Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review : Vue de Monde

Normanby Chambers
430 Little Collins Street

Lunch: Tuesday - Friday
bookings between midday to 2pm
Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday
bookings between 6:30pm to 8:30pm

*bookings essential

Anyone who is serious about their food, knows about Vue de Monde in Melbourne. When we originally decided to visit Melbourne, we were only going to go to Bistro Vue as the cost of Vue de Monde can be prohibitive, but once we came to our senses we realised that 'Money be damned!' - we were going to experience Vue de Monde, even if it sent us into bankruptcy.

On arrival we were a little surprised at the quirky and quite small dining space.  It is lovely, modern and quite comfortable. The waitstaff guide us through the variety of options for lunch, whether we were after the Menu du Jour (only available at lunch), Menu Gourmand or the Gastronome Menu.  We decide upon the Menu Gourmand which at lunch time begins at $100 per person for 5 courses, with an extra $15 for each additional course.

We opt for 7 courses and were able to nominate any specific food allergies or dislikes. It is important to realise that you do not order from a menu - and I have read some reviews where the diners have found this off-putting.  We actually really found this quite exciting - although Squeak was very nervous that she was just going to be treated as a vegetarian as she nominated seafood, lamb and pork as foods she wouldn't eat. As you will see later - she need not have been concerned. 

The very helpful and quite endearingly enthusiastic sommelier was incredibly accomodating in advising us how to go about ordering the wines, seeing as we didn't want to have a glass per course. We ended up having 4 different wines including one dessert wine, with all wines ranging between $10 and $20.

The adventure began with an Amuse Bouche named 'Muesli Bar'. This came presented on a rock with a small cold pack underneath, which we did think made the dish look a little untidy. Having said that the dish itself was quite a revelation. There was puffed wild rice, roasted buckwhaet, poached quince and pumpkin 'snow' which all came together in a savoury but creamy and crunchy mouthful.  We ate this with a 2008 Bodegas Catena Zapata Chardonnay from Argentina, which was quite amazing - especially as neither of us traditionally have been Chardonnay fans.

Following this came the Jardin De Legumes - or the Heide Vegetable Garden. This dish was incredibly pretty to look at and quite amazing on the palate. The dish is designed to replicate the 'Heide Vegetable garden' itself. There was an avocado mousse with an olive oil 'snow' which was made with dextrose and olive oil and dehydrated, and it was then accompanied with some selected vegetables.  The snow completely tasted of olive oil, but in dry form. It was phenomenal.

Our next course was where Squeak and I parted ways with our dishes. Squeak was a bit concerned when her dish arrived, as it was a simple dish of celery and radish ribbons with dill and frozen sour cream. She liked it, but found it a bit lacking in adventure.  It was at this point that she began to worry that she was going to be treated as a vegetarian diner, as was the case when we visited Marque some time ago.

My dish was Pickled Garfish with slivers of sweet potato and a passionfruit juice (although the emailed menu said swede - I was definitely told it was sweet potato). The juice was administered via pipette on arrival. I have never had garfish and I probably would not have ordered it, but it was delicious. There was a good textural and flavour combinations with the sweetness, but tartness of the passionfruit, in combination with the sharpness of the pickled garfish. It was tasty.

Our next course was when things really began to get interesting. As you can see from the picture, it looks like we were served an egg. However it was a duck egg yolk surrounded by a potato puree with brioche, onion rings and an onion, thyme jus. Oh my good god! The richness of that yolk combined with the intense 'potato' flavour of the puree in combination with the crisp onion rings and the really intensely flavoured jus were truly amazing. This dish was basically like the culmination of all of Squeak's favourite things. Egg, potato and onion rings - but mixed up in the mind of a culinary genius to create this masterpiece! It was here that our next wine arrived, and on this occasion it was a 2009 Portal Montsant 'Brunus' Rose from Northern Spain and it was also a great match.

Following such a rich dish we were happy to see the palate cleanser which came in the form of a cucumber sorbet, elderflower granita and frozen lime. This was a really refreshing break and the 'zing' of the lime really enlivened our palates - ready to embark upon the rest of the meal.

The next dish is one where Squeak felt she gained the upper hand - however I do not agree. She was served Duck breast with potato tuilles and lemon sauce.  She was in some kind of heavenly state while eating the duck claiming it to be the hands down best duck she has ever experienced, and considering it was then combined with both potato and lemon - she was certainly well catered for.

My dish was the Roasted marron with spanner crab, apple discs and crispy duck tongue.  Yes that is correct - duck tongue! I will admit to feeling a bit weird about eating that, but I have to say that it was really delicious, and kind of reminded me of pork crackling. The marron was really amazing, and an interesting texture, and the sweetness of the crab, the sharpness of the apple and the saltiness of the tongue worked very well together.

Our next glass of wine came then, and it was a 2006 Shiraz by The Standish Wine company in the Barossa Valley. This is another example of a wine that surprised us, as usually we would not choose to drink Shiraz - but it does just go to show that when someone who knows what they're doing orders it - we have nothing to fear. This wine accompanied our heaviest course to this point, and to be honest it is the one that I probably relive the most... David Blackmore Wagyu Beef Cheek with potato galette and Stinging Nettles. Now I will be honest and say that the menu we were sent did not say this, but it was defintely what we were told on presentation of the dish. Now beef cheek is a cut of beef that both Squeak and I are obsessed with and when we were told that it had been cooked for 16 hours we were pretty confident it was going to be good. The first mouthful of this meat was beyond description. It was the most moist, sticky and flavoursome piece of meat I think I have probably ever had. The stinging nettles were really salty, but in a good way. The saltiness worked really well with the sticky, gelatinous richness of the beef. I do think this dish is probably one of the best dishes I have ever eaten.

So often Squeak and I plan to order a cheese course, but cannot go the distance. On this occasion though, due to the elongated nature of the lunch as well as the thankfully small courses, we thought we could, and should, do it this time. We were presented with  a Millawa Blue Cheese, pumpkin puree served with a delicious toffeed nut crumb and crisp rye bread. This came with a Grand Maison Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. The match between this wine and this cheese was perfection.

The pre-dessert arrived then and, once again, it was the perfect way to get our palates ready for dessert. It was a frozen vanilla yogurt with pop rocks and home made lemonade. This dish did all sorts of things to our mouths with the sharpness of the lemonade and the pop rocks and the creamy coolness of the vaanilla frozen yogurt.  Really good.

Prior to dessert we were asked what preferences we had in terms of flavour and ingredients. Squeak suggested she was more inclined to fruit, while I was more inclined to chocolate. Squeak's resulting dessert was a very simple poached banana with a malted muscovado and hazelnut crumb and ice cream. This dessert is one that Squeak still finds herself thinking about in a quiet moment. It was delicious in its simplicity.

I was presented with a chocolate souffle with chocolate foam and creme anglaise (which came presented in a testube protruding from the centre of the souffle, which was promptly removed and poured in the centre of the souffle). The souffle was incredibly light, chocolatey and quite delicious. I will admit to a small twinge of disappointment however. The meal to this point had been inventive and quirky at times, and I think I would have liked some of that to cross over into my dessert - much like The Bentley does. Having said that, I cannot deny that it was an excellent souffle.

Things had not finished yet. The petit fours that accompany the coffee and tea are a wonder in themselves.  No traditional after dinner mints, or little bikkies here.... The petit fours are a procession of surprises, whimsy and wit. First came the Lemon Jubes. These two innocent looking lollies were intensely lemony soft jellies offset by the sugar coating. Then came the simply titled 'lamingtons'. The simplicity of the title and how they looked really meant that we just picked them up and popped them into our mouths expecting a little choco-coconut sponge, but what our mouths  were presented with was an intensely chocolate flavoured mousse with raspberry jam. These were really delicious.
Next was the most witty offering. We were presented with a cigarette case, which was opened on arrival to reveal an ash tray with what looked like the stubs of burnt out cigarettes. In actual fact, it was mango liquorice, with strawberry puree, sherbert and musk sticks. It continued the demonstration of the entire meal - flavour combinations to both excite and mellow the taste buds. Lastly came two very cute mini mint marshmallows with thyme.

This was the conclusion to what was a long, leisurely, beautiful lunch.

One downside to the Vue de Monde experience occurred prior to our visit. We had been in email communication with the restauarnt to check that some of Squeak's food idiosynchrosies would able to be accommodated, and despite some initial return communication, they did fail to reply to one of our requests. On arrival we realised that our requests had been noted, they just had not replied, which we thought was a bit of poor form for a restaurant of this calibre.

On the day though, service was very professional, friendly, but unobtrusive. We were slightly weirded out by the lack of women waitstaff - by lack, I mean there were absolutely none! We don't know if this was just the day, or if this is how it always is, but it was strange to be in such a 'male' space.

We left Vue de Monde thoroughly satisfied, and very full. It is a truly unique dining experience with food that is adventurous, witty and flavoursome. A meal at Vue de Monde is not cheap - but it is an experience you are likely to remember for a long time to come.

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Unknown said...

Very interesting to see the dishes Squeak was served and how your preferences were catered to - glad most of her dishes weren't bland or uninspiring!

Reading your post makes me want to go back! =D

Buggles and Squeak said...

Love the way this restaurant caters to individual preferences. Don't think we have come across another restaurant that does it so well.
We also can't wait to return...