Most of our trips to Melbourne involve food and friends. This one did too. But it also included a little bucket list action for The Hungry One- something along the lines of 42.196 km run.
His first, (and I secretly hope) his only marathon.
Preparing for a marathon isn’t something for the faint hearted. Some might even say it’s not the domain of the sane.
Discipline, determination and carbohydrates seem to be the key elements. I’m not much chop with the first two; but the third; that, I can help with.
So in the weeks leading up to the main even while The Hungry One was out pounding the pavement, I was busy in trackpants cooking carbohydrates. There were some strange combinations of chickpea flour and chicken, and more classic crowd pleasers of rabbit ragu and orechiette. The novelty of ear pasta, with bunny shouldn’t be underestimated. Bunny ear pasta. Love it.
When it actually came to the weekend itself it was divided into the following subheadings on the planning spreadsheet.
Somewhere to stay
Initially chosen because it was the closest hotel, as the crow flies to the finish line at the MCG; Hotel Lindrum was a boutique style delight- where ’boutique’ meant personality and service, as opposed to a crummy bed and kooky art.
Nobody ever turned around and said they didn’t like a pillow menu and a library of cds and dvds, and the recent edition of The Age Good Food Guide to borrow.
Added to that was their endless patience with the mothering whims of this runner’s wife; making sure there was real milk for 5.30 am Milo soaked oats, changing the beers in the mini bar from Boags to the Coopers Vintage that I knew he’d prefer on finishing, and band aids to go in his pockets- just in case.
Somewhere to fuel up
Arriving in Melbourne at 2pm on the Saturday afternoon the first thing on our agenda was keeping up the flow of carbohydrates. The second best thing about Hotel Lindrum’s location was its easy-as hop, and skip to the achingly cool Cumulus inc.
Happiness sometimes goes a little like this; a perch at the bar at Andrew McConnell’s much lauded ‘eating house and bar’ on Flinders Lane; a charcuterie plate with skin-flake thin braesola and a dusting of fresh horseradish, and a chunk of terrine meaty enough to make your thighs chuckle.
A glass of pink for me. A boutique beer for him- there are carbs in beer too. A sly word about tomorrow’s mission to some embarrassingly good looking waitstaff and then house made sourdough just keeps coming.
Their carbo loading suggestions point us towards baby potatoes, roasted and tossed in butter and garlic. There are some whole school prawns too with chilli and more garlic for colour and movement, and then a sago dessert that did nothing but delight.
A glass tumbler houses gentle pearls of cassava root mucking in with tropical bedfellows of coconut and lime sorbet and some meringue manages to be soothing and exciting at the same time. The Hungry One tried to suggest that instead of Gatorade stations dotted around the course, a bucket of this at 32 km could be exactly what he’d need.
This is such a clever place, that easily manages to be so many things, to many people. A glass of wine and some fresh shucked oysters before a movie? A place to introduce a new baby over coffee and made-to-order madelines with lemon curd? A sneaky business breakfast? A place to calm down, and carb up? Tick, tick, tick. You know we’ll be back.
The morning of the race was surprisingly drama free. Sunny and spirited, I’m there standing on the sidelines looking out for him as he makes his way back from St Kilda. Thirty five kilometres was the longest training run he’d done. At 36 km, when I handed over Gatorade he simply said; “world of pain”.
His feet may be aching, but slowly, my heart is breaking.
And yet, he kept going. Each time I saw him from there I kept blurting out things that I thought would keep him going…
Later I was told shouting ‘there’s boutique beer in the fridge at the hotel!’ got me a couple of strange looks from other runners.
You live and learn.
Somewhere to reward
A meal to entice The Hungry One to keep plodding should involve the following things;
Padron peppers, suckling pig and chocolate. It’s a curious combination- but who’s to doubt the passions of another?
So it’s a good thing that I discovered all three are on the menu at Cutler & Co.Cue our celebratory feast, seven hours after he steamed across the finish line.
Seems they’re gluttons for punishment as well. Not content to open one kicking place in a year, Andrew McConnell and his frightfully talented interior designer wife also went out and developed a sleeker older sibling to Cumulus.
Cutler & Co isn’t the easiest place to get into for dinner; yet when they told us they could only squeeze us in at 6pm on a Sunday night, but they’d need the table back by 7.30 I wasn’t phased. After smacking through 42 kms, I didn’t think The Hungry One would make it past eight.
So after a hug from his wife, a hobble back to the hotel, 17 litres or so of Gatorade, some jelly babies and a strategic nap we jumped a cab to Fitzroy.
Jelly babies can only do so much. It was going to take a serious concoction to keep him kicking on. Bring on Cutler & Co’s blood orange and aperol.
It’s a scientific study in balance and proportion with the sweetness of the blood orange rounding out the medicinal kick of the aperol. The presentation in beakers is a nice throw back to the days of year 8 science class, when everything was simpler, leaving you reaching around for Bunsen burners and mere text books as burdens.
Luckily the much loved padron peppers are on hand- slick and salty with a couple of crunchy edges. The russian roulette gamble of surprise spice ‘will it won’t it’ adds another element of excitement, while the rest of the flavours are as earnest as a choir boy.
While could have easily stayed in the front room bar on the banquettes, a table at the rear of the restaurant is a sensible way to make your way through such serious food.
For a relatively small menu, it packs some punch. Not up for making that many decisions, a tasting of entrees is in fact a mini degustation through some of the most intriguing terrain. Cured kingfish and calamari with pickled cucumber and a horseradish ‘snow’is a winner, the mix of Scandanavian and Japanese in the influences little like anime renderings of Vikings.
Other crackers were scallops on shoelace thin crostini with garlic custard and a dusting of smoked paprika, and wood fired quail with jamon, meaty but delicate with radishes adding a peppery punch.
The main event for The very very Hungry One had to be the roast suckling pig.
It’s a solid mound of man-food. It’s gelatinous in the middle, with layers of fat and meat cuddling up like veritable pigs in blankets. For a hat there’s a crunch of crackling that would make a creme brulee livid. On the side it’s sweet and sour onions and prune vinegar rounding it all out. Then there are some more potatoes. A glass of pinot and he’s a happy happy camper.
Add to that a dessert of icecream sandwich, with chocolate sorbet and salted caramel sauce and the pain in his feet was almost assuaged.
When we were leaving he stopped and asked ‘when can we do that again?’
I’m just hoping he was talking about the double shot of Cumulus Inc and Cutler & Co, and not the marathon that made up the middle.
45 Flinders Lane,
Cutler & Co.
55-55 Gertrude St,
26 Flinders St,