After a few false starts, it was high time the Clean Plate Club got together for another night out. Greedy Girl, FullAsAGoog and Nuts About Town ascended the staircase next to Cumulus Inc in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane for a soiree at the newish Cumulus Up.

Getting there on a cool Wednesday night straight after work meant no issues getting a table although, admittedly, there were only a few spares still available. Despite the sterility of the stairwell, the door opened to a warm, inviting main room with comfy seats, interesting decor and, to begin with, attentive service.

Nominally, Cumulus Up is a wine bar, with a small menu designed to chase hunger pangs away. Being part of the Andrew McConnell empire (one of Melbourne’s more energetic chef/entrepreneurs), there is an emphasis on stylish, interesting plates of food – and it’s a great chance to sample an array of dishes if you’re not intent on a substantial meal.

We chose wines by the glass, representing a fair selection of old and new world offerings. FullAsAGoog was intrigued by the Chenin Blanc ‘Magic of Ju Ju’ from the Loire Valley while Greedy Girl (and eventually Nuts About Town) opted for a Mornington Peninsula pinot noir. The pourings couldn’t be described as generous and the practice of ordering by the glass probably not the best strategy when it came to the bill but more on that later.

Nuts About Town started us off food-wise, having realised too late in the day she’d forgotten to fit in lunch. She went for an Ortiz anchovy dressed with Espelette pepper (from France) and fennel seeds sitting atop a slick of goat’s curd, layered on a crisp, incredibly thin piece of fried bread. She pronounced it so tasty, there was a chorus around the table – we all ordered a ‘slice’. The spice and beautifully tangy goat’s curd was a lovely counterpoint for the anchovy. The crisp bread added the crunch required. It was very yummy. Many dishes just weren’t suitable for sharing so the only thing to do was order one each.

We all opted next for a confit duck waffle with foie gras and prune paste. This was just about the perfect snack for a cold Melbourne night and, boy, were we glad we weren’t sharing. A fight would surely have broken out to get the last crumbs. It was truly delish with a beautiful combination of fruit and buttery richness coming from both the foie gras and the waffle. Greedy Girl was looking for a bit more salt but that could just have been a hangover from the anchovy consumed just moments earlier.
Cumulus Up

Confit duck waffle

On the table we had a dish of green olives which was nice to pick at. Greedy Girl prefers black olives, finding the green variety a bit too dense and stodgy but these were quite nice to fill the lulls between more involved courses.

We three were on a mission – consume all our animal-based courses before a fourth member of the party, Nothing With A Face, joined us to sample strictly vegetarian delights. And so we moved on to a couple of share plates – a triple-cream brie cheese and a platter of shaved ham with gherkin and other pickles. The ham was like one you’d normally have at Christmas. It had a decidedly sweet flavour and was shaved freshly from the bone by a rather impressive-looking slicer on display near the open kitchen. The restaurant prides itself on the way it serves cheese – at the correct temperature etc. For Greedy Girl’s taste the brie was still far too cold. Brie is at its luscious best when it starts to ooze softly across the plate.

It was then on to some more involved dishes with the arrival of our vego friend. A plate piled high with kale fritters was first up. It was served with a salsa verde. Pleasant enough but not a wow.
Then the final savoury dish for the night, herby ricotta dumplings, sprinkled liberally with grated cheese and featuring a buttery sauce and pine nuts.  Sadly, Nuts About Town (she of the allergy) needed to forgo this dish while we others dived in. The dumplings were soft and tasty and the dish was exceedingly well balanced.
We opted to share some desserts. A plate of profiteroles had a nice chocolate sauce but too big on the ice cream for Greedy Girl’s liking. There was also a ginger pudding and a selection of sorbets – licorice and watermelon. The licorice was chosen for its nostalgia value but pronounced a little anaemic flavour-wise.

By the time we’d got to desserts, the place was well and truly packed and the wait staff seemed to have a bit of trouble covering all the tables. More wine was ordered and the custom is to offer a fresh glass per pour – a nice touch but a little aggravating when a fresh glass is placed in front of you but they forget to bring the bottle to actually ‘fill’ it. Between the three of us drinking red wine we probably would have enjoyed (a) more wine and (b) a smaller bill by ordering a bottle rather than the succession of small pours. A note to remember for next time.

Cumulus Up offers only one table for reservation each evening,  for a minimum of eight guests. All other punters have to turn up and take their chances. On a Friday night that could be problematic but certainly early in the week no queues were forming and the turnover of tables seemed to ensure a regular supply of spots. In the summer, it may not prove to be the best of spots to enjoy the climate but it’s certainly a very welcome addition to Melbourne’s bar and food scene.

Cumulus Up

45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Cumulus Up Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tagged under: , , , , , ,