Evening of magnificence – Vue De Monde, Melbourne

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:

  • Oyster
  • 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.

Smoked eel with white chocolate and 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.

Peas, pistachio, strawberry under a frozen lid

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.

Greenvale farm Pork, marron, egg cream

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.

Liquid nitrogen being poured into our palate cleanser

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!

Blackmore beef, nettle, potato

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.

Smiley waiter at the cheese trolley

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.

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FACT FILE

Vue de Monde
Level 55, Rialto Tower
525 Collins Street,
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: 03 9691 3888
E: vuedemonde@vuedemonde.com.au

Open for dinner Monday to Saturday, lunch Tuesday to Friday and Sundays. Bookings essential.

Vue de Monde on Urbanspoon

Lui Bar, Vue De Monde, Melbourne – bar review

Wow, what a treat! The evening of magnificence started with a drink at the oh-so-posh Lui Bar. The well-dressed staff were polite yet chatty and gave advice and recommendations as to what cocktails we might after quizzing us on our tastes.

The decor was stunning – old school psychiatrists couches clad in leather, leather bucket chairs with kangaroo fur outers, antique silver tray tables, and leather covered round foot stools. A lot of wood and a lot of leather.  However, I was a bit distracted by the VIEW of Melbourne from the 55fth floor of the Rialto building. With a glorious sunset backlighting the view of the city out to the bay, the only way it can be described is ah-mazing!

The cocktail menu was extensive and contained interesting blends as well as the trusted favourites. I was interested to see a Margaret River Gin listed under the Australian Gins heading.  Apparently it is a new distillery and has just come into stock. It was lovely and smooth – not at all harsh like some of the mass-produced cheaper brands.  Just lovely.

After selecting our drinks, we settled back and enjoyed our luscious surroundings and soaked up the view.

Drinks at Lui Bar

After an hour, our reservation at restaurant Vue De Monde was ready.  Yippee!  My taste buds were in for a extra special treat and I was super excited.

FACT FILE 

The Lui Bar 
Level 55, Rialto
525 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
E : vuedemonde@vuedemonde.com.au

Open every day. Check website for times.

The Lui Bar on Urbanspoon

My top 5 restaurants around the world

This list for my favourite restaurants I have had the delectable pleasure of experiencing across the parts of the world I have travelled to.  All these restaurants below hold special food memories for me.  Disclaimer: This list is subject to change at any time :)

There are many, many fabulous restaurants and cafes that I’ve dined at – and many that I haven’t – but the ones I have listed have stood out from the crowd.  Here’s why:

Astrid y Gaston:  This restaurant was highly recommended in the trusty Lonely Planet under the heading “Splurge”.  Mum and Dad happened to be in Lima the same time Hubs (long time buddy) and I were there (it was a weird fluke – check out this post for more).  The restaurant ambience was oldy-worldy formal with a dedicated entrance reception and waiters wearing white gloves in the main dining area.  The service was impeccable and every dish that our party of six had made everyone ooh-and-aaah with delight.  This restaurant is one that we keep talking about over and over again.

Cape Lodge:  Conde Naste Traveller magazine voted this one of the top ten boutique hotels in the world and it’s easy to see why.  It is fine dining done with understated elegance.  Tables nicely spaced apart, the wait staff are well briefed and carry out their duties like European professionals, and the restaurant is beautifully appointed with views over a little lake (aka a dam).  Head Chef Tony Howell changes the menu daily to reflect the fresh produce he has been able to source that day.  It is magnificent for dinner and breakfast.

Irati:  This tapas bar with a restaurant out the back was a recommendation given by a local more than 12 years ago and it was so good back then we ate there twice.  When Hubs and I were in Barcelona in 2010, we went back and it was so good, we ate there twice!  The tapas are delicious and plentiful.  The restaurant has modern exquisitely executed dishes that won’t disappoint.  Price point was higher than average, but not hideously expensive.

Yin Yang:  After reading a review in Gourmet Traveller or Conde Naste where the Australian critic named this restaurant as serving “one of the best meals of my life”, I made Zorba and I a reservation. Classed as a private kitchen, owner Margaret Xu grows her own organic produce that she prepares sophisticated five course meals with.  The restaurant is tiny with only four tables on the ground floor.  The staff were attentive, each course was delicious yet unusual – think waterless soup – and the complete dining experience was one to savour.  Zorba also surprised me by proposing at a jewellery store in Hong Kong an hour before our dinner, so really, we could have eaten baked beans on stale bread and loved it. There as a lot of love in the air that night.  Yin Yang is expensive (especially when you have two bottles of wine with your meal!). It has had some vastly mixed reviews on Trip Advisor recently, but it gets a big thumbs up from me.

The Press Club:  Owned by Australian-Cypriot celebrity chef George Colombaris, the Press Club is a wonderful experience.  Fine dining, sophisticated menu and dishes, and a buzzy happening atmosphere. Angie, the maitre de, has been there for years and it excellent at her job.  The elements of each dish are vastly complex – some a little unnecessary (like liquid chips = lines of mashed potatoes, oh come on!).  The Sommelier was really helpful with our wine choice.  We had the degustation menu over five hours.  It is a real night out. Expensive, but worth it. Just once (or twice).

This list is likely to change after our trip to the Mother Country in a couple of weeks.  In fact, it is hard to believe that there aren’t any restaurants in Italy that feature in my top five.  I guess because there are so many great classic honest trattorias and restaurants all over Italy, choosing one would be near impossible.  Still, I’ll be doing some research to update this list soon ;)

I’d love to hear your favourite food experiences and why – leave me a comment!