Nestled among the galleries and exhibition spaces of Flinders Lane, self-proclaimed ‘social hub’ Cumulus Inc. is open seven days a week, from 7am to 11pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 11pm Saturdays and Sundays. Service kicks off with breakfast, which features a cardiac-inducing farmhouse slab bacon and blood sausage on toast fry-up, but also a number of light and fresh options, such as watermelon salad with strawberry, vanilla yoghurt and mint. In fact, if you discount the muffins and madeleines, homemade granola, muesli and candied orange and raisin toast make brunch here a relatively sinless affair.
Lunch and dinner are all about sharing plates with an emphasis on oysters (with eight varieties ripe for shucking), charcuterie and hearty meat and fish dishes.
Arriving at three in the afternoon, the place is half full with people finishing up long leisurely lunches, popping in for a post-shopping glass of wine or, like us, looking for a mid-afternoon grazing session. Wait staff recommend ordering four of five plates to share (there were two of us – me and photo monkey) and then the kitchen sends them out one by one. Kind of like designing your own degustation menu. You can also have your own chef’s table (ish) if you grab a stool at the white marble counter overlooking the kitchen.
Chef Andrew McConnell and architect partner Pascale Gomes-McNabb’s ‘eating house and bar’ consists of a light and airy open dining room dotted with circular tables and space to eat and drink at the kitchen and bar, which is framed by high frosted windows that, combined with the vault-like door, add to a sense of being tucked away, a haven of bustling gourmet activity on an otherwise deserted strip, on the weekends, that is.
Wine by the glass – quality not quantity when it comes to options – and homemade bread set the scene. First out the kitchen: creamy foie gras parfait with toasted brioche. Smooth foie gras, crunchy buttery brioche, heavenly.
Then the $4 sardine on toast with caramelised fennel and orange. Two bites and it is gone, but at $4 a pop it is fantastic value – could easily wolf down a plate of these. Subtle fish and orange flavours complement each other brilliantly, and it looks oh-so pretty.
Smoked corn and mussel chowder is spilt between two glasses for us and really benefits from a sprinkling of punchy paprika, lifting the earthy comfort food flavours to something all together more refined. Could have had more mussels in mine, but I think that is just luck of the draw.
There are loads of cured and fresh meats to choose from, so we opted for the kitchen charcuterie selection (a taster of four) – pork and pistachio terrine, jamón serrano, Wagyu bresaola with beetroot and gherkins, hand-cut Sicilian salami with mustard fruit.
We will definitely be heading back for the one of the meaty mains (whole slow-roast shoulder of lamb, mustard-crumbed pig’s tail or roast rabbit saddle) or fish dishes (tuna tartare, line-caught baby snapper or steamed clams with sorrel sauce), but on this occasion we were just too full. However, I think this is the beauty of Cumulus Inc., a place where people can slow down and take time to taste their way through the menu and, with regular pauses for quiet contemplation, even reach dessert.
45 Flinders Lane
Tel. (03) 9650 1445