“So the creators of St Ali, Brother Baba Budan and Seven Seeds opened a new cafe, De Clieu, and they didn’t fuck it up” — was my short-attention-span-generation review of De Clieu for Ms G.
Now while my ‘review’ above is a little short, and perhaps a tad profane, it pretty much sums up De Clieu for me. Legends of the Melbourne coffee scene have opened a new place, and as with all the previous iterations, they’ve executed it beautifully — friendly and knowledgeable wait staff, great food and of course, fantastic coffee. Tick, tick, tick.
I was at a loose end while Ms G was at yoga and it was suggested that I pop in to De Clieu. I’d grab a coffee (or two) and then G and I would hit up Auction Rooms for some mad ‘pork knucklage’ (but more on that in a later post). Perfect.
Scanning the oh-so-pretty menus for the smallest looking dish I settled upon the buckwheat and rice muesli. Damn it was good – puffy soft rice, chocolatey crunch of hazelnuts, bitey zing of dehydrated apple, strawberry and orange, creaminess of the yoghurt and the sweetness of strawberry jam.
I’d need an equally impressive coffee to go with my nom breakfast. The more I latte sip, the more I try to expand my coffee horizons, trying more exotic blends and more esoteric brewing methods. Today would be no exception, selecting the Guatemalan Cup of Excellence in the French press.
Now, I realise there is nothing fancy or new about the French press, except perhaps in an old-is-new-again kind of way. In fact, for me the French press (or plunger coffee) is distinctly unsexy — years of my father drinking plunger Lavazza gave me, quite literally, a bad taste for the French press. Fast forward to 2010, and the overlords of the lactose-intolerant-skinny-jean-wearing-coffee-sipping hipsters, Seven Seeds, have deemed the French press cool again. Well, if it’s good enough for those wacky hipsters, then it’s good enough for me. Subtle, tea-like in body, slightly fruity. Really quite delicious, and very much like a pour-over, which is unsurprising given both methods ‘steep’ the coffee in hot water. My father had it right drinking it black back then as such a light-bodied coffee shouldn’t be messed with by adding milk as it completely overpowers the subtle flavours. If only Dad hadn’t used Lavazza! On a previous excursion to De Clieu, Ms G had a similar enlightenment. From the way she describes the experience I suspect there were angels singing, trumpets blazing and soft cheeses and cured meats being distributed.
I shall forever have a soft spot for De Clieu in my heart because it is the place where upon having Ethiopian Nekisse through the French press, I was able to smell and taste the blueberry. A true coffee epiphany moment. To top it off, I gleefully shared my experience with the staff and instead of acting like they’d just been assaulted by some silly girl, they shared in my joy and enthusiasm. Much love.
Following the French press I had a similarly delicious long black with an unnamed single-origin. I was buzzing.
De Clieu is a beautiful venue, and like its larger brother Seven Seeds there’s whispers of design awards with a minimal and uncluttered layout. Unfortunately, as they say, strengths are sometimes weaknesses and seating is in short supply, so get there early. While you’re there grab a French press – they’re not nearly as daggy as you remember.
Thanks to that quartet of books by that lady who loves Muse, vampire literature has seen quite the resurgence in popularity. Indeed, according to a Paris Review interview with Stephen King conducted in 2006, vampires have never really gone out of fashion.
It was of course Irish writer Bram Stoker who showed us how this vampire stuff was done, initially (poor John Polidori!). Bleeding legend, historical persons and a good ol’ dash of Victorian sexual repression into each other (no pun intended), his novel Dracula continues to entertain and inspire supernatural media even today. But please don’t mention Keanu Reeves in Francis Ford Coppola’s film – it’s still a sore spot.
So basically, to get their kicks off, Victorian audiences were entertained by tales of aberrant sexuality…in Eastern Europe.
These were the things I was thinking about when I first learnt about the origins of the name Naked For Satan, a new pintxos bar in Fitzroy. Leon Satanovich, the man who partially lends his name to the venue, was actually from Russia. ‘Naked For Satan’ actually refers to getting near-naked to work on the stills, creating moonshine for Satan, as the Aussies christened him, given that Satanovich is apparently too much of a mouthful.
You lot probably want me to shut up now, so here is a fab pic of the interior.
By the time I took one of my closest friends L to Naked For Satan for lunch, I’d already been a few times (pretty rare for me!). I figured it would impress her, as she is from Sydney. I’d never heard of pintxos before this gorgeous bar opened up so numerous ‘research’ trips were imperative for educating: pintxos being the Basque version of tapas. Save your toothpicks and you pay $2 for each morsel you devour at the end of your session, and order drinks along the way. Be careful who you go out with as they will most likely repeat the word ‘pintxos’ in the most annoying manner possible (Tristan and Alex, I’m looking at you).
Make sure you leave room (in your belly and on your plate!) for the hot ones that are served personally by the staff who make a round of the bar to bring them to you.
There is a good array of vegetarian ones, and even some desserty ones – miniature profiterole-type whatsits and *cue zomg here* prunes soaked in armagnac.
My only criticism is that some of the cream cheese-based ones are a little heavy on the cheese.
Here’s one of my favourite ones – Tom Cooper smoked salmon. Pretty simple combination but I love it so.
Another fave is the chilli mussels with capers.
If you’d like to see more photos of the delectable deliciousness, please go to Tristan’s Flickr set. I want to talk about the drinks now! For example, their Naked For Satan ale is brewed especially for the venue by Matilda Bay’s garage. It’s a wheat beer, and a pretty approachable one at that, which subtle banana esters (so you can get a whiff of banana) and hints of clove. These are pretty standard in wheat beers. It’s a very chuggable drop – should be more so in the extreme heat of summer. Word is it’s also modelled on Matilda Bay’s retired Redback.
Oh yes, then there’s the infused vodkas, that which they use in their cocktails. L and I shared an Opiumtini – their take on the vodka martini which has opium-infused vodka softened with rose. It’s like drinking liquid Turkish delight! Heavenly. On a toothpick, there are three teensy rosebuds floating in the cocktail.
Or a take on their Bloody Mary? Silly Tristan doesn’t like Bloody Marys (‘Maries’ sounds wrong!) because they remind him of V8 juice! Ha. I can understand that.
Each time I’ve been here, it’s never failed to impress me and I’ve tested the array of pintxos available quite extensively. Despite how swanky it is, I’m surprised by how wonderfully friendly and informative the staff are. And how beautiful the space is! Judging from the entrance, you wouldn’t think it to be as roomy as it is and every inch is decked out in style. I hope the visit impressed my Sydneysider bestie!
A personal, intimate celebration was in order after a very special milestone had been passed. Thus, my partner and I decided to dine at Cutler & Co. one evening. This was some weeks ago now and I can’t stop thinking about it. In fact, I feel like Bubbles from The Wire but instead of concocting schemes to fund my next hit, it’s to fund another visit there to splurge on oysters and cocktails. I am still very much enamoured.
A hospitality friend of mine told me the degustation was essential dining, and so both myself and partner put our trust in this recommendation. To begin, we sipped on gin and tonics – you are given a glass with gin, ice cubes and a lemon wedge. A separate science-lab-style beaker with tonic is provided and you mix the gin and tonic with a chopstick in the glass.
After our dietary requirements were confirmed, the first appetiser served was delicate Clair de Lune oysters. I don’t know much about oysters but when I’ve had them at most places, the shell is about the size of my palm. These ones were about half that size, and the shells were much more rounded.
The next appetiser was morsels of slow cooked octopus topped with various things most carefully. I closed my eyes and chewed slowly to savour these as long as possible and enjoy the amalgam of flavours. Just joyous.
The last of the appetisers was a slice of air cured wagyu which you are then meant to wrap around a thin pastry straw modelled on the humble cheese straw. These pastry straws had wasabi in them. One did not seem enough.
As well as your choice of warm sourdough or rye bread, you get these whisper-thin parmesan crackers that are made to look like prawn crackers. You know the ones – those ones that melt as soon as they make contact with your tongue. Very sophisticated, but still playful.
At this stage, I should mention that just how accommodating the staff were became supremely evident to me. Very tentatively, I asked if it would be possible that instead of both of us having full glasses of wines matched to the course, would it be an option for us to have half glasses. Our waiter and sommelier Ben said that was perfectly okay. This really quite impressed me.
‘Serious’ business can now begin: our tastebuds had been flirted with quite tantalisingly, and the first of the dishes was to be served: an arrangement of cured kingfish, smoked onion, seaweed vinegar, beetroot and rye. It’s composed so carefully on the plate that it seems a shame to begin demolishing it.
The accompanying wine was a 2009 KT & The Falcon ‘Peglidis Vineyard’ riesling. I’m not a massive fan of riesling, and you know why? I clearly haven’t had enough superlative examples of the style. Normally I find them too sweet and cloying, but this one was fairly dry.
The next course was a soup one – we were presented with plates of spanner crab, abalone and sweet corn. A soup of white onion was then carefully poured into the scallopped bowl. The crumbly sweet corn was chilly and because of that, I expected the soup to be like that too, but it was surprisingly warm. Every mouthful kept me guessing with its subtle flavours and unexpected textures.
To match, the 2008 Sutton Grange Syrah viognier rose was served. With hardly a hint of pink in its colour, this wine tasted as understated as it appeared initially. The flavour gradually developed as one drank more of it.
The last of the lighter courses was a raw, cooked and pickled carrot salad with walnut cream and shanklish. When one of the waitresses asked me which of the courses thus far was my favourite, I said that while I couldn’t pick one, I could confirm this as my least favourite though singling it out felt like quite the crime.
At this stage, we were supposed to be served the Romante ‘Regente’ palo cortado – a gorgeous dry, delicately nutty sherry that our waiter said was a bit of a gamble – he said that we’d either hate it or love it. This was my favourite alcoholic pick for the evening – I wanted to take the entire bottle home, cradle it and slurp it up. This sherry wasn’t actually served with the dish as intended and the sommelier was visibly annoyed by miscalculating the number of dishes we were up to. He insisted we drink this delightful number with compliments of the restaurant. Neither myself nor partner were at all put out by the supposed mistake.
The first meat course of mandarin duck was then brought out to us. Different parts of the duck were used – crisp leg and smoked fillet. This was served with a fois gras ‘cigar’. The smoked fillet was just sublime and the fois gras a little sweet. Good thing cigars really aren’t made of fois gras or I’d be a chronic smoker…
This was coupled with the 2008 Hoddles Creek pinot noir and I had trouble drinking it in a restrained manner. An excellent complement to the dish as it didn’t compete in flavour with the duck but rather augmented it.
Oh the red meat course of wood grilled Rangers Valley short rib. Melt-in-your-mouth beef with the perfect amount of fat marbled through the meat. As I ate this, my mind constantly chanted “savour, Gem, savour, chew slowly“.
At this stage I shall have to admit that I don’t remember as much about the 2007 Domaine Darnaud ‘La Vendeima’ St Joseph shiraz served as I’d like. Up to this point, many of the wines had a very similar mouthfeel – light, thin, crisp (yes, even the pinot). The shiraz was naturally fuller in body.
Now to begin the dessert stages with a edible sculpture of sheep’s milk yoghurt, carrot granita and mandarin. The yoghurt possesses no sour taste and is silky. This course on the whole is not too sweet, and that makes it all the more pleasing.
The accompanying wine was the 2008 Pegasus Bay ‘Aria’ riesling which was sweet but not too sticky and ever so slightly syrupy in mouthfeel.
I’d managed to be on my best behaviour this far but when the violet ice cream, chocolate ganache and sour cherry ending to the meal was presented, I scoffed it down pretty quickly. It was bursts of not too sweet, pucker-mouth-sour and tart and creamy goodness. I judge it to be the dish that will unleash your child-like glee.
The closing alcoholic beverage was the Mas Amiel ’10 ans d’age’ – a tawny port-like experience. As to be expected, we were presented with petit fours and I opted to have Earl Grey tea which came in a hefty iron pot.
Upon settling the account, as we left, we were politely asked if we needed a taxi to be called for us. Our sommelier Ben was kind enough to print out a list of our courses and matching wines upon request for us to take home.
Everything about Cutler & Co. speaks refined, polished and yet not one bit intimidating. Your experience starts as soon as you enter the door and I’m awed by how seamless the service is – they really make you feel like you’re the only person they are looking after. Absolutely recommended for special occasions when you want to be fussed over. Weeks after my first time there, I am still gushing in earnest.
edit (16/2/2016): Belinda from OpenTable suggested I add an online link to make bookings to the restaurant which is pretty useful info so I’ll include one. Please note that I do not receive any gratuities for doing this and cling to the naive belief that it might be helpful, honest!