An evening of magnificence began with a drink at Lui Bar on level 55 of the Rialto building in Melbourne.
The table, with uninterrupted views of the open kitchen, had a leather top, the cutlery was leaning against gnarled pieces of wood much like chop stick holders and smooth stones had been machined with grooves to hold candles and salt and pepper. Our leather bucket chairs had the kangaroo fur line their outer side. One could be forgiven for not noticing those details because the view across Melbourne was breathtaking-beautiful.
Before we had even seen a menu, some morsels of food were put in front of us:
- Salt cured wallaby
- Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar
- Peas, pistachio, strawberry
The salt cured wallaby (kangaroo) was prepared at our table. The dish that sound most unusual is the smoked eel with white chocolate and caviar. Who would think of such a combination? Shannon Bennett, that’s who. He has really put his mark on the Australian culinary scene. Back to the smoked eel – it was delectable! The white chocolate was a subtle thin and crispy shell over each piece of eel that added a hint of sweetness next to the saltiness of the caviar.
The peas, pistachio and strawberry was also interesting because it came out initially looking like a soup, but in fact it had a frozen lid that we had to crack through.
It was refreshing and tasted amazing. I was getting so excited with what was to come. Hopefully a menu!
Before seeing a menu, we were presented with freshly churned French butter with an array of different breads. One of my dining companions is gluten intolerant and they happily brought her out some gluten free bread so she could taste the butter. I had to add salt to the butter as it lacked something, despite being soft and creamy. I also love salt and especially the lovely salt flakes you see in restaurants of this quality.
The waiter did arrive with our menu and we took the conservative option of four-courses at a cost of $150pp. As you will read on, we had much, much more than four courses. We each had over 11 dishes each! Ok, some of those were mere tastings, but for what we paid, it was seriously good value for first class execution and produce quality.
Sadly with our conservative menu choice, matching wines were not available. However, the sommelier guided us on which wines by the glass would suit our dish.
The recommended wine for my entree of Greenvale farm Pork, marron, egg cream was a 2011 Henschke ‘Eleanor’s Cottage’ Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Eden Valley, South Australia. The wine was delicious and I don’t say that about white wine flippantly. Fresh, slightly buttery balanced with acidity. A lovely drop. The pork belly was amazing. Delicate, moist, salty set off beautifully next to the sweet marron. I was in heaven. Really, I was.
Time for a palate cleanser. Micro-herbs were presented to each of us in a bowl, to which the waiter poured liquid nitrogen. So dramatic with smoke rising from our bowls as the herbs were snap frozen. We were then given a mortar each to smash and grind the frozen herbs into small pieces. Fun! Then a quenelle of lime grapefruit sorbet was placed on top for us to mix with the herb crumbs. So fresh and, um, cleansing. Perfect palate cleanser that was fun to put together.
Main course was next. What wine should I have with beef? Obviously a red. When the 2004 Torbreck ‘The Steading’ Grenache Blend, Gomersal, South Australia was recommended, I was delighted. Torbreck has a fabulous reputation, deservedly so. The wine was luscious, smooth, slightly chocoloately, hints of tobacco – I could go on, it was complex and delicious. I savoured every sip.
The Blackmore beef, nettle, potato was scrumptious. The beef was tender, it just fell apart. The white swirls on top in the photo below are actually sheets of potato. It took me a little while to figure that out because the texture was in between crisp and soft and the shape was nothing like any potato dish I have seen anywhere. Delicious with an awesome sauce. More red wine, a little beef – oh yes, foodie heaven for sure!
How excited did we all get when the cheese trolley came around? The smiley Italian waiter explained the different cheeses on offer. Whilst some of the girls chose what they wanted because they have an aversion to strong blue cheese, I was happy for the choice to be made for me as I love almost all cheese.
With my four delicious cheeses, I enjoyed the crisp lavash style bread that came with them and a glass of NV Alvear, ‘Vino de Licor’, Moscatel, Morikes de Montilla, Spain.
Dessert, my favourite course. How was I going to fit it in? An almost impossible task. The chocolate soufflé was put in front of me and the waiter place a knife in it to create a cavity, to which he poured into cream. Oh my. However, on tasting, the dish was not my favourite. I could really taste the egg in the soufflé and no enough chocolate. I love chocolate and to be honest, would have preferred just a straight block of chocolate! It was cooked beautifully, but I was so full, I wasn’t going to force myself to eat something that wasn’t transcending me further into food heaven.
Petit fours came out next – what more food?! This was not on the menu, but a cute touch to finish the evening. The eucalyptus leaves made out of pink musk invoked childhood memories of eating musk sticks. I also remembered that I didn’t really like them when I was seven years old, and not much has changed since. The mini lamingtons were cute and tasty and the two-up gums were clever but not that tasty.
After our last course, we were given a tour of the kitchen. Of course I spotted a couple of thermomixes among the appliances. We were shown the commercial vats that were cooking stock for the next day, the chill freezer, and the private dining room. What a treat!
All in all, we had a brilliant night. Four of us girls felt fussed over by the waiters who were very patient with our constant questions about the food, the wine, and requests for more bread.
Our four course meal was really an 11-course journey into foodie heaven. And not to forget the bread. What we thought would be a two hour meal was a four and half hour night of magnificence.
Thanks Holly Hands, Anu Malaviya, and Jessica Wyld for a great night out in one of Melbourne’s top restaurants.
Vue de Monde
Level 55, Rialto Tower
525 Collins Street,
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: 03 9691 3888
Open for dinner Monday to Saturday, lunch Tuesday to Friday and Sundays. Bookings essential.