Cumulus Inc has been around for a while now. It is located in the culinary wonderland that is Flinder’s Lane and has established itself as a true Melbourne foodie landmark. My first experience at Cumulus left me with beautiful, delicious memories. It was a few years ago now, on an early after work dinner with friends. We didn’t quite know what to expect and chose a few dishes to share as is the way at Cumulus. Each dish came out to ooohs and aaahs of delight and we were blown away by how incredibly delicious they all were. There was the crisp soft shell crab, tiny morsels of marinated octopus, a whole roast lamb shoulder with meat almost melting off the bone, and a luxurious rhubarb meringue pudding to finish. Oh how the mouth salivates.
But it’s not just a decadent dinner that Cumulus does well. Last week, I visited CI with an old colleague of mine for breakfast. The restaurant was buzzing with people, so full that there wasn’t a free table in sight. We were lucky to be squeezed into the last two spots at the bar, knocking knees with our friendly next door neighbours.
The space is clean and light filled thanks to the gorgeous almost floor to ceiling windows that overlook Flinders Lane. It has a very cool, crisp feel and seems to be constantly brimming with a nice mixture of suits and sophisticated arty types. Food is served at the tables in the middle and the two bars situated on opposite ends of the restaurant for more casual dining.
First up, we were asked whether we wanted coffee while perusing the menu. It came out quickly and at a good hot temperature. My old colleague is a serious coffee drinker and although not an overly emotional person, she had a little outburst of love when she took the first sip of her long mac. According to Miss J, the coffee is always perfect at Cumulus. I can’t disagree.
The breakfast menu is varied, ranging from toasted granola, bircher muesli and house made crumpets to the more substantial hot dishes. There is a real focus on wholesome fresh produce and dishes that are interesting but still familiar and comforting. I loved the sound of the full English breakfast of farmhouse slab bacon (Melbourne’s new favourite way to do bacon), blood sausage on toast, fried eggs and smoked tomato ($18), and the house smoked ocean trout, rye waffle, cucumber & mustard crème fraiche ($17).
Despite the array of great sounding options, my friend and I both opted for the shakshouka, a dish of baked eggs in a tomato based sauce with roasted peppers and shanklish.
The eggs were well cooked and served with a couple of small slices of turkish bread that were very (very) lightly toasted. The tops of the yolks oozed out into the tomato sauce when you cut into them but the bottoms were cooked through and a little too well done for me. The eggs had been baked in a rich, full bodied tomato and red pepper sauce which was just delicious. It tasted part sweet fresh tomato and part grilled red peppers like my mum makes during the winter months. The dish featured a generous sprinkling of parsley and shanklish cheese both of which added a lovely colour element to the dish but unfortunately, the mild flavours got lost in all that tomato. Overall the shakshouka was a good, really tasty dish that left me feeling full. In fact, I was so full that I couldn’t even contemplate grabbing a sneaky party pie or scone at the office morning tea later that day. An unexpected plus.
I couldn’t help but be drawn to my next door neighbour’s breakfast who ordered the house made crumpets with whipped ricotta and rooftop honey. The crumpets came out looking like little golden mountains of deliciousness with a good serve of ricotta on the side. I imagine they were baked in butter or fried somehow. I must have them next time I visit.
There is a reason why Cumulus is so well-loved. It is consistently cool and consistently delicious – even at 7.30 am on a week day. A Melbourne city staple.