On my recent visit to Melbourne, K and I met up with some friends at Cumulus Inc for a lazy Sunday brunch. Cumulus is arguably one of the mainstays of Melbourne’s dining scene – it is regularly awarded chef’s hats from the Good Food Guide and can cater for all crowds, whether its yummy mummies out for brunch, cool hipsters out for a coffee, dressed up yuppies out for an after-work drink, or a pre-theatre crowd looking for a good meal.
Our small group showed up at 11am without a reservation, and were shown to a table within twenty minutes. For a typical rainy Melbourne day, we really didn’t have to wait for long and the blast of warm air when we moved to our table was definitely very welcome.
Service is incredibly efficient, and we’re asked for our drink orders almost before most people have had the chance to peruse the menu – due in large part, to the amount of chatter and catching up being done. Unfortunately my first two choices for drinks weren’t available on the day (Fresh Berry Lemonade and Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit Juice) which was quite disappointing. Our waitress did suggest the house lemonade as an alternative – with some fresh mint mixed in, it made for a tamer version of a mojito. Decidedly cool and refreshing, but not remarkable.
I ordered the crumpets with ricotta and honey – and found myself decidedly underwhelmed when the dish came out. The crumpets look unremarkable, however when I actually sliced them open and layered on the light and fluffy whipped ricotta and sweet honey, this simple dish became a truly decadent treat that wouldn’t go astray as a sweet afternoon treat with a good book and a cup of tea. This is definitely a smaller dish that might not satisfy if you’re particularly hungry though, and I would even suggest sharing this smaller dish and one other larger breakfast menu item between two people.
K ordered a smoked bacon sandwich with ‘gentleman’s relish’ – I don’t even need to tell you in detail about the dirty quips that phrase created as I’m sure you can imagine for yourself! This was a super simple bacon butty like you might make at home – thick slices of sourdough and layer upon layer of crispy salty bacon to clog your arteries.
I ordered the shakshouka for a friend who was running late – served in a cast iron plate, the aromas from this dish were amazingly enticing and I admit to a severe case of food envy when this came out. It’s the first use of shanklish I’ve seen on a restaurant menu, and I’d love to go back to try this dish in full.
Another friend ordered the most protein-heavy dish on the menu, featuring sausage, ham hock, beans and egg. The egg was definitely the stand-out element on the plate and is one of Cumulus Inc’s trademarks – an egg cooked at 65 degrees for 65 minutes. The result is a near-translucent poached egg that simply oozes out deliciously runny yolk when you slice into it.
Overall I rate Cumulus Inc an 8 out of 10 for their breakfast menu – it’s a solid breakfast menu with some basics (crumpets and bacon sandwiches) mixed in with some original breakfast options. Prices are reasonable, and you won’t find a better atmosphere anywhere else on a Sunday morning along Flinders Lane.
The Lab, Nitrogen Gelato
By the time we were done with brunch, it was pushing 1pm and there were a few of us starting to develop some sweet cravings. We decided to make our way over to one of the new gelato places in town – The Lab Nitrogen Gelato on Bourke St.
The Lab is similar to N2 Extreme Gelato in concept – gelato made on the spot with liquid nitrogen in pretty coloured KitchenAid mixers. Unlike N2 however, The Lab has less flavour options available – definitely a downside for those who are more experimental and adventurous with their gelato consumption. We were the only customers when we went – understandable given the state of the weather that day, but it doesn’t bode well given that N2 manage to draw a crowd every day no matter what the weather.
The showmanship with liquid nitrogen is definitely the main selling point of The Lab. It was a lot more remarkable for some of my friends who were visiting from Cairns as it wasn’t something that they had encountered yet.
My mango sorbet had a nice tart edge to it, however the consistency wasn’t as smooth as one would desire in gelato. It was tasty but liquid nitrogen showmanship aside, there was nothing to distinguish it from a sorbet you could purchase at a chain like Gelatissimo.
Overall, I rate The Lab Nitrogen Gelato a 6.5 out of 10. Unfortunately the concept of liquid nitrogen gelato isn’t as original as it once was, and it definitely ranks as a poorer cousin to the far superior N2.