Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vue De Monde

At my birthday party this year, my friend An handed me something that looked like a prop cigarette, but was actually a piece of paper wrapped up tightly and sealed with a yellow post-it note. And on that little piece of paper he'd typed: "Vue De Monde - Saturday 11 June". It was a double birthday present for Sandra and I!  Squeeeeeee!

Vue De Monde
430 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9691-3888
Website

I'd never been to Vue de Monde before, so I was glad that we got to experience the old, Normanby Chambers venue, before their move to the Rialto.  I'm sure the new dining room will be stunning, but I just loved the warm feel of the decor and the bustling atmosphere of Normanby Chambers.

We were seated next to the kitchen, right in the middle of all the action, and got to see plate after plate of intricate food being ferried out by dozens of skilled waiters.  The service throughout the evening was fantastic: the right level between friendly and efficient.  They were also very switched-on and attentive.  For example... when our waiter noticed that I was hurriedly scribbling down notes on the meal (not just for the blog, but also so I could actually remember all the different courses we were enjoying), he came over and informed me that they could just email us all the details of the food and wine - phew!  I believe they offer this to all tables, but usually at the end of the night!  There was actually only one negative I can think of: throughout the evening, four separate waiters topped up our water glasses with still water, even though we were all drinking sparkling.  It wasn't a big deal at all, and was rectified instantly - we found it funny more than anything else!

Now, the food:

To start, we were brought a little appetizer of potato chips with sour cream, chive oil and dehydrated onion.  (Sour cream and chives-flavoured chips are a guilty pleasure of mine, so you can imagine how much I enjoyed this!)

Laguiole cutlery!

Butter plate

As our waiter explained to us, there is no physical menu; rather you have a choice between a five-course ($150) or ten-course ($250) degustation, the latter of which also includes premium ingredients and truffles (when in season).  They don't tell you what the courses will be (allowing the evening's courses to unfold as a surprise!) - but they do ask upfront about any dietary requirements and are happy to work around them.  They perfectly understood Sandra's requests for no seafood, and for any meat to be cooked well done.  As for An and myself, we are both totally omnivorous and are happy to try anything!  Our waiter did let us know, however, that the point of the evening was to enjoy our food, so if anything was too adventurous, or not cooked to our liking, that we'd be able to send it back (this didn't happen though!)

An said we could do the ten-course degustation - YAY!

But before the degustation commenced, we had some amuse bouche: little venison tartare sandwiches, gorgeous pumpkin logs topped with pumpkin seeds and chive.... 
Venison tartare sandwich
Pumpkin log with chives and pumpkin seeds
... oyster remoulade in a citrussy gelatin casing, and a small pot of house-made yoghurt with macadamia praline for our non-seafood eater!
Oyster remoulade
House made yoghurt with macadamia praline

I chose to do the matching wines as well.  Don't worry, I paid for them myself - I wouldn't have made An shout me wines too!  After the amuse bouches, the sommelier came over and asked for my wine preferences - oaky whites, any reds, but happy to try anything - and explained how the matching wines work.  There was a small glass (60ml) of wine per course, priced at $15-$17 each.  I thought this was a great way to enjoy a variety of premium wines, without getting too intoxicated (or broke!) over the evening.  Having said that, they're flexible, and you could go super-premium if you wanted!

First Course
CRABE, BROCCOLI, BETTERAVE - Spanner crab, broccoli, beetroot
2009 Capichera Kharisma ‘Vermentino’ Isole dei Nuraghi IGT Sardinia, Italy

I loved the pretty, vibrant colours of this dish, the freshness of the crab and the crunch of the vegetables.  The accompanying Vermentino was accordingly fresh and crisp - despite my preference for oaky whites over fruity ones, I thought this was a fantastic match.

Non-seafood option
ESTRAGON, POMME DE TERRE, OEUF DE CAILLE - Tarragon, potato, quail egg 

How cute is the potato dish!  I thought it looked like a pastoral scene, with its swipe of tarragon sauce, perfectly cooked quail eggs, sprinkles of herbs and little potato pillows.

Second Course
CONSOMMÉ DE CHAMPIGNON - Pine mushrooms, walnuts, bird’s nest, cona infusion
NV Toro Albala Oloroso, Spain

The second course was more theatrical.  First, we were brought shallow bowls topped with mushrooms on wooden boards.  A coffee percolator filled with konbu-infused mushroom consommé and pine needles was brought to our tables, and heated up.  The consommé bubbled up from the bottom bulb into the top, and once it subsided, our waiter scraped the mushrooms from the board into the bowls, and poured the consommé over.


This was, perhaps, my favourite course of the evening.  I loved the spectacle of the dish, the intensely savoury mushroom broth, and the meaty texture of the mushrooms - absolutely delicious!  This course came with a Spanish sherry, that had a very short finish.  On first sip, I wasn't a huge fan, but when tasted with the soup, it was a lovely combination.

Third Course
ÉCREVISSE, LANGUE DE BOEUF, ÉMULSION DE BEURRE NOISETTE - Marron, beef tongue, brown butter emulsion
2005 Benanti ‘Pietramarina’ Etna Bianco Superiore Etna Bianco DOC Sicily, Italy
I absolutely adored the third course - incredibly fresh marron with a little beef tongue sandwich, and a decadent brown butter emulsion.  I'm sure there were a zillion different elements going into the preparation of this dish, but to me it tasted simple, and perfect.  On less formal occasions I'd love to have a big plate of marrons, drowned in that brown butter sauce, as my meal in its entirety!

Non-seafood option
FROMAGE DE TÊTE, OS ÀMÖELL, POIREAU - Pig’s head terrine, pear, leek, smoked bone marrow

We really appreciated how the our non-seafood eater wasn't just given the vegetarian option during the seafood courses, but often a completely different dish altogether.

Fourth Course
OEUF DE CANARD, RIS D’AGNEAU, OIGNON, TRUFFE - Fried duck egg, lamb sweetbreads, pickled onion, truffle
2002 Moët & Chandon ‘Cuvée Dom Pérignon’ Épernay Champagne AOC, France

Yes, you read that correctly!  Dom Pérignon and truffles!

In addition to the softly-set duck egg yolk sat atop white polenta (I believe), there were ciabatta croutons, onion rings (both pickled and fried), sweetbread sausage, and a delicious dark jus.  There were great contrasts in the dish: the richness of the egg yolk against the sharp pickled onions, the soft egg, onion and sweetbread sausage against the crispy ciabatta and fried onion pieces - just lovely.

And of course... there was black truffle, which our waiter grated over our individual plates.  Sandra actually said "no thank-you" to the truffle (OMG what?!), because she's not super-keen on them, and she'd been "forced" to sit through a 4-course truffle lunch at The Atlantic the day before.  And you thought I was lucky!  I was almost going to ask him to grate Sandra's share of truffle over my plate, but thought it might be poor form!

Once we'd finished eating, I mopped up the fabulous sauce on my plate with bread. (FYI there were sourdough, multigrain and olive bread rolls - freshly baked and replenished regularly).  When my plate had been wiped clean, I (shhh...) started mopping up the sauce from Sandra's plate.  Then, before I knew it, the head chef was standing next to me with a small saucepan with yet more sauce in a little copper pot!  Hahaha...

I'd been too preoccupied eating, but An said that the chef had seen me greedily mopping up extra sauce and had yelled at one of the other chefs: "Quick, quick, more sauce!", and then ran over to our table to give me more. Hilarious!  (Slightly embarrassing, but still hilarious!!)  See what I mean about them being friendly, attentive and switched-on?

Palate Cleanser
SORBET AU CONCOMBRE - Cucumber sorbet, crushed herbs 
And now, a little palate cleanser.  We were given little bowls of herbs, over which our waiter poured dry ice.  We had to shatter them using a wooden pestle, and were then given a quenelle of cucumber sorbet.  It was an unusual sorbet, which tasted like pure essence of cucumber - the cold and smooth texture somehow amplified the refreshing qualities of cucumber.

Fifth Course
THON ET POIRE ÉPICÉE - Blue fin tuna toro, spiced pear
2008 by Farr Shiraz, Geelong, Victoria

Fish and shiraz - not a combination I would have thought to put together, but it worked well.  From memory, during the evening our waiter said the tuna was caught in Australia, which made me think it wasn't an endangered species of tuna.  (I hope!)  I almost never eat tuna, so this was a rare treat for me.

Non-seafood option
JARRET DE VEAU, COING ET TOPINAMBOUR - Veal shank, quince, Jerusalem artichoke, warm mayonnaise 
We weren't quite sure what "warm mayonnaise" would be, but it turned out to be like a wonderful hollandaise sauce.

Sixth Course
KANGOUROU, CHOU, FRAMBOISE - Kangaroo, lemon pith,  raspberry, kale, salt bush
2006 Cantine Antonio Caggiano ‘Taurasi Vigna macchia dei Goti’ Taurasi DOCG  Campania, Italy

Instead of ordinary plates, the kangaroo was brought out on thick slices of wood.  You can see above it was cooked rare - perfect for me! - but Sandra's one came out well done, just as she requested.  I greatly enjoyed the green leaves: salty and crispy little bites, which complemented the sweet kangaroo meat well.


Seventh Course
JOUE DE BŒUF DE BLACKMORE, RADIS, ANETH ET SAUCE AUX ANCHOIS - Blackmore wagyu beef cheek, radish, dill, caper, anchovy sauce
2006 Planeta ‘Santa Cecilia’ Sicilia IGT, Italy
Phew, our final savoury course of the evening.  There were two plates: one with a cube of meltingly tender beef cheek with mashed potato and radish, and one with a rare piece of beef with a dill, anchovy and caper sauce.  (That was a well-done piece of meat with dill and caper sauce for Sandra!)  We were impressed that they made the non-anchovy substitution for Sandra - it would have been an easy thing to overlook.

I was, unsurprisingly, quite full by this stage, but I really, really wanted to have a cheese course.  (Walking through the restaurant during the evening, I'd walked past the cheese table: at least a dozen different cheeses, tantalizingly covered with a cheesecloth).

Eighth Course
ASSORTIMENT  DE FROMAGES - Bleu d’Auvergne & Herve Mons Camembert & Beaufort
Our waiter quizzed me as to my cheese preferences - I enjoy all cheeses, except washed rind! - and he made up a selection for me.  There was a sharp Beaufort, a creamy Camambert and a mild Bleu D'Auvergne.  Accompaniments included freshly grated apple, rhubarb, pear puree, red onion jam and fig jam.  He also explained which accompaniments matched best with the cheeses, but that I should have fun trying different combinations.  The accompanying breads were a rye, and beetroot.  They were rather crispy - I wondered if they'd been brushed with oil and grilled or fried.

Non-cheese option
YAHOURT, MUSELI, KIWI - Yoghurt, kiwi fruit, champagne supernova

Our non-cheese eaters weren't ignored.  They both got a cute pre-dessert, served in a yoghurt pot.  There was yoghurt, little meringues, kiwi-fruits, a sprinkling of toasted muesli, and a 'champagne supernova'.

I found the cheese platter quite generous; I think it could easily be shared between two people, especially if you only want a few little tastes.

So, between cheese and dessert (yes, I know how gourmand that sounds!), we had a little entremet sucré of house made lemonade, frozen toffee apple, and popping candy.

I'm not sure if you can see it in the above picture, but the lemonade was smoking as it was brought to our table.  Little balls of apple sorbet were coated in popping candy - refreshment and fun in one mouthful!  I know popping candy is supposed to remind us of our childhood, but I've only ever had popping candy in high-end restaurants, hehe.  The overall taste was sour and refreshing, getting our tastebuds ready for dessert...

Ninth Course
GLACE AU LAIT ET À LA MANDARINE - Mandarin & milk Weiss bar
2005 Klein Constantia ‚Vin de Constance‘ Constantia Coastal Region, South Africa

The first (of two) desserts was Vue de Monde's take on a Weiss bar, which included many different versions of mandarin in the one dish.  I don't ordinarily even like mandarins, but this was fabulous!  There were fresh mandarin segments, a quenelle mandarin sorbet, crunchy dehydrated (?) mandaring pieces, and the "Weiss Bar", with a layer each of mandarin and creamy milk ice-creams.  This came with a South African sweet wine, the Vin de Constance.  Out of all the wine matches, this was the only one that didn't work for me - even though the wine was lovely by itself, I found that it seemed to muddy the pure, delicate flavours of the dessert.

And finally, we arrive at the tenth course...

Tenth Course
SOUFFLÉ AU CHOCOLAT - Chocolate soufflé, chocolate mousse, crème anglaise
1982 Toro Albalá Gran Reserva Pedro Ximenez Montilla-Moriles  Andalusía, Spain

Chocolate soufflé, filled with chocolate mousse.  Our waiter poured in a little tube of crème anglaise, and we tucked in!  The accompanying wine was a 1982 (!) Pedro Ximinez, which had a wonderfully smooth taste and texture.  (It wasn't lost on me that the sherry I was drinking was older than I am!)

But wait, there's more!  The evening ended with coffees and some petits fours: sour lemon drops, chocolate mousse 'lamingtons' filled with raspberry jelly, mint marshmallows, and fruity candy in a sherbet powder.

I thought it was super-cute how they'd written Happy Birthday on the plate as well!

By this stage it was 12:30 in the morning, and we'd been at the restaurant for a good five hours. Phew!  What an epic eating experience!  We settled the bill, they called us a cab and we headed off.  On our way out, we were handed two paper bags containing "tomorrow's breakfast": a mini loaf of brioche, some granola, chocolate cookies, honey, and fruity breakfast tea.  What a great touch!  (I'd actually read about the breakfast bag on another blog, and was so glad they were still doing it!) 


We had the most fabulous time at Vue De Monde - before visiting, I thought it might be a little stuffy but it was actually a lot of fun!  It's undeniably expensive, but definitely worth saving up for and visiting for a special occasion!  (Although, apparently the new Vue De Monde has an à la carte menu as well, so that might make it a bit more accessible.)  More than just the food, the entire experience was just amazing - the pride that the staff have in their restaurant is palpable, and I loved the amount of thought and effort that went into making sure we had a fantastic night and enjoyed the experience.

A big thank-you to An for one of the best birthday presents ever! Now the question is: where on earth do we take him for his birthday later this year?  Suggestions please!!!

Vue de monde on Urbanspoon

10 comments:

emmabovary said...

Such an amazing post, I am thankful to have read it. Having never experience anything like this, my mouth is agape and I am desperate for some of those meals...
Wonderful post.
Emma

Adri said...

Ah yes the old breakfast bag, I didn't tell you about that :) ... a lovely surprise at the end.

I think we should take An to Jacques Reymond, or Money Order Office...MOO is great, I haven't been to Jacques before but I have heard great things about it!

Esz said...

110% AMAZE-BALLS!!
You've just made me *really* want to go - Its always been on my dream list but thought that it would be too posh and not worth the price. But the little extra details you mentioned just really make it sound fantastic. What an awesome experience it must have been. :-D

Anonymous said...

Your descriptions and photos are brilliant. It's very unlikely that I would be able to go there myself, but your words make me feel as if I was there, outside, with my nose pressed against the window looking at the lucky few inside.

hungryandfrozen said...

This place sounds outrageously spectacular - I don't even know where to start.

Definitely sounds like it's worth waiting for - a lovely way of extending out your birthday!

Georgia said...

Brilliant post and what a WONDERFUL Birthday pressie! I recently went there, but chickened out on the photo front: http://fabulousfoodandalittlefrolicking.blogspot.com/2011/04/vue-de-monde.html
I too loved the breakky bag - what a gorgeous touch!

Agnes said...

Amazing! Your friend An rocks! Maybe you should take him back to Vue de Monde as an excuse to go there again

Na said...

I agree with Agnes. Your friend An rocks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sarah,

I went to the Rialto with my wife on Friday night and we saw Curtis Stone with friends eating there. One thing I was impressed with at the Rialto Vue was Shannon Bennett personally delivering at least one course to each table and discussing this with the guests.
Highly recommend
Nick

Anonymous said...

Just back from the most amazing dining experience I have ever had and I have 3 hatted it all over the world, it was excellence at all levels and being from Sydney I am sooo jealous we have nothing to match it. A highly tuned operation that is at the same time fun and relaxed, basically words fail to truly describe you just have to go!!!

Kim