply leaf garnishing? We all really liked this entrée. I almosthad a mini food orgasm here. (It’s difficult to attain more than one in one night, so they say). Thick, confident slices of exquisitely fresh kingfish. A delightfully marinated and textured slice of octopus on top, and a hint of wasabi hidden somewhere inside the stack. I’m running out of synonyms for “delicious”. Jo wanted more wasabi activity in this dish though.

Spanner crab, abalone & sweet corn soup
You first get a plate of fresh ingredients – crab meat, abalone slices, white fungus, corn ice. Whoa, corn ice?? The waiter then pours the soup over the fresh ingredients. I think they’re just illustrating how the ingredients weren’t boiled to death before serving. Exciting presentation, and the idea of drinking soup that had bits of corn ice in it, hot and cold in one mouthful, how singular! The crab meat was really really fresh. And Jo, who doesn’t like abalone meat normally, found the abalone here very edible. We collectively thought the soup ingredients were quite Asian. Jo and I also thought the soup was a touch too salty.

Baby beetroot salad, goat’s curd, compressed apple & walnut
The girls liked this. I had that green cube on my first bite… it was compressed apple…!! All the bite and fruitiness of one apple compressed into a teeny fresh cube. I don’t like the smell in goat’s cheese or curd, but the other ingredients kept me interested. Crisp cubed apple, fluffy walnut powder, crunchy crystalline bits, earthy beetroot and pungent curd. It kept me going “?!!?!?”, but in a good way.


Crispy duck leg, smoked fillet, foie gras parfait, kohlrabi & orange
Just as I was fussing with the camera, Jo quipped “it smells like ngor hiang…” With that, I couldn’t keep still from laughter and all the pictures looked blur. Ngor hiang is a type of chinese five-spiced meat sausage wrapped in beancurd skin. The aroma wafted into my nose and I had to reluctantly agree, the deep fried duck leg did smell like ngor hiang!! Ahahaha… the dangers of having an Asian palate! We Singaporeans have effectively relegated a beautifully cooked crispy duck leg into a cheap Hokkien hawker dish. Aside from that, I didn’t think much of the foie gras parfait. But that small piece of blushing pink smoked duck breast… that was divine. Carolyn and I loved it. I swear it’s wood smoked or tea smoked or something like that.

Wood grilled Wagyu, smoked corn, King Brown mushrooms & garlic
The sweet corn didn’t make sense. Once I see slightly gooey corn, I can’t help associating that with tinned corn, or corn that you use to top ice cream. To me, the corn didn’t see eye to eye with both beef and mushroom. It made me feel sickly. Next to the nonsensical corn, sat a really tender cut of winsomely cooked Wagyu. Mmmm.. melt in your mouth steak! I didn’t warm to the sauce dribbled over it, but you really didn’t need sauce, the meat itself was flavoursome enough. Jo thinks she’s had better steaks elsewhere. But all of us thought the springy King Brown mushroom was just wondrous to eat.


Sheep’s milk yoghurt, granola & rhubarb granita
When I was taking a picture of this dessert, I thought “Ummm what’s this red mountain of ugly?”. I offhandedly had a taste…  !O!M!G! … promptly lifted the plate off the table and almost started shovelling. Rhubarb granita, I love youu!! The food must be very sexy here. I’ve had two food orgasms. Now where’s my cigarette?

Violet ice cream, chocolate ganache, sour cherry
The girls really liked this dessert. A floral tasting ice cream sitting on strange unidentifiable fluff that goes “poof” when you eat it. I wasn’t that impressed with the chocolate ganache and sour cherry sauce below it. And as for the ice cream the girls liked, I thought it reminded me country potpourri, lol.

Chocolate ice cream sandwich, vanilla parfait and salted caramel $17
We ordered this on top of everything else because friends from the blogosphere have been saying Cutler & Co’s ice cream sandwich is Mind-blowingly good. Carolyn absolutely loved this dessert. I was underwhelmed. Maybe all the buzz about it has raised my expectations waay too high. Didn’t find any of the components that noteworthy, and it seems I am not that excited by salted caramel the way everybody else is.

Two food orgasms in one night. What a sensational first!! We spent 4 hours here and had a marvellous time. The next time anyone mentions fine dining, you’d probably find me rubbing my hands with greed, chanting “Degustationnn… mmmmm”.

Now time to hunt for the next “degustable” place…
*wallet quietly whimpers*…

I’ve also visited Andrew McConnell’s other ventures: Cumulus Inc.Golden Fields.

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