Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Cumulus Inc. - A big puffy white cloud of culinary goodness

Following on from the topic of Andrew McDonnell yesterday, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on my recent experience at Cumulus, Inc. which is located near Chin Chin on Little Flinders Lane in the Melbourne CBD. When I was frequenting restaurants as both an indulgence and a bit of a hobby during my escapes from Sydney, Cumulus was always on my list of "places to go" and I was incessantly quizzed by a friend from Channel Seven if I had attended this eatery as she seemingly has a small obsession with it. My intentions finally came a reality when it was suggested by a friend over the weekend that we catch up there with three others for lunch.

I have walked past Cumulus many times as I typically use Little Flinders Street as a pedestrian thoroughfare to move around the city by foot. I knew that the place was not that large and had more of a community vibe where sharing of food is encouraged. The ambiance is simple and hospitable. When I called ahead to secure a booking I was advised that no bookings could be taken for a party of five so we presented ourselves to the restaurant and ultimately the bar, ordered drinks and engaged in pleasant conversation whilst we waited for a table in the corner that was earmarked for us.

Normally I can not stand waiting for a table but the professionalism of the Cumulus staff made it not only feel like you were not really waiting for anything but in the end probably because of the insightful and enthusiastic conversation with some people that I had not seen in a few months, the time flew. Drinks were supplied by the bar staff with haste and various team members kept us informed about the status of table in the corner about every five minutes. One reason why I always get frustrated playing the waiting game with no formal reservation as you are told that it will be 30 minutes until your table is ready and you do not hear anything until you are beckoned like a hound in heat which is usually long after the expected committed time. This was not the case at Cumulus.

After skimming some other reviews of this place, I had a bit of a chuckle when Time Out Melbourne insinuated there is "natural light" in the restaurant. There is minimal at best. Anyone who is familiar with Flinders Lane would know that it is hard to get any natural light when the only windows in an establishment face a wall in laneway. I would suspect that most people come here for the food, service and ambiance anyway so it is a moot point.

The table that we were supplied was an awkward circular one in the corner that was bordered by a booth where two people were supposed to sit along with three chairs. One of these chairs and ultimately the person who was sitting in it was extremely close to a patron seated next to us. Since inevitably we became quite loud discussing the merits of both the current federal Labor government and the Opposition, no doubt our banter would have easily distracted if not infuriated the diners close to us given our proximity but then the restaurant did have a vexed problem as how to seat five so I will not hold it against them. I am afraid the other patrons may though.

Fresh bread provided from the cart which is located in the aisle that punters follow to and from the toilets started our dining experience on a high. Those sitting on the booth could keep an eye on the kitchen and the chef and staff worked efficiently and did not need to swear at each other to get anything done. For me the anchovies were a highlight but I also enjoyed the duck breast and the tuna that was provided. I was confident that we did not order enough food as each dish ended up serving five people usually so be aware that you will need to spend up to walk out feeling like you actually ate a meal and did not just taste a meal.

The wine list was intriguing but since it was lunch, I drank the Cricketers Arms Lager whilst others drank cocktails and cider. I did not want to be the only one to enjoy anything from the varied wine list.

Walking past Cumulus you would think that it would be a loud restaurant but that is not the case. With the exception of one person at my table who starting speaking with great enthusiasm about politics which other patrons could hear, you never notice what is taking place at other tables. The service is very professional and efficient and what impressed me that even after we paid the bill and continued to talk for another thirty minutes, service continued to pour us water. So many restaurants forget about this and will abandon you after the bill is paid, but not Cumulus Inc.

I certainly was impressed and I will be returning there next month for another relaxing lunch.

Cumulus Inc, Flinders Street Melbourne
Cumulus Inc.
Link to review
45 Flinders Lane  Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 1445
My Rating: 15/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Comment: The diversity of the menu is a highlight

Cumulus Inc. won one hat in the 2013 Age Good Food Guide.
Cumulus rated as #1 restaurant in my "Top 5" list posted after the first 47 days of blogging.

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

At the time that this post was updated, 86% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also liked this restaurant.

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon