Cumulus Inc – a review

This is my second visit to Culumus Inc on Flinders Lane in Melbourne’s CBD and the experience was just as good. I love the Euro-bistro fit out and styling in this modern Australian eatery. There’s a long bar along the left as you enter, the open kitchen to the right, and tables in between as well as along the back wall.

Photo credit: the Cumulus Inc website

Photo credit: the Cumulus Inc website

Four of us shared five dishes, although the waitress suggested we share seven or eight. We’ll start with five and see how we go, thanks.

I ordered a Clare Valley Riesling by the glass, and then ordered a small carafe of it, which was enough to give four of us a small glass each. There were limited choices of wines by the glass, one of each of the main varietals, which also came in 375 ml carafes.

This time I was sticking to my paleo way of eating (no grains, no sugar, limited dairy and legumes).

There were plenty of paleo friendly choices on the menu, some vegetarian and gluten free choices too.

 

Tuna tartare with crushed pea salad and yoghurt was beautiful and fresh. It felt very clean to eat.

Tuna tartare with crushed pea salad

Tuna tartare with crushed pea salad ($32)

A special for the night, figs with goat’s cheese and dill was pleasant however didn’t taste as amazing as it sounded.

Figs with goat’s cheese and dill

Figs with goat’s cheese and dill ($18)

It was the quail that was a real highlight thanks to perfectly married textures and flavours – the crunch of the fresh cabbage, the tender juicy gamey quail and the sweetness of the nectarine that came with it. I could eat that again and again.

Grilled quail, bitter leaves, white peach and walnuts

Grilled quail, bitter leaves, white peach and walnuts ($22)

The roast pumpkin, pine nuts and sheep’s curd cheese was divine, caramelised sweet roast pumpkin, slightly salty creamy curd and toasty pine nuts. Those flavours are classic and marry really well.

Roast pumpkin, sheep's curd, pine nuts

Roast pumpkin, sheep’s curd, pine nuts ($14)

I wouldn’t normally get excited about flank steak. But this flank steak with leek, miso and grilled witlof was another highlight. The steak was seriously tender and juicy with sweet leek, slightly bitter witlof and the salty miso.

CumulusInc9

Flank steak, leek & miso, braised lettuce ($36)

 

As it turns out, I could have accepted the waitress’ recommendation to share seven or eight dishes, because I felt I could still eat, and that’s probably because I didn’t eat any bread.

The service was efficient, if a little clipped. The atmosphere is of a typical city eatery, every table was full and tables turned over relatively quickly. Overall, a very enjoyable eating experience and one I’d repeat.

I especially enjoyed a night out with my sister and catching up with my cousins Stephanie and Lauren.

Verdict: 8/10

FACT FILE

Cumulus Inc
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne (CBD)

+61 3 9650 1445

info@cumulusinc.com.au

 

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

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Co-Op Dining, East Perth

Happy Anniversary to us! Four wonderful years of marriage and we celebrated by going to a restaurant that has been on my list for some time, Co-Op Dining in East Perth. It has an excellent reputation serving only degustation using locally sourced organic and biodynamic produce; 5 courses for $99 or 10 courses for $125. Matching wines available for $55 and $75 per person respectively.

It is rated One Star and in Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide 2014 and 2015 in Australia’s Top 100 restaurants.

Restauranteurs Kiren and Kelli Mainwaring make a formidable team. Kiren is head chef and his lovely wife Kelli is front of house.

Firstly, when I booked the 5-course degustation online, I was prompted to include dietary requirements. The website clearly states that the chef is happy to adjust the menu to accommodate. Okay, then, I requested paleo, specifically no grains and no / very little sugar. I was telephoned the morning of our booking to confirm. Then telephoned again to check if we ate fruit and dairy. I said that fruit and dairy were ok (while I’m limiting dairy, I haven’t cut it from my diet completely). Nice of them to check.

Fresh buttermilk curd with crisp chicken skin

Fresh buttermilk curd with crisp chicken skin

Walking in, the restaurant fit out was understated, elegant yet not ‘showy’, with muted shades of chocolate brown and dark wood tables and bar.  What I really liked was how the tables were positioned. We weren’t in the direct line of sight any other diners, which made our experience feel more intimate. There was none of this looking up and awkwardly having to avoid eye contact with someone directly in front of you. Top marks.

We were offered water and an aperitif immediately upon being seated. Again, top marks. The waiter explained that the menu is designed daily with what organic and sustainable produce the kitchen can source that day. Our menu would be grain free with very limited sugar and that chef likes to surprise diners by not printing a menu.  Instead of bread, we were brought olives – lovely with my West Winds Gin and tonic.

Rather than opting for matching wines, we chose a bottle instead from the well appointed wine list. With many Western Australian wines, Australian wines and some international wines featured, we opted for a 2012 Picardy Pinot Noir from Pemberton ($85). It was light as Pinot Noirs are, but slightly spicy, a little peppery with sweet notes of fruit. The finish was smooth. It was delicious and a wine I shall look out from here on.Co-Op Dining Charcuterie

Of the five courses, well, actually, we had seven courses – we were added a cheese course for $14 and given a little bonus at the end – each and every course was a pleasure to eat.

1. Mixed olives (instead of bread – doesn’t count as a course)

  1. House Charcuterie board: freshly grilled pork chorizo; pork coppa; beef bresaola (split course with From the Sea below)

  2. From the Sea: sardine rollmops; crisp Barramundi fish skin, sauce gribiche and Barramundi cheek, pea powder; lightly fried sardine bones, fish floss and bottarga emulsion (split course with charcuterie above)

  3. Fresh Buttermilk curd, kimchi puree, grapes and blueberries, crisp chicken skin

  4. Slow cooked egg yolk, smoked mash potato with, garlic chips, hazelnut

  5. Slowly braised shoulder of Macabee Dorper Hogget, fried Gosht spice shallots, probiotic coconut yoghurt

  6. Kefir-fermented double Jersey cream, roasted apricots & peach, pistachio

  7. Aerated dark chocolate, smoked butter popcorn with honey (a special treat from the chef – doesn’t count as a course)

The charcuterie board of chorizo, pork coppa and beef bresaola, all made in house, were morsels of deliciousness. I only wish there was more as one slice each was almost a tease.

The fish course that was next included sardine rollmops, crisp fish skin topped with fillet of fish and on the side, crisp fried sardine skeleton with aioli and bottarga. YUM.

Co-Op Dining Fish

Fried chicken skin was tasty and the fresh curd was like a mild soft cheese. The smoked mash with slow cooked egg – now I’m drooling again – was divine. Toasty hazelnuts and garlic chips added texture and depth. The oozy silky egg was wonderful.

Co-Op Dining slow cooked egg

I’m not a huge curry fan, never have been. But this curry was delicate with soft flavours that didn’t’ smack me in the face – and I liked that.  It was hearty and meat beautifully tender.

Co-op Dining10

We had the extra cheese course – I’m sorry, by then the wine was taking effect and I was too busy enjoying myself. We gobbled it up before I could take a photo of it.

Dessert was fresh yoghurt with carmelised nectarines and pistachio crumbs. Delicious and fresh and not too sweet.

Co-op Dining dessert1Then a surprise at the end, dark chocolate that had been air blown and set with some spiced popcorn. OMG, I’ve not had chocolate for eight weeks and this course was divine.

IMG_3021 - Version 2

Our bill came to $345. It’s not a cheap night out. But it is a good night out with great quality food. If I was go to back, I’d probably opt for the 10 course menu – seems better value for an extra $25 each. Zorba said he was still hungry afterwards and I could have eaten a few more courses too.

Verdict:

9/10 – wonderful dishes made with exceptional quality ingredients. The service was attentive and friendly without being obtrusive. Chef catered to our dietary requirements and every course was a pleasure to eat. Only with there was more of everything.

 

FACT FILE

Co-Op dining
2/11 Regal Place, East Perth
Tel: 08 9221 0404
www.co-opdining.com.au 

Co-Op Dining on Urbanspoon

 

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Best places to eat in Margaret River region

As they say, where’s there’s good wine, there is good food, and Margaret River being a premium winery region is a point fact.  Spend time in Margaret River in Western Australia’s south west and you’ll too soon discover that you’re spoilt for choice of great places to eat.

Did you know that Margaret River produces just three per cent of wine in Australia but 25 per cent of Australia’s premium export wine?

With any trip to Margaret River, your first stop should be the Augusta Margaret River Visitors Centre to pick up the latest map of the region.

Here’s a list of my favourite places to eat in Margaret River with links to previous blog posts if I’ve blogged about them before.

Eat_Margaret River12

Winery restaurants for lunch

In alphabetical order:

Aravina Estate Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Aravina Estate – the amazing food by ex Cape Lodge chef Tony Howell and the setting are the draw cards, not to mention the fantastic playground for kids, beautiful cellar door and homeware shop, and a car museum with ferraris and muscle cars (my favourite, the Torana SLR 5000 – brings back so many high school memories). It also has a kitchen garden that’ll make you green with envy.

Eat_Margaret River15

Cullen Winery Restaurant on UrbanspoonCullen Winery – biodynamic and organic principals guide not only the wine making but the kitchen too. A rustic cellar door leads through to the restaurant with a deck overlooking the vines. The food is delicious, simple, mostly organic and sourced from the kitchen garden on site. Highly regarded prized wines and good service make any lunch at Cullen a fab experience.

Eat_Margaret River04

Hay Shed Hill Deli on Urbanspoon Hay Shed Hill – Pretty country setting, alfresco deck, a deli counter to make you drool, top class wines and great food are the perfect ingredients to while away an afternoon at Hay Shed Hill.  It’s casual yet gorgeous.  The wines are excellent – my favourite being the K&B Riesling. Open for breakfast also.

Eat_Margaret River10

 

Knee Deep Winery and Restaurant on UrbanspoonKnee Deep – for a more formal lunch – we’re talking crisp table linen, smartly dressed wait staff, and cutlery choices to send ‘Pretty Woman’ into a spin, this place is where local chefs eat on a special occasion. The food really is sensational.  Try the 3-course ‘trust the chef’ menu. Great wines too and almost impossible to leave without a purchase.

MargaretRiver_vines2

Leeuwin Estate Restaurant on UrbanspoonLeeuwin Estate – One of the best regarded wineries not only in Margaret River, but in Australia with a reputation that reaches far beyond our shores.  The setting, service, amazing wines, and fabulous food are a reason why so many love Leeuwin Estate. There is an impressive art gallery downstairs and owner Dennis Horgan has an order of Australia for his services to tourism in Western Australia.

 

Vasse Felix on UrbanspoonVasse Felix – the oldest winery in Margaret River, Vasse Felix’s restaurant is gorgeous and the food exceptional. Chef Aaron Carr places great importance on sourcing the best local produce, and prepares food so that the produce shines on the plate. Everything is made from scratch, including kangaroo pastrami. Beautiful wines, art gallery, cellar room, stunning grounds and views make this a lunch you won’t forget.

Eat_Margaret River05

 

Voyager Estate on UrbanspoonVoyager – So many have raved about Voyager’s new menu.  Because of my enormous expectations, I left feeling a little underwhelmed. The food was fine, very nice actually, but I didn’t get a ‘foodie high’ from it. The setting reminds me of a French luxury Chateau with the rich drapes, chesterfield sofas, and ornate light fittings – sitting inside you could forget you were at a winery.  It does have the prettiest rose garden in the region and the biggest Australian flag in the country, after the one at Parliament House. The white stucco Dutch inspired building stands proud in the beautifully manicured garden. Their wines are sublime and the restaurant service absolutely first class.

Will Domain - 3

Gravlax trout, bread and butter pickles, buckwheat snacks at Wills Domain

Wills Domain on UrbanspoonWills Domain – Now get ready to have your culinary socks blown off. A relaxed vibe, stunning winery views of rolling hills with a Manor House perched atop a distant hill, and food that’ll have you asking questions.  Chef Seth James (ex Cutler & Co) uses native ingredients in his dishes that surprise and delight the taste buds. Everything is executed beautifully. Price point is at the upper end of the spectrum but totally worth the indulgence.

Breakfast

 

Blue Ginger Fine Foods & Cafe on UrbanspoonBlue Ginger – Blue Ginger is tucked away in the industrial area of Margaret River and it’s a secret the locals try to keep to themselves. Great coffee, nice vibe, mismatched quirky old furniture, a fabulous breakfast and wonderful whole food and gourmet food store.  Bring an empty container and get it filled with local honey, buy grains and nuts by the scoop and pick up those hard to find international ingredients.

Eat_Margaret River02
The Urban Bean on UrbanspoonUrban Bean – on the main street in Margaret River, this is a popular cafe with great coffee, a good breakfast and they welcome dogs on the terrace. Nothing fancy, but who wants fancy when you just want a good breakfast? Relaxed friendly atmosphere that attracts locals and visitors alike. Convenient location.

MargaretRiver_muster1

Muster Bar & Grill on UrbanspoonMuster – This place is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A casual sister restaurant to Must in Perth, chef Russell Blaikie serves up local produce with a focus on great meat.  For breakfast, the trio platter is hard to resist, so why bother? Just order it and enjoy.  A good fit out and convenient location on the main strip of the township with bench seats along the windows that face the street.

Eat_Margaret River13

 

Morries Anytime on UrbanspoonMorries Anytime – Anytime you need a great breakfast, lunch or dinner, Morries is ready to serve.  It’s popular for good reason. Don’t expect to turn up for breakfast at 10am on a weekend and get a table straight away. But the efficient staff will seat you at the bar until a table is free. A funky fit out, great vibe, good food, some healthy choices too and really good coffee. A good choice for any meal, anytime. Cocktails to die for.

 

Cape Lodge Restaurant on UrbanspoonCape Lodge –  Known for fabulous dinners, Cape Lodge does a super breakfast. It’s refined, satisfying, and comforting. Beautiful fresh seasonal fruits, yoghurts, pastries and house made granola and breads adorn the buffet and there’s a tempting selection of cooked breakfasts on the menu. Choosing what to order will be your biggest challenge. Impeccable service and good coffee.

Eat_Margaret River07

Other good spots worth a try are Sea Garden at Prevelley Beach (near Surfers Point) and the White Elephant cafe in Gnarabup. Both have good coffee but White Elephant has stunning views, friendly service, good food and really great coffee. The last time I went to Sea Garden (April 2015), I was asked to take a seat despite wanting to quickly order something at the counter and after 15 mins, no one had taken my order so I left. And it wasn’t busy.

The view from the White Elephant Beach Cafe

The view from the White Elephant Beach Cafe

And there’s always the Margaret River Farmers’ Market (Saturday morning only) where you can buy all sorts of delicious local produce and grab breakfast.

 

Dinner

Besides Cape Lodge, Muster, Morries Anytime, Swings & Roundabouts and a few wineries on selected nights (Friday and Saturday usually), Studio Bistro in Yallingup in a great choice. For good pub food, Settlers Tavern in town will keep those that like man-size portions happy. Best lamb shanks I’ve had in a long time were at Settlers.

Settlers Tavern Margaret River on Urbanspoon

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Often we are so full from a great lunch that a light snack or a cheese and wine dinner is enough.

Eat_Margaret River03

Other honourable mentions

Arimina Estate – tucked away down a dirt road but has a lovely outdoor area, space for kids to run around, really good wine and pretty good food.

What do you think?

What are your favourite places in Margaret River to eat? Is there anywhere you think I should try?

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Hay Shed Hill winery in Margaret River has it all

Alfesco deck with views of rolling vines, tick. Delicious wines you can sip for hours, tick. Great house made food that makes you want to never leave, tick. Art gallery and retail space, tick. Add some live acoustic music on the weekends, and it’s fair to say that Hay Shed Hill in Margaret River has it all. HayShedHill 13

Start with some wine tasting at the cellar door. Hay Shed Hill’s range includes their Block Series, World Series, Vineyard Series, Pitchfork, and my favourite, Kerrigan + Berry.  K+B is the joint venture of two wine makers and good friends, Hay Shed Hill winemaker, Michael KERRIGAN and West Cape Howe winemaker, Gavin BERRY.  They source the best grapes and make wine that they want to drink, and so do I. It’s so good, their Riesling is outstanding and I love its mineral characteristics – an all time favourite of mine ($30).

As the adage goes, where’s there’s good wine, there’s good food. Hay Shed Hill’s young chef, 20-year-old Travis Bulbeck was running the kitchen the day I ate there and he impressed with maturity beyond his years. Hay Shed Hill has a reputation for its great cheese and deli counter, but the showstopper was the dishes coming out of the kitchen. The food was sophisticated enough to feel special, but not complicated or pretentious. It’s clear that head chef Jack Drachenberg places utmost importance on fresh local produce.

At Hay Shed Hill, the kitchen cures meat for the charcuterie boards, they make their own rillettes and terrines, bake their own bread, and use herbs from their garden. Everything is made from scratch.

Cheese counter with a huge variety of local and imported cheeses

Cheese counter with a huge variety of local and imported cheeses

Sugar cured salmon, pomegranate, za'atar and grapefruit

Sugar cured salmon, pomegranate, za’atar and grapefruit, $18

Baldivis rabbit presse, white peach, blue cheese and hazelnuts

Baldivis rabbit presse, white peach, blue cheese and hazelnuts, $24

Poached duck leg, white bean and black pudding braise

Poached duck leg, white bean and black pudding braise, $37

Wild mushroom pastry, smoked potato, asparagus and goat's curd

Wild mushroom pastry, smoked potato, asparagus and goat’s curd, $28

I can’t rave about the food enough at Hay Shed Hill. Every mouthful was a delight with terrific combinations of flavours that were perfectly balanced. Best of all, the prices are reasonable. Imagine these colourful plates of goodness coming to you on a sun drenched deck as you sip a chardonnay that isn’t overpowered by oak, but rather perfectly balanced and just a little buttery, urging you to take another sip. Vistas of hills, big rolls of hay, some wrought iron artwork, and rows and rows of green vines….ah, yes, it’s one of the regions special places to while away the time.  I’ll definitely be back.

Hay Shed Hill is also open for early morning coffee and breakfast. Keep an eye out on the events section of their website to see when they have live music scheduled – often on Sunday afternoons in the warmer months.

FACT FILE

Hay Shed Hill
Harmans Mill Road, Wilyabrup WA 6280
Tel: +61 (0)8 9755 6046
info@hayshedhill.com.au

 

Disclosure
My lunch at Hay Shed Hill was part of a hosted trip organised by the Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association. I’ve been there several times before but not had a proper meal – just grazing plates and charcuterie boards (which are very good!)

Hay Shed Hill Deli on Urbanspoon

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Top three restaurants in Olinda (Recife), NE Brazil

Olinda in North East Brazil, adjacent to Recife, is very cute and very small. You could walk along every single street in the UNESCO heritage town centre in just a few hours, if you strolled.

There are plenty of places to choose to eat, from holes in the wall, market stalls, people selling grilled chicken kebabs from their front room,  a few fancy restaurants and several more casual cheaper restaurants.

The groin that juts out to sea

The groin opposite Masiqueira that juts out to sea

Our top three restaurants:

  1. Masiqueira – a seaside restaurant full of locals enjoying a long Saturday lunch (see previous post)
  2. Restaurant Beijuirá and
  3. Oficina do Sabor.

More about the latter two below.

Restaurant Beijuirá

On our first night we didn’t venture far, just up some stairs to Restaurant Beijuirá. The large menu makes choosing something a challenge, also too because flavour combinations are so unusual: prawns with whiskey, or crab cases with chestnut sauce – the latter we shared as an entrée. It was pleasant and the chestnut sauce was delicious.Beijupira_2

For main course, I had prawns in coconut sauce with guava rice. Yes, guava rice, that is, rice with guava. A very unusual combination yet it tasted pleasant. The prawns were fine, smaller than the king prawns we are used to in Australia and nicely cooked. The dish was enjoyable but didn’t really wow me.

Beijupira_3Zorba choose a codfish dish and I can’t tell you what it’s like because he gobbled it up before I had a chance to taste it. He did taste mine though and said my dish was better than his.

Beijupira_4

We were going to have wine with dinner, but when the reasonably priced wine we choose wasn’t available and a more expensive one brought the table as a substitute, we decided to have beer instead. No upselling please.

Our total bill for one starter, two mains, two local beers, and a bottle of sparkling water came to 230 Real, or A$115. Would we rush back there as far as value for money and wow-factor? I’m not sure. Plenty of others we’ve met along the way said they enjoyed it.

The views from the restaurant are lovely and look out to the twinkling lights of Olinda and beyond. The setting is lovely and it’s more up market than the average restaurant. Some staff speak English.

Verdict: An expensive and pleasant meal with good service in a nice setting. 7.5/10.

Restaurant Beijuirá,  Saldanha Marinha, s/n, Alto da Sé, Olinda, RE, Brazil.
Tel: +55 081 3439.6691 or 9734.1144
http://www.beijupiraolinda.com.br

 

Oficina do Sabor

Not only is it known as one of the best restaurants in Brazil’s north east, Oficina do Sabor in Olinda is famous for serving food in pumpkins. It attracts television celebrities and wealthy types from the region.

From the pastel-coloured building on the street, this restaurant doesn’t look like much. After walking through a short hallway to a reception area, the restaurant opens out to a large terrace with views to Recife. Clearly, this was a restaurant for special occasions as every diner was dressed well and it was easy to spot the tourists.

The menu offered a good choice of dishes. The mains were categorised into seafood, pumpkins, meat, and gratins (baked in sauce).OficinaDoSabor_1

For starters we chose a tasting plate with fish ball croquettes, eggplant, prawn cutlet, a fried cheese (like haloumi), empandas, and a cup of absolutely exquisite lobster bisque. That bisque was smooth, savoury, perfectly balanced and I wanted more.OficinaDoSabor_2

The staff didn’t speak much English, however, the waiter understood me when I gave my compliments to the chef for the lobster bisque. When the waiter was communicating with hand gestures, seemingly signalling if I wanted another one, I nodded enthusiastically. I wasn’t sure if that’s what he was asking me, but to my delight, he brought out another cup.OficinaDoSabor_3

For main course we order a pumpkin stuffed with chicken. It was about half the price of the pumpkins stuffed with shrimp – and I have to confess that shrimp on a menu reminds me of Dad’s fishing bait, so I never order it. What I loved the most, besides the juicy chicken pieces and creamy sauce, was that we could scrape the inside of the pumpkin and eat that also, making it a massive meal. It also came served with rice. Needless to say, we had absolutely no room for dessert after that.

Verdict: Expensive by Brazilian standards, but worth it for the good service and great food. 8.5/10.

Oficina do Sabor, Rua do Amparo, 335, 53020Amparo Olinda, RE Brazil
Tel: +55 018 474 810
http://www.oficinadosabor.com/contato.htmlOficinaDoSabor_4

 

Stay

We stayed in a lovely small guest house known as a pousada called Pousada do Amparo, named after the street it was on. Highly recommended. Check out my next post for more.PousadaDoAmparo_featured1

 

FACT FILE

Restaurant Beijuirá
Rua Saldanha Marinha, s/n, Alto da Sé, Olinda
Tel: +55 081 3439.6691 or 9734.1144
http://www.beijupiraolinda.com.br

Oficina do Sabor
Rua do Amparo, 335, 53020Amparo Olinda, RE, Brazil
Tel: +55 018 474 810
http://www.oficinadosabor.com/contato.html

 

 

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