A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published March 6th 2014
World View - World Class
I feel very lucky indeed to have dined at the three chef hat award winning restaurant Vue de Monde, located on the 55th floor of Melbourne's Rialto Building. To be candid, at between $200 - $250 per person for the degustation menu (excluding wine), it's out of my price range, but fortunately a generous friend decided to treat me to dinner at this very special place.
What can I say, other than that the whole experience was amazing! The food was stunning, the service impeccable, the view extraordinary.
Before I went there, a friend told me dinner would be a 'theatrical' event. I wondered what that meant - until I experienced it first hand. I'll try and share in more detail how the evening progressed. I've also included a few photos but with the the low light, and the restaurant's 'no flash photography' policy (which I understand), it was a struggle to get good shots.
From the moment we arrived, we were treated like royalty. We were taken through from the bar to the restaurant via the wine cellar (temperature regulated, of course). It's low, mood lighting all the way, so it feels a little mysterious as you make your way. Arriving in the restaurant, we were shown to our table, which was in the corner, by a window. They are generous sized tables, and there is plenty of space between tables, allowing for intimate dining.
The decor in Vue de Monde
The low light atmosphere meant that the view was initially the hero. Our sitting was at 8.45pm (there is an earlier 6.30pm sitting also), after sunset. We had a delightful view towards Docklands from our table. The Melbourne Star Observation Wheel was lit up in its spectacular colours (I just read it uses 3.5 killometres of LED lighting to achieve the effects). I understand that 'vue de monde' means 'world view' and we certainly felt like we were on top of the world as we gazed out the window.
View from our window, the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel a feature in the night sky
What I noticed on our table were decorations that looked a little like a Zen garden. There were what appeared to be smooth stones, as well as some flat stone slabs and little pieces of polished wood. As the meal progressed, we realised that all these pieces were in fact part of the service; all part of the 'set' for this piece of theatre. For instance, one of the stones housed the salt and pepper, while the pieces of wood were cutlery rests.
On Saturday nights, Vue de Monde offers a degustation menu. (As I'm sure most will know, 'degustation' involves sampling small portions of signature dishes). We were advised that we could nominate the number of courses, up to 10. My dining partner chose 10 courses, I chose a more modest seven.
There is also the opportunity to have wines matched to the courses - effectively a 'wine degustation' - which is what we elected to do. Our sommelier suggested wines that would cost the equivalent of our meals - we asked for something a little more modest, which was accommodated.
And so, to the real star of the show, the food. It's fair to say that you have to be prepared to be a little adventurous with what you eat. There were courses that I would not normally eat, but on this occasion decided to try. All were delicious. I finished everything.
The appetiser consisted of a selection of dishes: an oyster, salt cured wallaby, smoked eel with white chocolate and caviar, duck tongue with mountain pepper, BBQ lamb hearts, and a herb gel. For me, the wallaby was a stand out. It was a 'melt in the mouth' dish, so delicate yet flavoursome.
The savoury courses started with barramundi with potato, caviar, and chicken ('fish and chips' as our waiter joked with us). This was matched with a 2012 Chatto Pinot Noir (Tasmania).
My dining partner then had Flinders Island lamb, with olives and Australian anchovies. The accompanying wine was a 2009 Pio Cesare (Italy).
We progressed to Blackmore wagyu, smoked bone marrow and saltbush. This looked a little like rhubarb with creme fraiche when it was served - but it certainly didn't taste like it. The matched wine was a 2006 Clarendon Hills, Blewitt Springs Grenache (South Australia).
Wagyu beef with smoked bone marrow and saltbush
Next was cucumber with wood sorrel, a light course, a bit of a palate cleanser between the meat and the next course.
To follow was duck yolk with pear and truffle. This was one that stretched my tolerance levels, as normally I can't bear the sight of runny egg yolks, much less think of eating them. Pushing that prejudice aside, I had a little taste of the yolk, combined with the pear and truffle, and found it to be delicious. It was velvety, rich, smooth and creamy, and there was a slight kick of balsamic vinegar. It was beautifully complemented by a glass of 2004 Dom Perignon (France).
The next course was marron with sweetbreads and lamb floss. The marron was divine, cooked to perfection and exhibiting a superb balance of flavours. It was matched with a 2010 Christian Moreau 'Guy Moreau - Vaillons' Chablis (France).
The final savoury dish was beef tongue with bone marrow and beetroot. This was served in a large marrow bone which had been cut in half lengthways, to create a 'half tube' dish for the meat. This was a truly outstanding dish, so flavoursome, such a beautiful texture. The wine was a 2013 Curly Flat 'White Pinot' Pinot Noir (Victoria).
An impressive bit of theatre followed, with the 'corn and truffle' course completed with liquid nitrogen.
We then progressed to the cheese course, accompanied by bread and jams, served with a NV Penfolds Grandfather Tawny (Victoria). The cheeses were served from a trolley, and the available range was substantial. We selected five cheeses.
Cheese served with aplomb
Our cheese platter
As a transitional dish before dessert, the next dish was crispy kale served with celery and coconut.
Following for my dining companion was the first dessert: a cherry, raspberry and yoghurt dish. It was accompanied by a 2009 Durban Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise AOC (France). I then had a chocolate souffle (my companion, a raspberry souffle). They were light, fluffy, and melt in the mouth - divine. We had a 2010 Mas Ameil 'Rouge' Maury (France) with this one.
Finally, there was coffee/tea served with petit fours. Like everything else, the petit fours were amazing, and artfully executed. I particularly loved these chocolate shells.
Shells - can you pick the chocolate ones?
And so, an amazing meal and all-round wonderful experience drew to a close. We were surprised to see that it was around 1am. The meal had progressed at an ideal pace, allowing us to enjoy each course in a leisurely way. A nice touch is that we were given a 'breakfast pack' in a brown paper bag to take with us for the following morning, complete with a sweet bread, muesli, honey and a tea blend.
This review cannot be completed without a particular mention of the excellent service. We had various staff come to our table at different times throughout the meal - each had a different role and was clear on what their role was. Each was friendly, helpful and efficient. There was none of the 'stuffiness' that you might expect to see in a 'hatted' restaurant.
It was a superb night and I'm so glad I got to experience it.