Cumulus Inc is the kind of venue where you are being given a new fork before you've even realised your other one just hit the floor — yes that did happen. One of Andrew McConnell's many venues, Cumulus has been a Melbourne favourite since its opening in 2008. Service is seamless and the food is well, simply divine. Whole lamb shoulder to share ($69) falls off the bone, while tiny morsels of the kitchen's charcuterie selection ($26) does nicely to whet the appetite.
Just when we didn't think things could get any better, enter Cumulus Up. Above Cumulus Inc, Up is a mix between a waiting room for the main act downstairs and an entity in itself. While it encompasses some of the sleek design elements from Inc, it uses more exposed brick and dark detail to give it a relaxed yet classy finish.
They keep things tight with a small wine list of 12 varieties by the glass. If you're going for white wine, the Di Majo Norante Falangbina from Molise Italy is divine, while the Mengoba Flor de Brezo Mencia from Bierzo, Spain is a beautiful red. The staff know the list inside out and will point you in the right direction every time.
The food, it was always going to be good, we expected this. What we didn't expect was the duck waffle with foie gras and prunes ($10). It's going to be a thing; we can just feel it happening. Other bites on the menu include anchovy toast with fresh curd ($50) and zucchini flower fritters ($9). Larger meals come in the form of bass grouper with crab sauce and fennel ($38) and dry aged 800g rib eye ($90 to share).
If cheese is your thing, finish your evening with a Brie de Meaux, white mould, cow's milk cheese from France ($16) or a Perl Las, a cow's milk blue from Wales ($16). Desserts see profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce ($15) and ice cream and sorbet available by the scoop ($4 a scoop).
This newcomer makes you want to linger, yet lets you come and go as you please. A beautiful offshoot from Cumulus Inc, and we're excited to see where they take it from here.
Images: Kristoffer Paulsen and Harvard Wang.