We were shown to a good table to one side of the back dining room and seated at the table next to us was none other than Mr George Calombaris with is partner. They were joined by another two friends one of them being Adriano Zumbo!
This was the start of Steve's birthday celebrations so we decided to go for the degustation menu and matched wines.
We started of with a selection of appetisers comprising of some braised octopus very similar to the famed dish at Cumulus. There was also the most delicious cigars that came in an authentic cigar box and were filled with a foie gras pate with a sweet jelly at each tip. The pastry was crispy and the foie gras filling so deep and moreish and the sweet jelly just cut through the richness. There was also a wonderfully fresh sweet and salty oyster each and some Manzanilla olives. All washed down with a Rutherglen dry sherry which at first without the little snacks was quite overpowering but the complex and deep flavours of these little tidbits mellowed it out.
After such a heady start the next course of swordfish sashimi, avocado, daikon and fresh wasabi was like a breath of cold fresh air in a warm and stuffy room. The wasabi cleared the sinuses and the meaty swordfish sashimi was clean and cleansed the palate. I loved that the avocado was slightly pickled or seasoned - such attention to detail.
Hand picked mud crab, buttermilk potato, almond and brown butter came next. And we were back to deeper richer flavours and this one was comfort on a plate. The mashed potato was rich and creamy and the crab swet and plump. This was like a really refined fish pie that was hugely enjoyable and warmed the soul.
The next course was vegetarian - hay baked carrots, goat's curd, toasted grains and ash for Steve and beetroot tartare, smoked egg, rye and sorrel for me as I don't like carrots. Steve declare the sweet carrots a hit and I enjoyed the sharp pickled beetroot, smoky tang from the egg and a creamy flavour from the yolk.
Next was the dish of the night - smoked and fried duck, morcilla, golden raisin and beetroot. Crispy, meaty, highly savoury and the sweet - so many flavours all cleverly layered and beautifully presented. We loved this!
The courses continued - braised beef cheek, smoked tongue, kohlrabi and onion soubise. Nothing could follow the success of the previous course and I don't doubt this was great but it did pale into insignificance after the triumph of the duck!
Dessert descriptions didn't really appeal - apple and sorrel sorbet, fennel meringue and dill. All a bit strange to me but actually enjoyable. The sorbet was fresh and zingy, the meringue had a hint of aniseed from the fennel and the dill was fresh. The second dessert was violet ice cream, chocolate ganache, sour cherry and clove meringue. The sour cherry was really refreshing, the chocolate ganache sweet and rich and the violet ice cream surprisingly good and unsurprisingly reminiscent of Parma Violet sweets.
I think I prefer dessert to be a little more predictable and familiar. Whilst I didn't not enjoy these give me a little bit of tradition any day.
Every course at Cutler was good with the duck dish being entirely memorable and superior. Service was slick and professional and they had typed out menus ready for us to take home so the attention to detail in both service and food is second to none. I'd have liked service to be a little warmer and passionate perhaps; maybe less formal is a better way to describe it - maybe a bit more personal like the team at Cumulus.
The one gripe we did have at Cutler was we found the lighting very dim to the point it zapped all our energy away so after dinner we found ourselves very sluggish and were good for nothing but bed! That might have something to do with the volume of food consumed and wine but I do feel the darkness didn't help and perhaps a buzzier environment and more light may have helped lift our weary souls!