I’m not the only one worrying about the recession. But I’m probably the only one in Cutler & Co thinking about it. The reincarnation of chef Andrew McConnell’s Three, One, Two at the top end of Gertrude St is packed. So packed, McConnell later tells me that it took them by surprise which explains a couple of timing issues that a few of you will have seen on Twitter.
But the whole experience isn’t about minor niggles magnified by a control freak social media misanthrope like myself. It is about the the whole package you get in this sleek, casual (no tablecloths) new venue where every detail down to the exact size of the inlays for the parquet floor and the painted bare brick walls have been thought through.
Not many people knew that you could drop into Three, One, two for just a drink. In Cutler and Co it is obvious. A vast rectangular central bar divides the, um, bar area from the restaurant real. Sofas and tall round tables dot this space. And like the restaurant behind, it is dotted by Fitzroy-types in signature black and more than a few people who wouldn’t look out of place in the cast of Underbelly.
We were steered here on arrival as our table wasn’t quite ready. The service throughout is friendly and professional, catering to our every whim including four or five stabs at finding the right wine for Mrs Tomato who is more sensitive to the effects of ethyl acetate – the nail polish remover smell in wines.
McConnell’s food is understated, with just five options for each course. There is nothing that can be added or subtracted from the plate. I could just sit there and eat his perfectly seasoned $8 salad although I’d be missing out on the snack of anchovy pastries ($9), four long sticks comprising pastry wrapped around a single ortiz anchovy.
Tuna on toast is a thick sleeper of tuna seared with a crisp seared thin bread crust on one side served with disks of octopus so tender they could almost be mistaken for a scallop.
The mains repeat the success of the starters. Mrs Tomato wins on the argument of who will have the ricotta and truffled pecorino tart, jerusalem artichokes, crisp zucchini flower at $28. I’m left with the suckling pig, confit shallots, sherry vinegar ($39) which is certainly no ordeal although I was tempted to have a cardiac team on standby.
The richness of the pig doesn’t hold me back for dessert with a crowd-pleasing chocolate terrine, fresh cherries & brandy cream ($17).
But McConnell slips in a complementary ginger granita, coconut sorbet, fresh lychee ($16) presented with the strangely appealing frog spawn like basil seeds dotting the plate. Chef, of course, was right to bring this subtle, refreshing creamy dessert to my attention.
I like the casual vibe combined with the fine reasonably-priced food and will be back, even to an opening of an envelope here.
I’m back some ten days later for the opening of a $4.5 million South Australian Tourism envelope over lunch at Cutler and Co. The delivery of everything is faultless. That includes the idea of launching the marketing campaign here netting curious journalists including the Weekend Australian magazine’s new food supremos Necia Wilden and John Lethlean along for a nibble or three.
I’m there to the bitter end. And I licked the plate after demolishing the chocolate ice cream sandwich, with vanilla parfait and salted caramel.