Just relax and enjoy The Vue.
Jess and I are in our finest get up because tonight is set to be a night like no other. Tonight we dine at Shannon Bennett’s beacon restaurant Vue De Monde.
Set atop the glistening Rialto Towers high above Melbourne’s bustling city lights our elevator doors open like a portal to a distant realm. After a quick drink next door at the Lui Bar we are taken to our table for two at the top of the world.
Greeted by one of many black tie waiters, we are offered the wine list. The novel is intense so instead of making a decision we opt for the Sommeliers choice; an off dry Riesling from Frankland River in Western Australia. This wine is crisp to start but with a sweetness to the back of the palate and after the first sip, we know that the Frankland Estate Poison Hill 2011 is a great choice.
Snacks arrive in bounty; oysters, smoked eel and white chocolate, a carpaccio of wallaby and some very delicious salt and vinegar chips. Every little bite brings with it a new complexity and a tingle of nervous anticipation for what was to come.
The menu at Vue De Monde is taken either as a la carte or tasting, with the option of a grand tasting menu also. Even though we were already so full after our trip down the rabbit hole at Hare & Grace we knew we had to do grand tasting. We would hate to disappoint you readers by not showing you everything this amazing place has to offer! So I very sneakily undo my belt and get ready.
First course opens with a bang, not with a massive amount of ingredients but with a bang of simplicity. Baby corn cooked in its skin then covered, and I mean covered, in fresh black truffle. Two bites, demolished. The corn is rich and creamy and the truffle gives its wonderful earthy depth. It is a dish marrying two beautiful ingredients perfectly.
Our second course is met with a rather Willy Wonka-esque contraption that our chef calls a Conar. A device originally intended for brewing coffee; it has been transformed into a vessel for making the most amazing Melbourne onion soup I have ever tasted. In a bowl placed in front of us is several textures of onion, a gruyere cheese foam, a Comte cheese tuille and a brioche crumb. After our onion soup base is filtered through the top layer of the Conar it infuses with fresh onions, herbs and aromatics. This sweet smelling concoction is then poured into our bowls. This dish is possibly one of the most incredible things I have ever eaten. The theatre of the presentation and the taste explosion that is a simple onion soup is something that as a chef I think is truly special.
I’m still reeling from onion soup but next course is here. Our waiter greets us with good morning before saying “breakfast is served.” A sous vide duck egg with green beans, fresh apple and a pear dust. This dish was refreshing and surprising. The egg was incredibly rich and custardy whilst the crisp fresh apple provided acidity and contrasting texture.
So far this dining experience has been nothing short of amazing. Then our cutlery is removed from the table. Is this the end? Surely not. It is in fact our next course, Western Australian Marron with tarragon butter and shellfish powder. This dish is to be eaten without cutlery. “Are we allowed?” Well as I am already up to my elbows in delicious tarragon butter and perfectly cooked seafood Jess is forced to play catch up. This for me truly sums up Shannon Bennetts approach to cooking and dining. A truly special ingredient treated with respect and not over complicated. This dish is about breaking down the formality of dining. Eating should be fun not formal. Brilliant not boring. Sensational not stuffy. I truly felt that at that moment Jess and I could have kicked off our shoes and put our feet on the table.
Our next course arrives in a mortar and pestle. We were instructed to grind a multitude of fresh herbs whilst having liquid nitrogen poured into the mortar. The result was a very fine frozen powder which was then topped with a refreshing cucumber sorbet. Yum!
Next was a dish of barramundi, nettle and a crunchy crispy whole prawn. The barramundi was lovely and sweet. The nettle has been hand foraged and steamed wonderfully. At this point Jess and I were starting to fill up and we knew that there was still much to come.
A dish of Flinders Island lamb with olive, anchovy and mustard gives a wonderful reminiscence of the Australian bush land. The lamb is succulent and tender while the olive gives a kick of briny saltiness along with the anchovy. The mustard foam is finished by chef at the table very nicely.
Our next dish comes out on a barbecue. Well if my barbecue ever produces something of this quality I’ll give up cooking in my pans! Rich and fatty Blackmore wagyu seared, paired with beetroot, salt bush and of course more and more black truffle. This dish was the perfect main course. I could have eaten it until my stomach exploded. The meat was so tender and beetroot and truffle is such a fantastic combination.
Suddenly our table is flooded with cheese. Aside from the fact that they wheel an enormous trolley to the table our friendly waiter decides to spare us the agony of choice. Epoisses, French brie, aged comte, cheddar, talleggio. The list goes on and on. I am in lactose heaven. There’s heaped spoonfuls of house made jams and freshly baked bread and crackers. We’re full but we cannot stop. I have hit some sort of food overdrive and keep powering through. Eager for dessert.
However before the two desserts. That’s right two desserts. There is a pre dessert. A liquified shot with flavours of passion fruit, liquorice and coconut. Yum. Keep them coming!
Our first dessert is strawberries & cream. It is like falling head first into a strawberry field. Light fluffy meringue, sticky sweet strawberry textures and of course a decadent vanilla cream. It reminds me somewhat of Eton mess of course it is much more elegant and refined. I think this is what chef Bennett does best. He sucks you into his world.
Each dish we have eaten has evoked some sort of emotional response from Jess and I. Whether it is the memory of eating my grandmas trifle or hearing the sizzle of beef on a barbecue plate Bennett creates a dining environment that makes you feel so comfortable that your journey is inwards as well as outwards. Amazing.
Finally a French classic. Chocolate soufflé, creme anglaise. This dessert is simple, understated perfection. The soufflé is dramatic and rises straight out of the ramekin. It is light and aerated with a fluffiness that we just cannot stop enjoying.
We also get some Autraliana themed petit four with a happy birthday plate for Jess. On the plate is a lamington, a eucalyptus sorbet that tasted very much like the gum drops I used to snack on as a kid, and a musk sugar leaf.
Vue De Monde is one of the most incredible restaurants in Australia and rightfully so. Everything here is just faultless. From its seamless service, its breathtaking location and of course Shannon Bennett’s wonderful interpretation of modern Australian and French cuisine. This is a restaurant that anyone can enjoy. Okay the bill is large but the experience Jess and I had tonight is something we will remember forever. I feel both completely in another world yet comforted and at home. The service is warm, friendly and completely welcoming. This is a restaurant that you will tell everyone you know about. So sit back, relax and take a walk in Shannon’s world.
The Vue from up here is incredible.
Dined 16th April 2013Level 55 Rialto Towers 525 Collins St Melbourne Vic www.vuedemonde.com.au