How does one start? When everyone else has covered it and it's already well known and well loved for it's creative, yet always fresh and tasty experiences. That's right. Not meals, experiences.
We all know the one. Cutler & Co, the reincarnation of an old metal work factory, camouflaged into the 'I could care less' hipster attitude of Gertrude St. What is with 2 hat restaurants being all randomly hidden, in odd locations, that are not always the most convenient places to get to?
Brad and I had established sometime ago that we would visit Cutler and Co as my birthday treat (because I always kept talking about it...). My birthday has long since come and gone, but during the actual period both Brad and I were a little tight on the financial side of things, so we pushed the inevitable date back until a more suitable period.
And we also both weren't used to having to make a booking way in advance either! We had tried the week before, on a weekend, on a weekday, early and late, but I eventually called up, asked for a date two weeks in advance and was told I could come in at 6pm, but that we would have to leave by 8.
I asked if 2 hours was enough for the degustation and I was assured that it would be…although when I shared this news with Bryan on our dinner date at Hako the week before...he looked at me in a concerned way, before telling me the last time he was there his meal dragged on for four hours or so....hmmmmmm.
On the night, Brad and I arrived about 20 minutes to 6, to make sure we could maximise whatever time we would be permitted. We were politely greeted and sat in the bar area with a drinks menu that we pored over, as the floorstaff were still having their pre-dinner meeting or briefing. I found it quite impressive, could've used more of those back when I was waitressing...
We decided not to order drinks until we were seated at our table and promptly at 6pm, we were guided to our seats. I got the cushioned bench (as always). I love getting in before other people and being able to snap pictures of interiors without worrying about people thinking I might be taking pictures of them...(hasn't happened yet, but I hypothesize).
Cutler and Co. is beautiful, especially when it's dark, what I imagine could come across as harder, modern, metallic surfaces, in this light they darken and soften, which is emphasized by the almost alien-esque light fixtures, oddly soft and organically shaped. They kind of make me think of jellyfish. Except they are made of meshy taffeta and are hanging off the ceiling. The somber tones I think contribute to the 'formal but informal' atmosphere.
Brad had just gotten new glasses with a new prescription and kept commenting on how it looked like the walls were 'coming in', as he was adjusting to them. He also spent a lot of the night staring off into space due to this...
It was clear to me that if we were at Culter & Co, that we would just have to have the degustation.
So we did.
We started our night by sharing a 500mL bottle of Aspall Suffolk Cyder (why the y?). I don't remember it vividly, but we both did enjoy it very much. Not too sweet.
Waitresses came around holding a plate with two types of bread on it, I can't remember what the other was, but we both opted for the sourdough. They weren't as warm as I would expect, but with a nice firm crust and chewy, hearty middles. Bit of work to get into it, but that's a good sourdough for you right?
Our degustation started with a slew of appetizers coming to the table all at once, so that it was filled with a marvellous mix of colours. Unfortunately my 50mm lens doesn't let me capture that all at once, so I'm just going to take it bit by bit.
I loved how the oysters kind of looked like hearts. Or is that just me imagining things? Whilst small, they were incredibly lovely in texture, just so smooth. With a squeeze of lemon, it was perfect.
I think these were baby French radishes with a bit of sour cream on the side. So cute although not very flavoursome. I didn't quite understand what the sour cream was supposed to add to it as well, it was quite difficult to get it on the little things!
Smoked trout on a crouton, one each, two bites, happy tastebuds. It's as simple as that really. Whilst it had a nice flavour, it was only a small precursor to the yumminess of the other dishes that were to come....
A plate of yummy olives, I really enjoyed the variety and especially enjoyed the little ones which had more flavour to them i my opinion. Following that, a small bowl of roasted pumpkin seeds. Brad went nuts over the seeds and completely demolished the bowl of them, while I went to town on the olives.
I swooned, I sighed, I died. I couldn't stop gaping over how pretty the cured kingfish, octopus, avocado and pickled cucumber was. It was almost looking at a little pond, with lilypads and other such lovely greenery creeping all around it. There was a sprinkling of what I think are bonito flakes over it, which just gave such a rich full flavour to the fresh and crisp kingfish. Oh it was such a beautiful mix...then combined with the octopus which was nice and chewy and provided some play in texture, which is then again played upon with the addition of the creamy avocado dollops. They were perfect for smearing over the paper-thin-crisp cucumber, each mouthful was a delight, slightly different with all the textures and flavours. I was quite impressed that we were given such thick and big pieces of kingfish as well, who says degustations are all about tiny meals here?
Can you tell this was probably my favourite dish? I absolutely loved this and kept comparing everything to it all night...
Our next course was a jerusalem artichoke and leek soup, with Hervey Bay scallops, apples and chestnuts. The plate is put down in front of you with just dry ingredients first, then as the artichoke and leek soup is poured out, your olfactory system is just flooded with the most gorgeous aromatic smell. It smelt so hearty, so rich. It was just a delight.
I loved turning this plate around and analyzing it from all angles. This pretty picture was the spiced heirloom carrots, eggplant, shanklish, pistachio and radish. I thought it was just the cutest little pile, with some of the carrots looking like they were even coming out of the plate, and I loved the squiggle at the ends of the carrot, the sprinkling of the shanklish and pistachio delicately around, almost looking like soil. The prettiest kind of course.
Sadly though, although the flavours were nice, with some nice strong hints of curry and spices, this dish wasn't a star stand out to me. Whilst I appreciate the earthiness of the dish, the carrots were quite naturally sweet and cooked so that they were still fairly firm, it didn't make me 'ooh' and 'aah' as much as I would have liked. Maybe a little too grounded for me. But really, I am just looking for things to nitpick on here and we still both cleaned this up.
This would probably have had to have been my second favourite dish in the degustation. The poached chicken with foie gras parfait, sprouts, quinoa and prune played to every one of your sense. Who ever thought poached chicken could be so amazingly tender?! I honestly would never have guessed I think, some smokey element in it played off the crunch and brightness in the sprouts and quinoa. Oh and that foie gras....oh the foie gras! So rich, but yet so complimentary and not overwhelming. I think what still tickled me the most about this was the play on textures, there was so much soft and tender, but directly juxtaposed with so much crunchy, I know it's a bit lame, but it was literally, a party in my mouth!
My mouth must have dropped when I saw this in front of us. Um. It's kinda huge guys. I'm kind of getting full here. Roast kurobuta pork rack with morcilla (or black pudding), sweet and sour shallots and almond. I was honestly surprised at the generous portion that was given to us...considering we were 5 courses in already (lumping the appetizers all as one course). The meat was to die for, although the portion we received was quite lean looking, it was so sweet and tender. My knife just went through it as if it was slightly firm butter. And just as well as it wasn't too fatty as it was so moreish, I would have been completely stuffed afterwards!
My only complaint? More black pudding please!
Oops. Was happily tucking into it and forgot to take a picture. Durandal with pickled beetroot. Best thing ever. Loved this. Even though we were only provided with a few thin slices of the cheese, it was so amazingly fulfilling in taste, kind of bitey but kind of creamy (if that even makes sense), every bite of it really filled up your mouth. I wanted more. A lot more. Almost to the point where I would have run into the kitchen and stolen it home.
But I would never want to be black listed at any of Andrew McConnell's restaurants, so I just made do with what was given to me. The beetroot was a nice interjection to tone down the richness of the cheese and add a sweet note.
Ah, so funny story with these pictures (sort of, heart breaking at the time). We were presented with these absolutely beautiful palate cleansers, mini mandarin sorbets in wee cones, which were salted and light and crisp. The mandarin sorbet was just beautiful as well, sweet but tart enough to do it's job. They were such a whimsical addition amidst everything else.
However, when it came out...my Nikon D90 refused to take pictures. The display started to flash all weird error codes and no matter what I did to it, eject the battery, take the lens out, turn it on and off, it refused to co-operate.
I must have looked absolutely crestfallen as I was shitting myself and whining over how gorgeous and adorable the mini ice-cream cones were. Heart broken!
Then for some reason, my camera decided to work after we had each taken a bite in to it...hence a half eaten photo.
And then again, when the next course came out, it shat itself when I tried to take a picture of the plate in it's completeness, but came back to life after we had taken a few bites of it. Talk about having a mind of it's own. So pardon the iPhone pictures in the sea of pretty.
Dessert was a curious mix of violet ice cream, chocolate ganache and sour cherry sauce that was smeared along the bottom. Again just to look at, there were so many textures, and quite an interesting colour palette for dessert. Purple ice-cream? What a novelty!
I personally really liked the violet ice-cream, it was so delicate and floral, although everytime I scooped up a bite of it and when to eat it, I ended up inhaling the 'sand' it was sitting on, sending it right to the back of my throat! It's probably not very sexy to see me not learn my lesson and continue to cough and hack every time it happened, fortunately Brad and I have been going out for over a year...
I enjoyed the chocolate, it's chocolate, what's not to enjoy, and it went quite well with the violet, being slightly warmer and denser than the ice-cream so creating an interesting blend between the two. However, I did find the sour cherry overwhelmed the light violet ice-cream. And the sponge didn't really do a whole lot for me....could have just gone for more ice-cream and sand really...
I'm a visual orientated person and quite a tactile person, so I found Cutler and Co played right to my senses perfectly. I thought the food was all delicious and it was so much fun, playing and exploring all the different flavours and textures that came with each dish (I don't even want to count how many times I've probably mentioned texture in this post...).
Service the whole night was impeccable, I feel they've really achieved their aim of providing quite formal and attentive food in a relaxed manner, there was barely any noticeable up-selling and we weren't interrupted too often and left to our own devices most of the night. I am also certainly glad they didn't keep to their word of us needing to leave by 8pm! We didn't end up leaving until sometime past 9:30....
But Brad and I left feeling very happy, with me a little bubble of excitement still talking about that first kingfish dish....
57 Gertrude St