My sister hit town in mid-Jan to hang out at the tennis and explore the city a bit. We only had a couple of nights before jetting off to Tassie (posts to follow!) and wanted to take her somewhere exciting and quintessentially Melbourne. We tried to hit up Mamasita, but even at 8:45 on a Monday night you're looking at a wait of more than an hour. Thankfully Melbourne has a few other hip walk-up places in the CBD. Our next attempt was Cumulus Inc where, shockingly, we were seated immediately.
I'm not sure much needs to be said about Cumulus, it's been reviewed by more than a hundred bloggers and is one of Melbourne's most famous restaurants. The understated entry takes you into a stylish venue - it's got a pretty casual feel about it, with a couple of bars and plenty of communal tables. We've always found Andrew McConnell's food pretty veg-friendly, and some time back Cumulus featured on Marieke Hardy's top 5 vegan-friendly restaurants (although Louise by Degrees had no vegan luck at brekkie). However, on an unblogged work visit a couple of years ago, we found the set veg menu a bit disappointing, so it wasn't clear what we should expect.
The 'salads and comestibles' section of the menu has six dishes (two of which look vegan by default, most of which could be veganised if they were feeling helpful) - there are a couple of starters as well, but we decided to focus on the larger dishes.
First up was the grilled zucchini, dill, oregano, egg and lemon sauce ($16). We've been having a bit of success with zucchini in the last little while, and this took things to a new level - the flowers and slivers of vegetable swam in a tangy lemon sauce and were set off by the distinct but not domineering dill.
At almost the same time, the spuds came out - roast kipfler potatoes with red wine vinegar and mustard ($11). No surprise that this our favourite dish of the night - magically cooked and somehow with the vinegar and mustard seeping all the way through. Not easy to share.
Our third dish got lost somewhere between the order and the kitchen, but eventually came out after an inquiry: saffron spiced cauliflower, golden raisins, pine nuts and curd ($16).
It was a shame this came out late, as it would have worked best in combination with the zucchini. It still packed a pretty good punch, quite reminiscent of the lunch dish at Mankoushe. The earthy cauliflower is offset with sweet raisins and a bit of salty cheese. It's a good side dish, but it would have been ideal to have some other bits and pieces to break it up.
Anyway, we made up for our slight disappointment by perusing the dessert menu. I randomly settled on the Rum Baba ($17), despite having no real idea what it would be. Turns out it's a classic dessert, which has been served at fancy dinners for hundreds of years.
The Cumulus version is gigantic - a huge roll of sponge cake served on a thick custardy sauce with a bottle of aged rum plonked next to it for dousing. The waiter warned me not to douse too heavily, as the rum would overpower everything else and, as tempting as it was to disobey, I restrained myself.
This is a great dessert - the cake just soaks up the other flavours. It's sweet and boozy and ridiculously indulgent.
Cindy was a little more restrained, ordering the choc mint sorbet with soft chocolate and chocolate sponge ($16).
The paired blobs were a smooth rich chocolate ganache and a lighter mint sorbet, which were perched on some torn up cake and a bed of crunchy choc puffs. I'm not a huge fan of the choc-mint combo generally, but this was nicely done.
Cumulus worked out perfectly for us in the end - it's effortlessly cool and still very representative of a slightly fancy Melbourne night out (minus the hours of waiting this time amazingly). The staff were helpful and pretty friendly (although the missing cauliflower was a bit of a shame) and the food was top notch. Much like Movida Next Door, there aren't really any substantial veggie dishes on the menu, but you can make a pretty excellent meal out of the bits and pieces available.
Since we visited for breakfast in 2009, Cumulus Inc has been reviewed by everyone on the internet ever, although only Nouveau Potato has given a vegetarian perspective - they weren't as impressed as we were.
From a meaty perspective,Petit Miamx (twice), Pooh in the Kitchen, The Epicurean of Southbank, N & N Eating Out, Queen of Bad Timing, thecattylife, The Hungry Excavator, Melbourne Food Snob , Eesh, A Sheepish Flog, Melbourne Culinary Journal, A table for two, Munch & Muse, Let Me Feed You Melbourne, JENIUS, Sugar & Spiced, e*ting the world, Ichigo Shortcake, Sharking for Chips and Drinks, Sweet and Sour Fork, food, glorious food, Gastrono Me, Off the spork, egg tarts and apple pie, Snap-Story, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua, Expat Gourmand, Roseannetangrs, Peach Water, All hail your Huiness, the sydney tarts, byebyemythyroid, T and T, foodloca, sneakysleaky, EAT AND BE MERRY, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE(T), The Guilty Stomach, Gastrogasmic, Taste Buds Galore, Gluttony Gluttony, melbourne gastronome, I Eat Therefore I Am, bri eats, Fat Pom Pom, Vintage Macaroon, Peggy Chow, foodie suz travels, The Food Complex, The Gourmet Challenge, nik-nak castle, Dave Plus Food, I'm so hungree, 15,000kms of food, The Frenchman's Food and Wine Blog, EXCESS BAGGAGE, The Belly Rules Blog, Eat, Cook, Drink, Big Food, Small World, 1001 Dinners, 1001 Nights, Saucy Onion, chickenpho, slicing almonds and zesting lemons, wok you talking about?, minibites, Temasek, secondhelping, The Ortolan's Last Meal, Reservation in the name of Jones, Petisserie Bakeshop Blog, An Adelaide Foodie's Search for Flavour (3 times!), daily musings, ramblings, Missy Ness' Food Train of Thought, Barley Blog (twice), Where Adles Eats, Almost Always Ravenous, Poppet's Window, The Hungry Lawyer, half-eaten and Melbourne Culinary Journal have all loved it, while who told you that?, JP & Melbs, food.loves.my.mouth, Spatula, Spoon and Sunday, Gourmet Belly, The Razzies and angelkhong were underwhelmed (so many reviews - I didn't even include the dozens and dozens of brekkie blog posts!).
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
savoury veg dishes: $11-$16, desserts: $16-$17
Accessibility: There are a couple of shallow steps off the street. There are a mix of seating arrangements: high tables, a couple of bars and some lower options. It's fairly spacious and there's full table service. We didn't make it to the toilets.