Monday, May 21, 2012

Cumulus Inc.

Popularity can have its downsides. Take a restaurant for example; you start out serving delicious fresh food in inventive meals. Slowly but surely your reputation builds through blogs, critic reviews and by word-of-mouth, and before long, your reservation books are full and there are hordes of people waiting to enjoy your brunch fare on a Sunday. Due to the enormous influx of people, you can't handle the pressure and start asking people to stand-in corners, wait 40 or so minutes for a coffee, run out of orange juice and serving up some pretty uninspiring dishes.

Can you tell I was in a foul mood after eating at Cumulus Inc.?

I'd arranged to catch up with a few friends for a Sunday brunch. There was a line, and were initially told we had to wait 45 minutes for a table. Not unreasonable I suppose given how busy the place was, but while we were discussing whether we should pop over to another cafe to get a coffee before returning for brunch, the maître d' suggested we wait in the corner with a coffee instead.

Dutifully we headed into the corner (feeling somewhat like naughty schoolchildren of all things), and waited for a waiter to appear to take our coffee orders. After 10 minutes, none had appeared, but a space had cleared up at the bar, so we waited there instead.

Another 10 minutes, and finally I managed to get the attention of a waitress. She dutifully took our coffee orders, and then spoke to the maître d' who informed us that we could order food while sitting at the bar as well. That was an unexpected bonus, but seeing as there was no longer a queue, somewhat unsurprising.

Being somewhat a creature of habit and preferring eggs to sweets for breakfast, I ordered the Shakshouka; baked eggs with roasted peppers & marinated Persian feta.

When it arrived, it looked amazing. Pity it tasted no-where a s good as it looked. With a consistency closer to tomato soup than the gooey baked eggs I'd expected, I was even annoyed by the fact they hadn't provided me with a spoon. Lacking flavour, even the feta wasn't enough to rescue this dish. One of my dining companions ordered the dish, and was similarly disappointed with it.

The other savoury dish ordered did no better. The baked beans with ham hock, poached egg and sourdough was both visually uninspiring, and just tasted, well, boring.

Baked Beans with Ham Hock, a Poached Egg and Sourdough
While the poached egg was perfectly acceptable, the beans and ham were bland. The only redeeming feature of this dish apart from the egg, was perhaps the fact the beans weren't mushy, although non-mushy beans aren't necessarily a big ask.

The only person to appeared to enjoy her meal was the one who'd ordered the toasted honey granola, & poached fruit with vanilla yogurt.

Toasted Honey Granola, & Poached Fruit with Vanilla Yogurt
I didn't get a taste of this (she didn't want to share because she thought it was that good!), but it seemed like a quality meal. The muesli mix was deemed the best she'd ever had, and the vanilla yogurt appeared to have been made in house.

Maybe it was just a matter of choosing the wrong dishes, but I really didn't enjoy my experience here. Don't even get me started on the coffee though - it arrived halfway through our meal, even though we'd ordered the coffee a good 10 minutes before we'd ordered the meal. In any case, it wasn't even worth waiting for, with a taste reminiscent of mud, and flat whites with more froth than a cappuccino. Disappointing, and I'm unlikely to return even for lunch or dinner.

Cumulus Inc.
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Mon-Fri 7am-11pm, Sat-Sun 8am-11pm

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon


  1. Hmmmm yes, we would agree with your review on Cumulus. It's an old thing now, but still seemingly quite popular...but even in its early days, we never quite connected with it. The only thing that we go back for are the lemon curd madeleines.

    1. Being dessert correspondents, if you say that the lemon curd madeleines are good, then I might head back for those.

      Otherwise, I'm planning on making them out of the Cumulus Inc. cookbook. I'll let you know how they turn out :)