It is chilly and drizzly in Melbourne, but for mid-winter in July, what do I expect? The famous Cumulus Inc. restaurant is right around the corner from my hotel. This part of the City (they don’t call it ‘downtown’ like we do in Canada, and the locals don’t say CBD like the tourist books do) is a funky semi-pedestrian lane, with sanctioned graffiti walls and $500 jumpers. (I was cheerfully informed that there is no such thing as a sweater in Australia. Only jumpers). Nevertheless, I love warehouse architecture in any city.
I’m sitting at the back bar at Cumulus Inc, facing the totally open kitchen and watching the orchestra that is a restaurant kitchen. How brave they are to open up the workspace, and all staff are exceedingly well behaved – there’s no screaming or throwing plates at each other’s heads here. Everything and everyone is quite demure, and I’m glad to have my back to the rest of the patrons, who surely are much much more hip than I.
The server is kind to me, maybe because I’m alone and have no obvious friends.
I order. My very pretty tuna tartare salad arrives, with glistening coral squares of tuna perched on a grass green smashed pea salad. The mussel and smoked corn soup arrives in a glass (why not?) and I get busy slurping and picking out the chunks of the soup.
The food at Cumulus Inc is just on the cusp of being precious, but stays true to the side of ‘rustic, but beautiful’ camp of food.
Wow, the couple beside me ordered a whole leg of lamb to share ($69!), and it arrives Fred-Flinstone style. What a Christmas feast for lunch in July.
(Some nice ladies who attended the conference I spoke at explained the Australian obsession with lamb to me. Lamb is Australia’s go-to meat, they told me, like our Albertan cow, I suppose. Sure enough, there are rows and rows of lamb at Queen Vic Market in Melbourne. Lamb is presented every which way – ground, shoulder, chops, etc, etc. I’ve had lamb myself three times in four days in Melbourne. Lamb and seafood – that’s Australian food for you – but no kangaroo for me. Kangaroo meat sounds especially barbaric as there’s a pet kangaroo residing in the backyard of my billet’s house).
“Have a little peruse of the dessert menu?” asks the server. I don’t know if it is the accent or the British influence, but the Australians sound so much more endearing than us Canadians do.
I move onto splurging for dessert, and rum baba catches my eye. This sounds intriguing and I ask for an explanation – apparently there’s some cracking with a spoon and an entire bottle of rum involved. This is hard to resist.
Rum baba, for your information, is an angel food type cake served on creme fraiche type pudding. Clearly I’m unclear about the exact ingredients, so here’s what Wikipedia says. I did crack the rum baba open with my spoon, and dumped a glug of rum directly on the top of the porous cake. The result is exceedingly satisfying.
And with that, I exit Cumulus Inc. (after paying a record $70 for a one-person lunch. Confession: I also had a glass of wine), roll myself around the corner to my hotel room, and take a deep long nap.