Saturday, 1 March 2014

Melbourne Series - Cumulus Inc

It had been an awesome first couple of days in Melbourne for our food safari, with some excellent food and great adventures already under our belt.  A lot of food had been consumed but there was a lot more to go, and with a huge day planned we needed to start the day off right.  When you look at the lists of top breakfast spots in Melbourne, not a lot of them are right in the CBD, which is a bit strange given all of the amazing laneways that proliferate through the city.  One very popular breakfast spot that I've heard is a 'must-do' in Melbourne was The Hardware Societe, which was pretty much the most popular dining spot of any type in Melbourne.  Unfortunately, The Hardware Societe was closed forever, so I'd missed that boat.

After looking around on the internet and Urbanspoon, we finally got a case of analysis paralysis and couldn't make up our mind so thought that we would just go local and hit up Cumulus Inc, just around the corner in Flinders Lane.  I had heard amazing things about Cumulus Inc over the years and in particular how great the dinners were, but I had picked up that the breakfast offering was not too bad and after a quick check on their web site to see if there was stuff I'd eat for breakfast, we set out.  We hadn't made a reservation as the restaurant only takes reservations for more than seven people, so we hoped we would be early enough to score a seat.

It was a lovely morning in Melbourne, with the sun out and birds singing (well, I made that last bit up) and we were just happy to be walking around and exploring a different city.  As luck would have it, we arrived at Cumulus Inc just as the morning rush was starting, but we did manage to score a table inside the main dining area.  In fact, we were really really lucky and scored a table that could sit four and were able to spread out - a fact that seemed to annoy a group of four that came in after us and had to sit at the bar!

I was a little surprised by how small and contained Cumulus Inc was inside.  It was a pretty cool space (but, really Melbourne exudes cool) which was quite minimalist and almost industrial in feel, with the open kitchen on one side and the bar on the other side.  The tables were all pretty much squished together to get as many people into the small space as possible, and gave the dining area quite an intimate feel.  I was really appreciating the extra space we had at our table.

We were given our menus and asked what we wanted to drink, which was an easy choice for SC who ordered a latte and a little more difficult for me, with smoothies not being high on the priority list for Melbourne breakfast spots.  I eventually decided on an iced chocolate, which came presented with a chocolate filled glass with ice on one side and a pitcher of milk on the other side.  All I had to do was pour the milk into my glass and mix it together.  It was a good iced chocolate made all the nicer by my involvement in the process!  SC's latte was perfect, as you would expect from any decent cafe or restaurant in the city that prides itself as being the coffee capital of the world.

It was time to look over the menus and get some breakfast under way and I immediately had a problem.  The menu was different from the online version, not by much, but pretty much everything I had my eye on was gone from the menu.  The Cumulus Inc menu didn't have a lot of options to begin with and would normally be considered quite light-on, but with the 'Full English - farmhouse slab bacon, blood sausage on toast, fried eggs and smoked tomato' off the menu, there was not much left for me to eat.  There were some other contemporary options on the menu, but nothing that really jumped out at me and said "eat me".

It was a little easer for SC, who was still full from the previous couple of days' worth of eating and went for the very light option of the Cumulus Inc breakfast - boiled egg, toast, preserves, yoghurt and organic orange juice.  There was one boiled egg, which was perfectly cooked, a small tub of yoghurt and some toast.  It was not a lot of food, pretty simple and perfect for breakfast for a little girl who was not so hungry.

In the end I went for the only selection that I felt I'd enjoy with the smoked bacon sandwich with gentleman's relish looking like it could do the job.  This was a pretty simple breakfast really, some slabs of ever so smoky bacon placed in between a couple of slices of bread.  Yep, that was it.  I'd asked for the relish on the side, just in case I didn't like it, which turned out to be a smart move - I really didn't like the bitter and smokey relish.  I found the bread to be a little dry and there was not a lot of fat on the bacon either, so the whole sandwich was a bit of a let down.  Sure, the relish was probably there to give it some extra smokiness and some moisture, but I just didn't like it.  As far as breakfasts go, it was way down the list of good breakfasts I've had.

By the time we had finished our breakfast and were ready to leave, there was a little bit of pandemonium at Cumulus Inc, with a queue starting to form and not a spare table available.  We'd even seen people rock up and then continue on their way, not wanting to wait for a table.  I have to admit there was a rocking vibe in the dining area with lots of people clearly having a great time.  The wait staff were very friendly and accessible and we certainly felt as if we had been looked after by the Cumulus Inc team.

However, as far as a food experience goes, it was a pretty big disappointment.  The one thing that I'd really wanted was no longer on the menu (even though it is still on the web menu right now) and there were not a lot of other options to choose from.  The Cumulus Inc policy of absolutely no substitutions doesn't help either, I couldn't just ask for a composite of some of the other breakfasts to put something together that I could have enjoyed.  It would have been as simple as adding some eggs, bacon and tomato together and I would have been as 'happy as Larry' - I really have no clue why that is a saying....  Who is this Larry and why is he so happy...  I digress, a simple little breakfast would have made my day.

I wouldn't recommend Cumulus Inc as the first choice for a breakfast spot and I think people from Brisbane who are spoilt for choice when it comes to the first meal of the day would be particularly disappointed with the options.  I'm still keen to check out Cumulus Inc for dinner though, that menu looks particularly awesome.  Oh well, I know I'll be back in Melbourne again next year.

There were some lovely preserves included in the Cumulus Breakfast
Fresh squeezed orange juice and and the coffee was good
The breakfast was very basic
Including the bacon sandwich -  again, was pretty basic.  I would have like the bread toasted
The restaurant was pretty packed when we arrived
The bar had room for more seats 
Squeezing seats everywhere - we scored with our great table
Flinders lane is a great spot

Cumulus Inc. on UrbanspoonCumulus Inc.

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