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Dinner At Three One Two


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Outstanding, just outstanding. The day started off brilliantly with the humiliation of Eddie McGuire and the Collingwood Football Club and it finished with a sublime dinner at Three One Two.

I’ve been wanting to go to Three One Two for a long time. But sometimes, when you wait so long for something, when you finally try it, it can be a disappointment as the reality doesn’t match up to the dream. But at Three One Two, it was worth the wait.

The joy of Andrew McConnell’s food is that it’s built in such a way where the flavours are distinct, but they don’t clash. Each flavour on the dish supports everything else on the plate. When eating his food, I found myself trying each individual element and then elements together, and you just end up feeling a bit starry eyed and just marvelling at the skill of the chefs. as far as saying that last night’s dinner was one of the most memorable I’ve ever enjoyed.

We started with an amuse bouche of a tube of flaky African pastry, filled with crème fraiche, one end was bloked with an olive tapenade and the other had a balsamic jelly. It looked like a very thin cigar, and it was presented to us in a box. There will be some people who would think this kind of presentation is pretentious, but we thought it was fun, and it set the tone for the evening. Oh, and the amuse bouche was very tasty. Some very good bread and butter was offered, and (other restaurants take note) offered a couple more times as we worked our way through the entrees.

I started with roast Macleay Valley rabbit with cracked wheat pilaf, pistachio, and date. You will read this phrase a couple of times in this review, but it was the best rabbit dish I’ve enjoyed. The meat had that familiar rabbit flavour, but it wasn’t overpowering. The meat was tender, the pilaf provided a soft contrast, and as a whole, the flavours came together. The missus had a white onion soup, seared scallops, ginger, abalone, and sorrel. A plate with four scallops was placed on the table and the soup was poured over it. The scallops were cooked perfectly, the soup had a brilliant velvety texture, and the flavours were balanced. Ginger can be quite an overpowering flavour, but here, they had just enough for you to notice it.

My main was the suckling pig with sweet and sour glaze and slow cooked winter vegetables. It also came with a little pot of (my memory might be a slightly off with this one) shredded cabbage and pear salad. Best. Pork. Dish. Ever. It was rich, tender, and the flavour was incredible. The pork flavour could be too strong for some, but I was revelling in it. The glazed skin reminded me of the top of a crème brulee – it was thin, but oh so crisp. The salad was essential as it helped cut the richness of the pork. The waiter told me that the pork was cooked sous vide for 12 hours at 70 degrees. Meanwhile, my significant other was getting as much pleasure out of her slow cooked pheasant with brussel sprouts, bacon, and bread sauce. She has had pheasant many times, and she feels that the key problems have always been dry meat and the gamey flavour. But not here. She’d probably say Best .Pheasant. Dish. Ever. Moist and tender meat, good flavours without being overpowering, and every part of the dish supporting each other.

Desserts continue on with the high standards set by the other courses. I had poached rhubarb, rhubarb jelly, vanilla custard, ginger beer sorbet, and meringue. To me, it seemed like a very sophisticated version of Eton Mess. A shallow, but wide glass bowl came with rhubarb jelly set on the bottom, and on one half, the jelly was covered with narrow slivers of poached rhubarb, quinelles of the sorbet, streaks of custard, and crushed meringue. The individual components were tasty, but combine them and (to borrow from the Simpsons episode with the Flaming Moe/Homer), it was like a party in your mouth and you’re all invited. As usual, the missus went for the chocolate dessert, which in this case was malted milk chocolate, chocolate sorbet, and px soaked raisins. Judging from the smile on her face, she loved it.

I finished with an excellent coffee whilst she said her Valrhona hot chocolate was like a second dessert.

The plating of the food was superb, and all courses came out at a good pace. The service was superb with the waiters being very friendly and attentive to the needs of all the diners.

The only stuff up for the night was choosing a Wittmann Estate “Dry” Riesling (2007, Rheinhessen, Germany). Whilst the wine was a little bit better when we had the food, it was probably a bit too sweet. A drier wine would have been better. But that was my mistake.

I’d say that Three One Two is one of Melbourne’s essential dining experiences.

Edited by Shinboners (log)
Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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I'm so glad you enjoyed it :) Recommending my favourite restaurants to people makes me nervous, because so often Murphy's law seems to kick in and it's not as good for them. But I suspect off nights are rare at Three, One, Two.

I think you summed up well what makes A.McC.'s cooking so great. Some of his dishes look almost too fussy or overdone, until you start actually eating them and it becomes clear what all the different elements are there for.

That cigar amuse bouche seems to be a bit of a trademark; it was offered to us both times we went, and I've seen it mentioned in other reviews also.

As for us, we've been satisfying our A.McC. fetish lately by heading in to Cumulus Inc on a Saturday afternoon. If you sit at the bar (the food one, not the drinks one), you get to watch the food being cooked by the master himself, and his many chefs. We tried to be nonchalant and not get all fan-boy at him :raz:

The first time we went, we had a liver parfait that I could happily eat every day until I die, and the second time, to our surprise and delight, the same parfait was included in the charcuterie selection that we ordered. Nothing I've ever eaten has made me wish harder for a cookbook than I'm wishing right now for one with this parfait in it. On the second visit, sheol ordered some boudin noir, which came not in a tube like the sausages we're used to, but baked onto a plate, and something about it was very evocative of that some parfait - a soft, airy texture and sweet-savoury indefinable flavour that writing this has made me crave all over again dammit!

I think we had that same pork dish on our first Cumulus Inc visit that you had at Three, One, Two. I couldn't decide whether the crispy edge was very thin, well-rendered skin or very well-crisped fat with the skin removed.

I'd honk on some more, but I have to go home. One day my lazy arse might actually write the blog posts I've been planning. So far I've done a Bar Lourinha review (yep, McConnells again) and some tasting notes for a wine, but I've been very lazy. And busy, I guess - doing a Masters and planning a wedding atm.

I'm so excited that someone else appreciates the McConnells the way we do :)

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As for us, we've been satisfying our A.McC. fetish lately by heading in to Cumulus Inc on a Saturday afternoon.  If you sit at the bar (the food one, not the drinks one), you get to watch the food being cooked by the master himself, and his many chefs.  We tried to be nonchalant and not get all fan-boy at him  :raz:

The first time we went, we had a liver parfait that I could happily eat every day until I die, and the second time, to our surprise and delight, the same parfait was included in the charcuterie selection that we ordered.  Nothing I've ever eaten has made me wish harder for a cookbook than I'm wishing right now for one with this parfait in it.  On the second visit, sheol ordered some boudin noir, which came not in a tube like the sausages we're used to, but baked onto a plate, and something about it was very evocative of that some parfait - a soft, airy texture and sweet-savoury indefinable flavour that writing this has made me crave all over again dammit!'

Okay, you've convinced me. Cumulus is on my list, as are those two dishes.

On the issue of a McConnell cookboook, I'm sure I read somewhere that he would be releasing one. I think it might be the same publishing company that has produced the Botanical/Lake House/Malouf cookbooks. IIRC, the cookbook is going to cover dishes he's done from his days at Diningroom 211 to now.

But then again, Karen Martini was supposed to release a cookook based on her work at the Melbourne Wine Room and Icebergs, and so far, that hasn't seen the light of day.

I think we had that same pork dish on our first Cumulus Inc visit that you had at Three, One, Two.  I couldn't decide whether the crispy edge was very thin, well-rendered skin or very well-crisped fat with the skin removed.

I thought (or more precisely, assumed) that it was very thin, very well rendered skin.

  And busy, I guess - doing a Masters and planning a wedding atm.

I think that's a pretty good excuse not to write your blog.

What's your Masters on? I know someone who is writing her Masters on El Bulli.

I'm so excited that someone else appreciates the McConnells the way we do :)

I'm just annoyed that I waited so long to get to Three One Two.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Shinboners, Cumulus Inc is definitely attracting heaps of positive attention at the mo!

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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After a discussion about how we should be saving for the wedding, we went to Cumulus again the other day - I think we might be addicted :raz:

It was as good as any other time we've been - the highlight was the wagyu beef, which was perfectly cooked and perfectly teamed with the other elements on the plate.

We asked him if he would be open between Christmas and New Year, and he said he hadn't decided yet.

The Masters is Finance, and sheol is studying an MBA. Yes, we are insane :wink:

Btw, a recent edition of Epicure mentioned that they would be reviewing Cumulus Inc this Tuesday the 26th.

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Btw, a recent edition of Epicure mentioned that they would be reviewing Cumulus Inc this Tuesday the 26th.

Lethlean gave it 16/20 and I think he's more in love with McConnell more than you guys are. :laugh:

For those who missed the review, you can read it here:

http://www.theage.com.au/news/restaurant-r...9516424090.html

Edited by Shinboners (log)
Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Lethlean gave it 16/20 and I think he's more in love with McConnell more than you guys are.  :laugh:

:raz:

And he didn't even try the parfait or the wagyu. He might die of sensory overload. Hell, so might we; we're going soon for sheol's birthday :biggrin:

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We didn't go to Cumulus. We went to Three, One, Two :raz: O. M. G.

The cigars were replaced with smoked trout on some kind of crispbread, which personally I liked a bit better. Then came the famous raw&cooked beetroot salad, followed by the white onion soup. That was followed by bacon-wrapped quail, accompanied by little mustard-crumbed drumsticks and brussels sprouts. The next course was a choice of John Dory with prawns and chorizo or seared lamb rump and slow-cooked shoulder with roast garlic, pumpkin puree and shallots. Naturally, being two of us, we ordered one each and shared. Cheese course was cashel blue with mini oatcakes (and a marvellous viognier that was like quince jelly in alcohol form). Finally, there was a pine nut sponge with blueberries, lemon curd and mint.

I'd go into more detail, give tasting notes etc, but to be honest I can't read my notes :wink: I've decided I have to stop doing the matching-wines thing at restaurants - it's just more wine than I can comfortably drink in one sitting. Also, if I were to go into detail, I'd be repeating myself with constant "best ____ ever" comments. But you know those moments you sometimes get in a meal, when you take a bite, and then freeze and just concentrate on the magic of what you're tasting? There were many of those. No real epiphanies like we've had on successive Cumulus visits (parfait, boudin noir, wagyu), but probably more of those perfect-bite moments than I've ever had in a single meal before.

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You lucky thing. Isn't the Three One Two degustation about $110? That, along with the Court House degustation, is superb value.

For those interested, there's a charity auction for Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden foundation. Several restuarants are offering tables for auction, with proceeds going to the foundation. Three One Two is one of the restaurants, and they've got dinner for 10 including wine for auction, and the current bid is at $1,300 at the moment. Go to www.kitchenfoundation.org.au for more info.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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But you know those moments you sometimes get in a meal, when you take a bite, and then freeze and just concentrate on the magic of what you're tasting?  There were many of those. 

Yep. I love those moments. It's the thing that makes spending all that money worthwhile.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Ya, I'm pretty sure it was $110 each, plus $70 each for the wine matching. (Yet another reason to just choose a bottle and be done with it) :wink:

The degustation is the only thing they offer onna Saturday night, but I suspect we would have gone for it anyway.

$1300 for ten sounds like a bargain. If only I knew 9 other people... :raz:

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  • 5 months later...

I hope Amarantha will post a report.

As for me, I probably won't get to Cutler and Co until April. The restaurant doesn't do dinner on a Sunday, and that's the night my pal has set aside for dinner.

However, we may go to Embrasse, which is the restaurant that has taken over the old Three One Two premises. The menu looks interesting, with an emphasis on vegetables. The chef, Nick Poelaert, has worked under Michel Bras in France (which would explain some of the vegetable dishes) and Shannon Bennett from Vue de Monde.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Sorry about the delay, was a bit hung over yesterday :raz:

We had the same problem we've had at Three, One, Two, which was too much wine. Cutler and Co doesn't offer a degustation (or at least didn't that night), so we ordered appetisers, entrees, mains and a dessert. We decided to have either a single bottle of wine, or two glasses each, matched to entree and main. But somehow, after talking to the sommelier, we ended up accidentally ordering two whole bottles. So ya, great night, but I don't often get quite that drunk. (Speaking of which, I apologise if this post is a bit incoherent; sheol found me a bottle of Clonakilla Viognier, so I've just had a bit over half of it with a lovely tuna steak over garlic mash and gai laan.) The wines we had were a 2007 Niepoort "Redoma" Brancho from Portugal (gently sweet with a lovely character) and a 2005 An Negra Vit AN/2 from Spain (soft, salty-savoury with a bit of a gentle kick in there somewhere).

That said, let's get on to the good bits. What can I say but: OMG. AMcC's food is as good as ever. The space is quite lovely and very comfortable. A bit larger and less intimate than Three, One, Two but not as casual as Cumulus Inc. The loos are unisex, which I quite like, but the locks don't work, which might make some nervous.

Aperitifs - I asked for a dry Tanqueray martini, and they only had Tanq 10, which I hadn't tried, so I gave it a shot. It was very fruity and tangy - I'd heard that T10 was as subtle as Bombay Sapphire, so was pleasantly surprised. It might have been the vermouth, except that it didn't taste like vermouth, plus I did order dry. Anyway, sheol, not usually fond of gin, really liked it, so we're going to get a bottle. Sheol, being a rum fan, ordered a glass of JM rhum, not having tried agricole before. That was also quite fruity and spicy, without being too sweet, which was nice for a rum.

For appetisers we ordered a dish of fried-and-salted Pimientos de Padrón, and some pastry-wrapped anchovies. According to the menu, "Los pimientos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non", which means "Padrón pimientos, some are hot and some are not". This was absolutely the case, as some were simply deliciously capsicum-y whilst others set up a slow burn on the palate. They had a wonderful texture of salty skin, soft flesh and little seeds (I love that!), and a touch of that lovely vegetable bitterness often found in eg. eggplant and green capsicum. This worked better for me than for sheol, who is still adjusting to bitter flavours. But the anchovy pastries more than made up for that. He ordered them for something different since he's not usually much of an anchovy fan, but he was blown away by them. I found them quite lovely but preferred the chillies; for sheol it was the opposite. I'm going to try the pimiento thing at home; I think it'd go really well with beer.

Entrees - first, rabbit terrine, and medallions of perhaps loin or similar, with some jamon iberico and apple-lentil salad. This had the perfect flavour balance you expect from AMcC, and sets the theme of his cooking style, which often presents a meat-cooked-two-ways with veg-and-sauce accompaniments chosen for their flavour-and-texture accentuation of the meat. Our other choice was the quail with foie gras parfait and figs. This was the best quail I've had, perfect in both texture and flavour, and just typing this is making me want more. The parfait was different from the one served at Cumulus; stickier and less sweet, but capturing more of the essence of the liver.

Mains:

Rare-roasted and slow-braised lamb, with fennel - chosen by sheol, but a revelation to me. The roasted component melted in the mouth with browned edges and a soft pink middle that soaked up the various flavours on the plate. The slow-cooked part was full of slow-cooked flavour as well a completely contrasting texture.

The baby pork was presented as a chunk of crispy-skinned belly and some other part I was too drunk to identify, but both delicious.

I was too drunk and too full to attempt dessert, but sheol ordered the chocolate ice cream sandwich with vanilla parfait and salted caramel. I had a small taste and can report that this was incredibly good. I love a sweet that's not too sweet, and it had a great balance of flavours.

This was yet another of those meals that are punctuated by sublime moments of don't-talk-to-me-right-now-I'm-busy-tasting-this. I would go there again in a heartbeat. On the other hand, Cumulus is just as good and slightly closer...

sheol's thoughts:

The staff were attentive, not too much although one had a slight mask of pretension as I saw how he was around the other staff when relaxed. I prefer wait staff to just be themselves, maybe a little reserved at most. Our initial orders of a martini and neat rum did take some time to come to the table, probably around 10 mins which was too long. We expected some inconsistencies with service based on previous experiences at Cumulus and 312.

The room is large and very well appointed. You can get small glimpses of activity in the kitchen, a nice touch and mid-point between cumulus and 312. Noise levels towards the end of the meal (around 9pm) were really starting to climb though. That and the close proximity of tables started diminishing the intimacy of the night.

Our sommelier was great to talk to, I can't remember her name unfortunately (thankfully she didn't introduce herself, she knew someone at the table next to us). She selected the two wines described by my S.O. earlier and we loved the both of them. There was a bit of a communication mix-up as we wanted two glasses of wines each, not bottles but I saw what was happening halfway through the conversation and went with it. I was glad I did.

Appetiser

Anchovy pastries:

Absolutely delicious, moreish with some mouthfuls and quite powerful for others.

8.5/10

Pimentos de padron:

True to the description at the bottom of the menu "most taste sweet and mild, though some are particularly hot and spicy". I ended up taste-testing each one after eating a pimientos that blew my palatte away with the heat for a few minutes. Very simple flavours, something that appeals more to my significant other than I. I found myself putting salt on them to increase the appeal.

6.5/10

Entree

Rabbit terrine, lentil & apple salad:

Very nice, fresh and flavoursome.

8/10

Wood grilled quail, foie gras parfait & fresh figs:

For me the best dish of the night, absolute perfection. Very tender quail, the parfait and figs and from memory there were also pomegranate seeds and raddiccio. These combined with to make a dish that was far greater than the sum of it's parts. I could have died happy at the end of that dish, although I would have died happier if I was given a second plate of it.

10/10 - I can't think of how this could have been better.

Roast & braised lamb, confit fennel:

Very clean lamb flavours. I enjoyed it but it didn't raise any passions in me.

7.5/10

Suckling pig, confit shallots, caramelised sherry vinegar:

Texturally this dish was perfection. A technical masterpiece and again, very, very well executed. I enjoyed this more than the lamb and in most places I would have been more than happy with this but after the quail I wanted that extra something that made me wonder if Andrew is the second coming of Christ.

8/10

Chocolate ice cream sandwich, vanilla parfait & salted caramel:

Arrived at the table in the opposite configuration to what I expected: The (dark and and so very beautiful) chocolate ice cream was on top of the sandwich, with the vanilla parfait and salted caramel making up the sandwich itself. One of his magical dishes where you wonder how he does it, just a whisker below the perfection of the quail.

9.5/10

Overall:

I'd give the night an 8.5/10. Cutler & Co is a curious mixture of cumulus and 312 and I'm still puzzled about it. I could have a more simple meal at cumulus for half the price and the same noise level. At 312 I could have had a slightly more refined meal with less noise (on a weeknight at least) for the same price. We will be back again though, I don't know if I've made my mind up.

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Thanks for the excellent review Amarantha. Some of your descriptions made my mouth water.

I'd give the night an 8.5/10.  Cutler & Co is a curious mixture of cumulus and 312 and I'm still puzzled about it.  I could have a more simple meal at cumulus for half the price and the same noise level.  At 312 I could have had a slightly more refined meal with less noise (on a weeknight at least) for the same price.  We will be back again though, I don't know if I've made my mind up.

I was down on Gertrude Street today, and I tried to find Cutler And Co. just to check out the menu. The only problem was that I couldn't find the restaurant. :hmmm:

It'll be interesting to see what they do with the pricing. Restaurants will often open with lower pricing, and then raise prices as they build up a following - and I'm pretty sure that McConnell has used this strategy at Diningroom 211, Mrs. Jones, and Three One Two. But if the prices are already up at Three One Two level, then I don't know how he can go higher in price, especially in the current economic conditions.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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I forgot to mention at the start of my post that I was adding some comments by sheol as well as my own. The part you quoted is his. I'll see if I can edit it to put his section in a quote box (edit - apparently not once a reply has been added).

And ya, it's hard to find unless you know it's there. The address is 55-57 Gertrude St, and it's got mirrored windows so it's hard to see in. The only sign is a more-funky-than-readable neon one that's turned off when they're closed.

Is it possible to edit the thread title now that Three, One, Two is no more? I know on some forums the OP can do it; otherwise it takes modly intervention. It could be renamed to reference Cutler and Co, or perhaps even Andrew McConnell in general.

Edited by Amarantha (log)
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Amarantha,

It might just be easier if you start a new thread and just copy your review onto it.

Now that Kevin Rudd is handing out $900 to nearly every taxpayer in Australia, nobody should have any excuse not to splash out on dinner at a good restaurant. :cool:

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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It might just be easier if you start a new thread and just copy your review onto it.

Hehe, that's what sheol said :raz:

*has egg on face*

I'll decide whether to make a Cutler and Co thread or a general McConnell thread, and then do the re-post when I come back.

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