Few food-centric visits to Melbourne are completed without a trip to Cumulus Inc. Andrew McConnell’s restaurant café is widely regarded by locals and visitors alike.
When backed by a bevy of solid recommendations, it was only a matter of time for me.
Though I find that the crowd is generally correct about the quality of Melbourne establishments, Cumulus Inc surprised me in ways I did not expect.
Date Last Visited: 27/11/13
Address: 45 Flinders Lane Melbourne, VIC 3000
Recommended Dish(es): Grilled Lyonnaise sausage, smoked hock, braised beans & 65C egg
We had some difficulty deciding whether to visit Cumulus Inc for breakfast or dinner, as we had the cruel dilemma of choice. Given how well Melbourne breakfasts turn out, such was our decision.
By day, it’s like any other café environment, albeit with a bit of an industrial feel to it. I’ve become so used to the veneer of naked brick as a design choice, that Cumulus is actually a departure from the norm.
The place is decently sized, not too cramped, and includes an upstairs section which doubles as a bar. I don’t think seating is available on that level for breakfast. A problem, as this place predictably attracts queues during peak times.
The café ritual always begins with a coffee. In fact, I cannot recall a single instance when I take a café breakfast without a coffee. Such is life, why change what works so well?
Given that this was back in 2013, $3.8 for a coffee is relatively expensive, especially by Melbourne standards. I’m not really miffed, given that it’s Single Origin and that it’s only a few cents of material difference. Still, it adds up if it’s your daily cuppa.
My inept coffee judging skills deems Cumulus Inc as upholding the higher-than-average standard for Melbourne coffee. No issues here folks!
Of the three dishes I got to try, the grilled Lyonnaise sausage is the best. Nothing fancy, just a deliciously saporous sausage, with a smoky hock that’s all the suave as smoking a fine Cuban, but without any of the stigma. You can innocently enjoy this one!
Butter-soft beans & a pillowy-soft 63C egg rounds it out, and the dish would have made for a great breakfast. That’s despite the uninventive presentation, but that’s forgivable because, hey, this isn’t Vue De Monde.
Except it doesn’t make for a great breakfast. The culprit? Portion size. I’ve never had genuine cause to cavil about portion sizes in café food before, but Cumulus really could have put more onto the plate. The plate you see there is not much bigger than my clenched fist, and those who know me know I have small hands to start.
Compared to what I just had, the smoked ocean trout bagel is not really much to write home about. It’s decent, when considered in its own vacuum, but given the likes of Manchester Press, this bagel doesn’t fire the buttons like the former café’s bagels do.
Once again, the portioning could have used a bit of oomph, and something could be paired with the bagel, like a salad. Alas, you literally just get the bagel. I suppose this is where I give a mental shrug, and move on. I don’t really care too much for plated food that looks like it could be a takeaway at a moment’s notice.
The full English brekky is better, but in the sense that there’s a bit more to it than the bagel. The usual Aussie favourites of smoky bacon and Irish boudin noir is there, which all tick boxes for me.
Thing is, for a full English breakfast, this isn’t really filling. There’s just a few strips of bacon, and not much of everything else. The first “big breakfast” that fails to live up to the name. Quite literally, the small “full” breakfast I’ve had.
Cumulus is alright as a café that serves alright food, but is a letdown in terms of portioning, and by extension, presentation. The dishes are also not terribly exciting. With Melbourne’s colourful pedigree of wonderful cafés out there, I’m a bit surprised Cumulus Inc draws crowds like it does.
Perhaps Cumulus by night is where it’s really at. I wouldn’t mind seeing that side of it.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
- Food & service are decent
Not so Awesome:
- Unimaginative breakfast menu
- Portions sizes are lacking
- Presentation is a bit meh