• Bill, rich. Service, poor. Lunch at Cumulus Inc.

45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne 3000
03 9650 1445

Sunday brunch used to be my favourite meal of the week but, these days, nabbing a table at your favourite café is harder than getting into Melbourne’s most exclusive bars on a Saturday night wearing jeans. If my blogging helps me to get a table sooner, then my hours spent at restaurants and the computer will be all worth it. Until then, I am inclined to take the ‘I can’t be bothered’ approach and cook up a storm at home to enjoy with a nice pot of tea in the sun.

On Sunday, we went out for a family brunch at Cumulus. We arrived at 11:40am naively hoping to get breakfast (breakfast stops at 11:30am). The waitress said if we left and returned at 1pm, she would "guarantee" us a table together - yes, she did actually use the word guarantee.

When we returned, we were seated at the bench facing the kitchen which was great to watch the food process but impossible to talk as a group of five. Unhappy, we asked for a table as we had been promised and were told that it would be another half an hour wait if we wanted to sit together. Another waiter tried to diffuse the situation with his expert EQ, don’t worry you will love sitting here, it is the best spot in the restaurant, he explained. Not if you want to talk.

I do not claim to be an expert restaurateur but their processes did not work:
  1. Putting people’s names on a list without taking their number is impractical. This relies on a table coming up exactly when the staff have predicted. If it takes longer, people are annoyed, if it is sooner a table is going to waste while others wait.
  2. For small groups, the bar space could be used to serve people rather than taking up space with people waiting.
  3. If they are not up to managing their waiting list, allowing customers to book and having several sittings would be much more pleasant for customers and staff.
Eventually, they begrudgingly let us squish onto another table for four which became available. We were happy, though ravenous.

The food was nice but extremely expensive and the service was slack. The waitress did not even return to ask us if we were enjoying our meal, and we were told that the dishes had to come one at a time as they were prepared (forcing us to share dishes) rather than getting our own mains.

The cracked wheat and fenugreek salad was tasty and fresh. Nutritious and tangy, it was a pleasing blend of cracked wheat, herbs, almonds, fenugreek and barberries. My mum loved this dish.

The spiced cauliflower with goats curd was delicious. The flavours were intense and interesting but blended together well. The cauliflower was blended with goat’s cheese then fried till crisp. This was mixed with fresh rocket, onion and pomegranate seeds.

The eggplant was mushy and an interesting accompaniment to the fresh, crusty breads. It was done with fenugreek and tahini.

The potatoes were crispy, well cooked and seasoned.

The food was pleasant but incredibly expensive for the size of the dishes, service and atmosphere. The bill ended up being $170 for five people without drinks, and just enough food to quell our hunger but not fill us up. I had been looking forward to trying Cumulus but will not be going back.

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