Review: Cutler & Co., Melbourne


Cutler & Co. has turned an old metal works factory in Fitzroy into the city’s favourite weekend brunch spot

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Gertrude Street, north-east of Melbourne’s city centre, used to be a bit of a no-man’s land. When I lived in the city in 2004, I’d go up to the only once every few weeks, solely to visit to the Builders’ Arms pub for its ace Thursday-night club Q&A. Back then, I’d hop off the 86 tram and scurry through the Fitzroy area, past disused factory buildings and dilapidated shopfronts displaying vast and very decrepit industrial equipment whose function could only be guessed at. Even Melbourne’s famous, ubiquitous street art used to seem surlier round here – fewer adorable robots, more taggers’ names made illegible by ridiculously over-spiky text. Gentrification came swiftly, though: one week I noticed a big corner shop had revamped itself to sell space-age kitchenware; what seemed mere hours later, there was a chi-chi dress store next door, then a bookshop for cooks. And then, in 2009, Cutler & Co., latest brainchild of celebrated Melbourne chef Andrew McConnell (of the highly rated Cumulus Inc) opened up. That’s when I knew Gertrude Street had transformed itself for good – in all senses.

Though it’s open all week, the best way to experience Cutler & Co. is to come for their sumptuous and very laidback Sunday lunch. Head up to Fitzroy for midday, and be prepared to cancel afternoon plans – before you know it, it’ll be tea-time. Chances are, too, you’ll run into someone you know: Cutler’s is a trendy, buzzy, nicely noisy space, full of ladies who lunch (and who you know wouldn’t have set foot in the “old” Fitzroy) and noisy groups of friends waving to one another as they recognise newcomers.

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The decor has one foot in trendy raw-walled industrial minimalism, and the other in pleasing quasi-organic architectural follies. Filament-bulb lamps, hanging above black and grey banquettes around the room, are ten-a-penny round this city’s new favourite restaurants, but here are frounced with black netting that recalls the undulations of jellyfish, while those at the front bar are rose-pink and droop like flower-heads. The screen which separates the bar from the restaurant proper is inlaid with an elaborate tree-branch pattern, and more trees are discernible on menus and some of the opaque glass screens that half-separate the kitchen and wine cellar from the restaurant proper. (A note on those screens: they make the entrance to the loos a little too discreet: it’s worryingly easy to wander “behind the scenes” by mistake.)

Cutler & Co.’s menu is divided into four courses, with the full complement of listed appetisers brought to the table for snacking as you consider the options for the next courses. On the day we visited, appetisers included starters of buffalo-milk halloumi with rosehip and fennel pollen, and local mussels with smoked yoghurt, apple, mustard and cucumber – a knockout dish full of big flavours, balanced perfectly between succulence and crunch. The mains include more traditional options, such as roasted John Dory, or beef striploin.

Descriptions of dishes are, as is the trend, somewhat sparse, and in some instances they undersell the dishes. Had it not been presented as one of the “mandatory” appetisers, I wouldn’t have rushed to order “beetroot, kohlrabi, goats curd and almond”: the minimal description makes it sound too familar (that beetroot and goat’s cheese combination), an overly fussy remoulade. What arrived, however, was a punchy, grown-up and utterly un-remouladish dish of architecturally arranged kohlrabi batons, tiny sweet beetroots the shape, size and colour of rosehips, and two cute dods of the goat’s cheese. Cutler &Co., I’m sorry I doubted you.

As well as being unfailing attentive yet never obtrusive, Cutler’s staff have a preternatural ability to tell when you’ve not quite had enough of a good thing. My companion and I ummed and ahhed for a good while over the dessert menu before deciding to be virtuous and share the peach sorbet with shortbread and berries – but our server snuck over to the table later on and set down the “other” dessert anyway – baked figs with a fig-leaf ice cream – “Just so you don’t miss out,” she added. In all honesty, I don’t think we gained much from this latter dessert – you’d have to be quite the fig-lover to plump for something so dependent on the fruit – but the gesture was a lovely one, simultaneously flattering the guests and showing justifiable pride in what the kitchen’s doing. Even with the second dessert, we didn’t leave feeling overstuffed with food – portions are just right to leave you satisfied, but not overwhelmed. We did, however, notice the sun had started to set.

With Gertrude Street continuing to become more of a destination – Marimekko is the newest star name to open a shop on the strip – lunch at Cutler & Co. represents less a schlep to an unloved part of town, more the natural culmination (and highpoint) of a trip to one of Melbourne’s most exciting and trendy streets. Just don’t plan too much done for the remainder of your Sunday afternoon.


Cutler & Co., 55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne VIC 3065,
+61 3 9419 4888;