Cutler & Co

The moodily marvellous Cutler & Co in Fitzroy.
The moodily marvellous Cutler & Co in Fitzroy. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

55-57 Gertrude Street Fitzroy, Victoria 3065

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Opening hours Sun noon-late; Tue-Sun 6pm-late
Features Bar, Accepts bookings, Degustation, Wheelchair access, Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options, Private dining, Licensed, Events
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef Andrew McConnell, Casey McDonald, Allan Eccles,
Seats 100
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9419 4888

I reckon it's the best show in town. Sitting at the kitchen bench, watching owner Andrew McConnell, head chef Rory Cowcher and their crack team prepare some of Melbourne's most wonderful food is better than any movie or theatre spectacle because you view the process then eat the proceeds. It's an immersive, intoxicating performance.

At six and a bit, Cutler is a veteran but it's also nimble and engaging, not least because of the 2013 renovation that saw the chefs hauled from the kitchen cave and installed by the restaurant entrance. Beyond the strenuous calm of the open kitchen, the large dining room is moodily marvellous with a canny balance of comfy finishes and rough edges. There's space to breathe and be, a sense that you should take food and wine seriously and life lightly. I love the place.

There's a glorious clarity of intention to the food. This is elevated dining but it's never flouncy. Every flavour, texture and technique is used for a reason. An autumn vegetable plate stars little radishes for sweeping through pumpkin puree. Nettle-flavoured crisps are on hand too. Beef pastrami – meltingly juicy, delicately spiced – comes with various pickled, smoked, sweet and sharp accompaniments as well as the genius addition of crunchy curls of fried dough. Flounder is fried on the skin side only and just cooked through with absolute precision; it's served with charred cucumber and brown butter emulsion. Rib eye and suckling pig to share are perennial; otherwise the menu is an ever-changing document that dips into tradition.

The chocolate ricotta cake.
The chocolate ricotta cake. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

Recently, McConnell's confit apple dessert, a dish dating to 2007, jostled for attention with a chocolate, ricotta and clementine concoction developed in response to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Just like the film, the dessert is a collision of substance and show, but I'll always fall harder for art you can eat.

Rating: Four and a half stars (out of five)