In the most exciting restaurant news since Andrew McConnell opened Marion next door, Cutler & Co brings back its bar (among other things)
In the PR world they’d call it a brand refresh. In the cosmetic enhancement world they’d call it a nip and a tuck. In the military world they’d say Cutler & Co has gone in for a surgical strike. Whatever the nomenclature, Andrew McConnell has given his major Gertrude Street address a thorough going-over after eight years, dusting away any cobwebs, polishing the nameplate… and in the process devising a canny way of getting back in the media again.
It’s an indictment of our modern age that restaurants now have the equivalent of dog years. An accelerated life cycle means eight years is boringly middle-aged - hence the A-Mac’s decision to call in designer du jour Iva Foschia, who has deployed green marble slabs with abandon; introduced semi-circular leather booths, and knocked windows into the back wall, giving new life to the difficult space at the rear. It looks a million bucks. The best bit: the bar, reprised from days of yore (or at least 2012-ish), which never totally fired, spatially speaking, now has all the necessary accoutrements to succeed, including being wrapped around the open kitchen and basking in its energy. Nor should the siren song of an aperitif bar be ignored – Champagne rests on ice and a Negroni is only a charming waiter away.
Melbourne, meet your new favourite snacking spot, where a seafood-centric bar menu offers breaded abalone with tonkatsu sauce sandwiched in the kind of high-GI white bread your doctor warned you about. There are oysters so screamingly fresh you wonder if the rest of the Melbourne restaurant world is being dudded, and Padron peppers flashed in sherry vinegar play their sinister game of Russian roulette.
It’s a remarkably easy place to while away a few hours – but it would be a mistake to ignore Cutler & Co’s marquee menu, on offer further into the mood-lit inner sanctum where the trademark elegance has been refashioned into… trademark elegance. Glistening rounds of duckfish interleaved with translucent pickled daikon and dabbed in fresh Tasmanian wasabi, draped over a hillock of crème fraîche and salmon roe would easily win the title of crudo of the year, if such a thing existed. The pigeon has emerged as the go-to dish in the early stages of the reinvention. The gamey meat is matched by the iron depths of chicken liver, the torched sweetness of fig and salty swatches of jamon.
A mushroom pithivier with aged Comté, salt-baked celeriac buckwheat pancakes (à la beef Wellington) has as much meaty grunt as a vegetarian dish could conceivably hope for. Suckling pig with toffee-thin crackling, playing it minimalist with little sweet-sour onions and a thyme-heavy potato cake, is another winner. It’s all been cunningly calculated to send diners into a tizz of menu indecision. Bless them for the new livery, but some things never change.
|Venue name:||Cutler and Co|
55–57 Gertrude St
|Opening hours:||TTue-Sun 6pm-late; Sun noon-3pm|