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.


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

Must Wine Bar, Perth

Must Wine Bar in Perth has been a staple  on the city’s “top ten best restaurants list” since it opened late 2001, and for good reason.  Renowned Chef Russell Blaikie’s menu is influenced by the contemporary French bistro and he changes the menu with the seasons.  Blaikie is an avid fan of sourcing local produce such as Torbay Asparagus from the Great Southern Region of WA (think Albany), Scallops from Rottnest Island, Plantagenent Pork from the South West of the State, and ‘Over the Moon’ Organic Feta from Albany. The result?  Simply outstanding food.

Choosing what to have is never an easy choice at Must as it all sounds so deliciously tempting.  We opted for three starters and then would wait and see if there was any room left in our tummies for more.

Our meal started with complimentary (thanks!) chicken liver parfait, grenache jelly and crunchy sliced baguette.  The parfait was rich, smooth, and very moorish.

A special on the menu was ceviche of half shell Rottenst scallops compressed watermelon and citrus salad. The freshness of the watermelon and citrus complemented the scallop and the shaved fennel topping added a crunchy texture and together, it was like eating  a summer’s day, so fresh and light.  The perfect starter to get the taste buds warmed up.

Ceviche of Rottnest Scallops 

The twice-baked goats cheese soufflé with roast red pepper coulis was a marriage made in heaven and beautifully presented. Sharing this dish was difficult!

Twice baked goats cheese soufflé

Angel hair pasta tossed with Blue Manna crab, tomato, chilli, basil, cream and 34 Degrees South Organic Olive Oil from Margaret River is a constant on the menu. It is a crowd favourite and didn’t disappoint my dinner guest who ate every late morsel.

Angel hair pasta with Blue Manna crab

I couldn’t stop thinking about a recommendation the waitress gave us for a main that featured on the specials menu, Plantagenent Pork Plate with crispy pork jowl, prosciutto wrapped fillet, cauliflower purée, baby carrot, apple salad and jus. When the waitress passed our table, I stopped her and ordered it.  She gave me a wry smile as if to say, “good choice, you are going to love it!”. She was right. We did love it!  The crackling was crispy, salty, and after the first few crunches, it just melted away on my tongue.  The pork was tender and juicy, the shredded apple salad was fresh and crisp, cleansing the palate, but what was really outstanding was the just.  I would have liked a glass of that to drink it was that good!

Plantagenent pork plate

Could we fit in dessert?  No, not really, but we’d give it a try anyway.  My dinner guest loved the sound of the warm chocolate moelleux, white chocolate ice cream.  We learned that a moelleux is another fancy word for fondant, or a small chocolate cake with a gooey chocolately centre.  The moelleux was floating on a bed of delicious vanilla bean custard and topped with a house made white chocolate ball of ice cream.  Rich, sweet, and delicious.

Warm chocolate moelleux

The wine list is as impressive as the food and features over 500 wines from around the world with a good selection of  Italian and French varietals.  There was also a good selections of wines by the glass and I was delighted to see a Fraser Gallop Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 offered by the glass – one of Margaret River’s premium wineries, in my opinion.  Only one Western Australian chardonnay from the award-winning Lenton Brae Estate was offered by the glass.

On a Tuesday night, Must Wine Bar  was almost  full, including a couple of tables of well-girthed middle-aged types that obviously love to eat.  Not surprising really when some of the best food in the city is on offer.

Must Winebar on Urbanspoon


Must Wine Bar, 516 Beaufort St, Highgate WA 6003
Tel: 08 9328 8255

Open seven days per week from 12pm til late.

Food Wine Sleep

Exsquisite dining in Barcelona: Geloch Restaurante

Geloch Restaurante is an example of fine dining done brilliantly.  It delivered a spectacular 10-course degustation menu.  Zorba and I scored each dish out of 10 – playing our favourite Master Chef judges game that we sometimes do when we go out.  Overall, Zorba and I scored Glenoch 85 out of 100 with five dishes scoring the perfect 10 out of 10 – in our scoring system that means we could eat the dish again and again and again and love it every single time.

The sophisticated dishes were served in tiny degustation serves, all beautifully presented, explained accurately in detail, and tasted gorgeous.  The dishes that didn’t get perfect scores failed to do so merely because of our palate and our own particular tastes. To other diners however, they may have been the best dishes of the menu.

Our menu consisted of the dishes below, together with our comments and score:

Rose petals with lychee cream

  • Delicate subtle flavour, teeny tiny miniscule portion
    [pictured below on gold plate on the right of the black onion cake]
Score: 6.5
Black onion cake, sweet onion foam, fried onion

  • Light, moist, savoury and sweet balanced, a lovely surprise

Score: 8.5
Carrot and orange nitro popcorn

  • Nitro smoking, Blumenthal-esque, interesting, fun
Score: 6.5
Shitake broth with spider crab ravioli and Iberian ham DO Extremadura

  • Gorgeous, salty, every mouthful was Moorish, sensational, delicious, faultless
Score: 10
Grilled red prawn with pisco, cabbage and hibiscus

  • Beautifully presented, three types of cabbage, balanced when all elements eaten together
Score: 7
Black turnip with veal marrow, egg yolk and black truffle

  • Amazing aromas, rich yet delicate, every mouthful was a taste explosion.  Beautiful to eat
Score: 10 +
Beetroot gnocchi, veal sweetbreads, codfish tripe, pardon pepper cream and carrot and passionfruit drops

  • Delicious flavour, thick balanced sauce, unusual (I don’t usually enjoy offal), but I wanted to lick the plate!
Score: 10
‘Secreto Iberico’ 36 cooked sous-vide with selected roots and seasoned mushrooms

  • Unbelievable. Sensational tender rich beautiful pork shoulder slivers with shitake mushrooms, porcini powder, with yucca foam [yucca is a kind of root vegetable that tastes a little like a turnip]
Score: 10 +
Assorted cheese course with banana-honey, coffee crumble, caramalised endive leaves and baked aubergine sorbet

  • All flavours worked really well together.  Unusual to have a sorbet that tastes of eggplant, but I really enjoyed it
Score: 9.5
Toasted wheat ice cream, milk foam, orange textures

  • Smooth creamy ice cream, shards of orange looked like rice, not overly sweet.
Score: 9
Bread was toasted crunchy and quite dry, almost like a crostini.
Lovely to eat, hopeless to use to mop up sauces.
Score: 8
Wine:  Lalama Ribeira SacraA small particular winery in rural Spain was smooth, luscious and gorgeous without being too strong or too gusty. At less then 30 euro a bottle, it was an excellent recommendation from our waitress Score: 9

Our total bill was 168 Euro. Quite expensive, but then again, when you think about the quality of what we were served, I thought it was cheaper than what you would pay for a similar experience in Australia.

The restaurant was intimate, classy, and overall, it was a fantastic fine dining experience.


Glenoch Restaurant
C. Bailén, 56, Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 265 82 98
e-mail: restaurant@gelonch.es

28-50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen, Marylebone London

What a fabulous find and fantastic recommendation by my lovely friend Chris – I was so looking forward to this dinner; Chris is an editor of a popular food-based magazine and knows a thing or two about great dining.

28-50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen in Marylebone is a great food and wine experience. It offers more than 30 wines available by the glass, carafe and bottle at reasonable prices. The wines were interesting and not the standard kind of wine list you see in every place.  Sadly, no Australian wines feature on the extensive list – there is strong competition from France, Italy, Spain, and Germany I suppose!

The food is French bistro style also featuring charcuterie, with a daily-changing menu from the executive chef, Paul Walsh.

The decor is modern urban with a French touch – the back wall is stacked with branded wooden wine boxes and there is a big central round bar complete with bar stools.  The service was exceptional. Really fabulous. The sommelier was very knowledgable on the wines and Chris suggested we allow him to select matching wines by the glass to accompany what dishes we had ordered.

To start, I had the rolled grilled aubergine with goats curd and pine nuts (GBP 6.75) followed by a main course size prawn cocktail with pickled cucumber (GBP 12.95).

Aubergine with goats curd

Both my dished were really amazing. The aubergine (eggplant for all my Aussie readers) was sensational. I was kind of secretly wishing I had ordered that for main and had a bigger portion. The chef was really generous with goats curd too which tasted silky, salty and wonderful.  I loved it.

A Spanish wine was chosen for me for this dish – a 2010 Sameiras Blanco ,Ribeiro, AC Guilin, Spain.  The slightly acidic white wine balanced the richness of the goats curd beautifully.

Prawn cocktail for mains might seem like a strange choice, but Chris and her beau Charlie both ordered it for starters and said that they had had it before and that it was reallygood. I trust Chris’ palate implicitly and ordered it as a main size.  She was right, the flavour was different – it was really fresh and clean. The pickled cucumber and minimal use of dill gave it a kind of Scandinavian flavour. It would be absolutely perfect to have on a hot summer’s day.  It was pretty perfect to have it on a mild London summer’s night also!

Prawn cocktail

The wine matched with the aubergine was a CDL “La Brise Marine” Chateau De La Negly. Beautiful white wine that was a little acid with a very clean finish.  I was in food and wine heaven!

Smoked Severn and Wye salmon

Zorba enjoyed his smoked Servern and Wye salmon with horseradish yoghurt for starters and a lovely rib eye steak for main.

Chris had the Icelandic fish stew for main and said it was excellent. In fact, that recipe is going to feature in an upcoming magazine edition.  Charlie had the burger from ginger pig.  No one was complaining about anything except that their tummies were full to the brim.

It was a lovely dinner – thanks Chris and Charlie!

Icelandic fish stew

Zorba and I bid our friends farewell and went to the oh-so posh Claridges Hotel in Mayfair for a night cap cocktail.  It was sooo lovely!  The ladies wash room had an attendant who turned on the taps when I wanted to wash my hands and then passed me a little hand towel (real towel, not paper), so I could dry them.  Posh-o!  Having said that, two cocktails with the inclusion of 12.5% service charge cost us just under 40 pounds!  Outrageously expensive, but sublimely grand.

Ah London, I’m going to miss you.


28-50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen
15-17 Marylebone
London, W1U 2NE
Tel: 020 7486 7922

Open every day 11am til late
28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tiramisu for Susie’s Birthday

Sister Susie preferred to go out on Thursday night, the night before her actual birthday for a celebration dinner.

Zorba and I had tried to book into L’Arco Del Cappuccini – allegedly one of the best restaurants in Taormina – without success.  So we booked into the restaurant next door, Tiramisui, where we had enjoyed a beautiful meal a couple of days before.

The whole family came out to dinner – Master Sam 3, Miss Indi 5, Susie, my bro in law Ben, Mum Gina, Dad Walter, and husband Zorba.

A grumpy niece with her pasta and tomato sauce

Dad with his hot mussels

We did what we always do when having dinner with the kids in Italy, order for them first.  Sam wanted pizza and Indi wanted her standard, pasta with tomato sauce.  Both kids did well and had very simply yet tasty dinners.

To be fair, the kids were really good going out to dinner most of the time and they were good this night for the first 90 minutes.  Then they got bored and fidgety.  That’s when the kid-rescuer gets fired up, the portable DVD player featuring this week’s favourite animated feature, Robin Hood.  Man, those kids must have watched Robin Hood 17 times in two weeks!

Zorba and I had talked up our lovely dinner at Tiramisu somewhat, so everyone’s expectations were high.  Nonetheless, we all had lovely antipasti and mains.  I opted for marinated scampi followed by fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms.  Both were beautiful, but the scampi was particularly light, fresh and delicate.  I didn’t want to share it because it was so good…but I did!

Marinated scampi

Zorba loved his starter of octopus cooked in balsamic.  His main of linguine with sea urchin was not to my liking – sea urchin has a very fishy seaweedy almost flavour to me, but Zorba loved it.

Ben opted for the traditional Sicilian pasta dish of tagliatelle norma – with eggplant and breadcrumbs, followed by a mixed seafood grill.

Mum’s bruschetta with eggplant was really delicious. For mains, she just had a plate of grilled vegetables and shared Dad’s pizza of grilled vegetables and balsamic (no cheese!).  Dad has hot mussels to start and he loved those!

Bruschetta with melanzane – eggplant

We were all feeling pretty full, however, it was Susie’s birthday dinner so when she slipped away to the ladies room, I asked the waiter if he had a piece of cake that he could bring out for her and passed him a packed of birthday candles.  The waiter recommended some tiramisu – I concurred. That sounded good!

When Susie returned to the table and started talking about finding a gelato for dessert, along came her birthday cake tiramisu – and wow – it was HUGE!  It fed all eight of us!

Happy Birthday Susie!

The tiramisu was so gorgeously light and unbelievably tasty. The tiramisu I make is also delicious, but it is a lot heavier than this one.  I could have kept eating that until I burst. It was gorgeous!

Nephew Sam even liked it!  I spoon fed it to him while he was on automatic pilot watching Robin Hood on the portable DVD player.  Watching Sam go through a caffeine high on the way home from the restaurant was something else. It was the kid was charged with super duper everready batteries. He kept running and jumping and running and jumping. This did not calm down when we got home either.  Running in the villa, jumping on couches, up and down stairs!  Not surprising really.  It took him about an hour to wind down and get to sleep.

It was a lovely family dinner out.  Happy Birthday Susie!


Tiramisu Restaurant
Via Cappuccini 1, Taormina
Tel: +39 (0)942 24803