Saturday, July 21, 2012

Melbourne: Vue de Monde

When I was in Melbourne I managed to get a reservation at one of the city's best restaurants - Vue De Monde - which has breathtaking views of the city since its located on level 55 of the famous Rialto Tower.

Vue de Monde is one of only a handful of restaurants with a coveted three hats in the Good Food Guide, however despite this I was still rather dubious as to whether it was really as good as people say. We are blessed in Australia to have a pretty vibrant food scene, however in some respects it pales in comparison to the amazing food experiences of Europe which I think is primarily due to our small population and geographic isolation. Anyway, I could go on about that another time, but I'll stop because it takes away from the point I want to make, which is that Vue de Monde definitely didn't disappoint.

Apologies for the photo heavy post ahead! But you know how I love my photos :)

The elevator ride to the 55th floor is a little experience in itself!

The tables are large and spacious with beautiful homely table settings scattered haphazardly around - and the food starts arriving very soon after being seated!

We chose the 4 course menu for $150 - we're not big eaters and so this did seem the most appropriate given we needed to catch our flight home straight after!

A better shot of the table settings and our appetizers! Appetizers were truly a highlight - there were various different kinds and all were presented at once in a tapas style.

First up - smoked eel with caviar. This was smooth with just enough smokiness for me (and I'm picky with smoked foods!)

Petite bite sized truffled marshmallows!

Chinese artichoke with a zingy little dip - crunchy, not overly flavoursome, but almost like a nice chip + dip combo.

I really liked this - kangaroo with a herb filling. This one was rolled at our table by a skilful waiter with chopsticks in hand, making me think the filling was wasabi like. How wrong I was!

Then some celeriac parcels - you would think these would be bland but the wrapping was not at all gluey which was a perfect accompaniment to a fresh celeriac bite.

An obligatory photo of our bread basket - the butter was quinelled for us at our table by yet another skilful waiter.

Now onto the main events - our actual food courses! Our dining group was a party of 3 which meant we could try all but one of the menu selections in each course. It worked out well because the fourth was generally the vegetarian option or something that didn't really excite us anyway!

Lamb sweet breads, moreton bay bug and raisins - I didn't love this one (just wasn't my thing) but it was beautifully presented and the moreton bay bug was crunchy and delicate.

Kangaroo, artichoke, brussel sprouds, pear and smoked bone marrow - this had a well balanced mix of flavours with the colourful selection of crunchy vegetables and a light 'dressing' if you can call it that. I love brussel sprouts when they're cooked to perfection like this as they don't have that strong sour taste that is commonly associated with them. Usually you would expect the kangaroo meat to be really gamey but it wasn't overly so which was great.

Trout belly, smoked eel, nasturtiums and wasabi - now this asian influenced dish was exactly how seafood should be cooked - fresh and zingy flavours with a lightness which made the dish well balanced.

In between entrees and mains, our table settings were changed and we were each given a wooden pestle - a bit odd, right? Well never fear... all was soon revealed.

With a spectacular flourish of liquid nitrogen (I never tire of it being used as performance food art at restaurants), this dish was presented to us as a palate cleanser.

Don't be fooled by its simplicity. It seriously could contend for my favourite dish of the day. The aromats were served to us in the bowl, over which the liquid nitrogen was poured. We then were instructed to use our pestle to grind them and then the cucumber sorbet quinelle was placed on top.

In all seriousness, THIS WAS AMAZING! The sensation of the cleansing and fresh cucumber sorbet with the mouthfuls of the ground specks just popped in the both and I was left wanting more.

Onto the Mains: Mark's catch, tarragon, swede and mustart. The hero of the dish - the fish - was of course cooked well, as was the quails egg but I think by this stage I was getting quite full (I'm not a huge eater) so it all started to feel a bit heavy. The addition of the perfectly crunchy pomme (potato) parcels was a nice textural addition to the dish.

Now by far this was the favourite Main of the day. In fact, this dish was really quite incredible in terms of being so simple but tasty with a clever matching of ingredients. This dish of Duck, Kale and Yabbie are perhaps not things you would consider combining in a dish (or at least I've never seen such a combo) but the kale was perfectly crisp and the yabbie perfectly fresh in contrast to the heavier gamey duck. There was also some crackling as decorative garnish which was amazing! Love love love.

So this was definitely our least favourite of the Mains but would be a favourite amongst boys. This was a hearty, meaty dish of wagyu beef, onion and mustard. The serving size was generous but as I said, with none of us being big eaters this did feel very heavy and we couldn't finish it even amongst the three of us sharing. Of course the wagyu was melt in your mouth soft - all credit to the chefs for that.

And if we weren't already full by then, we had the cheese course to contend with before desserts. I love cheeses, but there is a reason why I don't usually order the often optional fromage course at restaurants - the heavy creaminess of cheeses means I don't have any space left for desserts! However I'm really glad the menu included cheeses in this case. As you can see, the cheese trolley had a huge selection and as we like an element of surprise, we allowed the waiter to choose a selection of cheeses for each of us.

With each of us getting three choices, we were able to try a wide selection which was served alongside some beautiful jams and fruit pastes.

.... and sweetbreads of course! These were delicious and beautifully presented.

Aaand another palate cleanser - the famous 'beer and nuts' combo. Again, I think the palate cleansers and 'extras' were my favourite of the day and definitely a highlight to the experience. This played perfectly to my favourite flavours - passionfruit 'beer'. Unfortunately I have a bad memory and can't for the life of me remember what were the accompaniment was (I want to say meringue).

And finally, onto my favourite part of a meal - Desserts! I just had to pick this when I saw it on the menu: Pavlova! Of course you can't expect a stock standard pavlova from a restaurant like Vue de Monde so this elegant deconstructed pavlova was presented. I've really come to love fruity desserts as the perfect end to a meal - if you'd asked me 3 years ago I would have always picked a chocolate dessert but this was a perfect end. The fruit was presented fresh and untainted to accompany the swiss meringue (not what I expected!) and fruity gels - passionfruit, raspberry and mango.

Now another amazing dessert - a perfectly cooked chocolate souffle. Fluffy, as light as air and just decadent. It was marshmallowy and oozy inside which was just lovely given the cold weather outside.

And finally - mandarin, violet and vanilla dessert. This was also exquisite - the violet meringues were strong and exactly how meringues should be (you know how fussy I am with them!). I'm not a huge fan of mandarins but the balance of citrus, crunchy textures and the granita were balanced and light.

And if that wasn't enough, there were still the obligatory petit fours to consume. By this stage they were needing our table so we were moved to the Bar which was beautiful and decadent. I wish I could decorate my home like that. And being so high up it felt like we were just in this serene heavenly world in the skies above the hustle and bustle of life down below us in central Melbourne.

When we were seated our petit fours were already waiting on a beautiful Australiana themed display. Practically everything on the plate was edible and I loved foraging around for things to eat.

The lamington looking delicacies at the front were chocolate mousse which was a nice surprise, and I loved the 'two up' jellies, the eucalyptus infused candy and chocolate shards. I think there was a sorbet something or other too but I can't remember!

And what a view to enjoy while there! We actually had to stop getting distracted from the outside view because our petit fours were sitting there waiting to be eaten :)

So all in all it was a lovely lovely experience, with top quality service that wasn't pretentious or snooty but just the perfect balance of attentive and casual.

It isn't a cheap dining experience and when I think of the amazing, unique, Michelin starred experiences  I had overseas for half the price it does feel very pricey however it's totally worth it for a splurge once in a while!

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