Shannon Bennett opened Vue de Monde in 2000 at the grand old age of 24. The restaurant quickly attained a cult following and Shannon was awarded the Australian Gourmet Traveller’s Best New Talent in 2003. In 2005 the restaurant was relocated to the historic Normandy Chambers building, where it achieved higher accolades and was awarded an unprecedented score of 19 out of 20 in The Age Good Food Guide 2007.
Receiving numerous hats, stars and awards, Shannon wasn’t finished there. In 2011 Vue de Monde again relocated, this time 55 floors up in the Rialto. Shannon wanted to take the restaurant to greater heights and has done so, literally.
Entering the foyer a hostess greeted us, took our coats and called the lift. Giddy with excitement we couldn’t quite believe we were finally there. As we exited the lift we were shown through to the bar (early of course, the anticipation was too much). We were more than happy to sit and people-watch while chatting with the bartenders and sipping cocktails.
They mean business at The Lui Bar. A quick chat about my likes and dislikes lead to a recommendation. A few minutes later an Aviation appeared in front of me – a classic cocktail made with gin, maraschino liqueur, crème de violette, and lemon juice. It dates back to 1916 but this was the first time I’d tasted one. Easily one of the best cocktails I’d had all year.
And then it was time to head through to the dining room.
WOW. Just wow. I’d heard so many things about the restaurant but nothing beats the real deal. Natural timbers, leathers and animal hide juxtaposed against neon lights and THAT view. Our table for two could easily seat four. It was nice to see they haven’t squished tables in. There’s space, room to move, a feeling of luxuriousness and grandeur. No expense spared. Vue de Monde is incredible. It’s beautiful. It’s so many things all rolled into one.
We met our waitress and sommelier for the evening, discussed food preferences, wine budget and thoughts on the evening. Happy to go with the flow we quickly forgot about the budget – celebrating 8 years together we deserved to go a little crazy.
Gastronomes Menu – $250.00 per person / with premium matched wines $500.00 per person
- Oyster / Salt cured wallaby / Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar / Truffle marshmallow
- King prawn, seaweed salted duck yolk, wasabi
(NV Tateyama ‘Junmai Ginjo’, Toyama, Japan)
- Melbourne onion soup
(2011 Foradori Fontansanta Manzoni, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy)
- Marron, sweetbread, lamb floss
(2010 Michelot ‘Clos st Felix’ Meursault, Côte de Beaune, France)
- Duck yolk, pear, truffle
(2004 Dom Pérignon Épernay Champagne AOC, France)
- Cucumber, wood sorrel
- Barramundi, nettle, young garlic
(2010 Vissoux Pierreux Brouilly, Burgundy, France)
- Pigeon, wattleseed, apple, truffle
(2007 Gerovassiliou ‘Evangelo’ Epanomi PGI Syrah Viognier, Macedonia, Greece)
- Blackmore Wagyu, smoked bone marrow, saltbush
(2009 Grace Misawa Cabernet Sauvignon, Katsunuma-cho, Japan)
- Kale, celery, coconut
- Passionfruit curd, white chocolate, crackers
(2011 Whistling Eagle Botrytis Semillon, Heathcote, Victoria)
- Rhubarb, white chocolate, coffee
(1993 Disznókó ‘Aszu 5 Puttonyos’ Tokaj, Hungary
- Tonka bean soufflé, smoked chocolate ice cream
(2009 Domain Madeloc, Banyuls Cirera, Languedoc-Roussillon, France)
- A selection of petit-fours
Sticks and stones were arranged in the centre of the table creating an outback, camp-fire feeling. The scene was set. We couldn’t help but get caught up in the drama of the evening and wonder what was coming next – we were transported to another world.
It started with a shot glass of birch tree sap – a tonic. A slightly sweet, slightly syrupy watery drink, almost medicinal. If nothing else, our interests were peaked. Following the tonic whisper thin salt and vinegar crisps arrived, pairing nicely with macadamia puree and compressed apple pieces. The nod to Australia already apparent. We’re away.
Oyster / Salt cured wallaby / Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar / Truffle marshmallow.
Of course each and every stone on the table has a purpose and feature throughout the evening. We’re presented with four little snacks to get things going. First up are two oysters balanced on one of the rocks, appearing somewhat at home. Removing the top of the oyster shell revealed a plump, freshly shucked oyster.
Vue de Monde’s Australiana theme runs through the decor and the food. It was no surprise to see wallaby make an appearance during the evening. Wallaby loin strips delicately rolled up. Tender, salt cured wallaby. A new experience yet as familiar as any other lean cut cured in salt.
Most unusual sounding are the pieces of smoked eel coated with candied white chocolate and a little mound of caviar. Smoky firm eel balanced with sweetness from the brittle white chocolate layer and salty baubles of caviar. A mouthful of differing textures and tastes – a small hint of what is yet to come.
The fourth and final snack was a fluffy marshmallow coated in coconut ash, breadcrumbs and black truffle, swinging between sweet and savoury. Four little morsels to whet the appetite. Dylan and I looked at each other with a knowing glance; if the amuse bouche was this good we knew everything to follow would be even better.
The sticks were then repositioned to be cutlery rests, the top of a stone removed to reveal salt and pepper. Everything on the table forming part of the evening, wrapping us up in its magic. Not having seen a menu we were in for a roller coaster ride, unaware of what would be around the corner.
King prawn, seaweed salted duck yolk, wasabi.
NV Tateyama ‘Junmai Ginjo’, Toyama, Japan.
Surprisingly a king prawn would be the first dish of the tasting menu. Presented on a beautiful white plate with the head and all; we were encouraged to eat the whole thing. The prawn head pan-fried until crisp, the prawn body cooked for less than one minute. A juxtaposition of crisp, crunchy head and delicate, moist prawn. Wasabi snow and seaweed salted duck yolk thoughtful, non-overpowering touches.
Melbourne onion soup.
2011 Foradori Fontansanta Manzoni, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy.
Theatre surrounded the next course. Yes Melbourne’s most acclaimed restaurant is serving onion soup, but not quite like you have ever seen before. A coffee siphon was used to percolate the broth at the table as a bowl of onions – grilled, charred and pickled – grated gruyere, cheese foam, macadamia gel disc and brioche cubes was placed in front of us.
On first taste the broth blew me away. I’d heard good things about this dish from a friend but you never quite know what to expect until you try something for yourself. Full depth of flavour and a wonderful clarity, the broth was stunning. Combined with the different textures and flavours of both the onion and cheese made for a fun take on a French classic.
Marron, sweetbread, lamb floss.
2010 Michelot ‘Clos st Felix’ Meursault, Côte de Beaune, France.
Next up was a smooth, polished granite plate with a stunning marron tail on one side and a mound blanketed in lamb floss on the other. The lamb floss hiding a butter and sweetbread emulsion. Here the idea was to use your hands and dig in. We did just that, forgetting about cutlery, dipping the sweet marron into the rich, unctuous sweetbread butter and lamb floss. Incredible. Without a doubt one of the best dishes I have ever eaten.
Duck yolk, pear, truffle.
2004 Dom Pérignon Épernay Champagne AOC, France.
Perfectly round pear slivers hid a beautiful secret, a slow cooked duck yolk. Rich and oozy duck yolk paired with sweet discs of pear and the additional crunch from crisped saltbush leaves, rounded off with brown butter and truffle puree. Flavours were clean and precise, never did the pear or saltbush feel weak against the richness of the silky yolk.
Cucumber, wood sorrel.
Wood sorrel leaves lay in the bottom of a bowl. Then a chef poured liquid nitrogen in and they began to dance, spinning furiously as they freeze dried right before our eyes. After the mist disappeared we were instructed to bash the frozen sorrel into a crumble using a wooden pestle. Once happy with the level of crushing a quenelle of cucumber sorbet was dropped on top. Refreshing and cooling sorbet with little hints of tartness, a well-placed palate cleanser following the duck yolk.
Barramundi, nettle, young garlic.
2010 Vissoux Pierreux Brouilly, Burgundy, France.
Moving onto the mains a piece of barramundi highlights precision cooking. But that’s not the only thing that was precise, nestled against it was a translucent ribbon of potato rolled into a tube. It’s hard to impress upon people how good a perfectly cooked piece of fish can be, but even Dylan was impressed with the flawlessness of the barramundi. Nettle puree, young garlic and micro herbs finished off the dish. Well executed.
Pigeon, wattleseed, apple, truffle.
2007 Gerovassiliou ‘Evangelo’ Epanomi PGI Syrah Viognier, Macedonia, Greece.
Pigeon frightens many but it just needs to be thought of as a different type of poultry. Moist, nicely roasted pigeon breast with a generous shaving of truffle, sweet apple puree and crisp kohlrabi slices. My only qualm with the execution was how rare it was, we both enjoy most things cooked this way but being so rare meant it cooled incredibly quickly bringing the gamey nature of the pigeon out.
But it was the leg that really got to me. I will eat any meat but there are some parts of the body I struggle with – feet being one of them. Focussing on the leg, I dug in. Confit leg can only be complete with a dollop of chicken fat emulsion. The meat itself was deliciously juicy and tender, but the closer I got to the claw the quicker I had to finish. Having said that I must also say leave your preconceptions at the door and give it a go.
Blackmore Wagyu, smoked bone marrow, saltbush.
2009 Grace Misawa Cabernet Sauvignon, Katsunuma-cho, Japan.
Balanced between two stones, a piece of bone held the final main course. Beef lovers rejoice. The hollowed out bone held a glorious mix of braised Blackmore wagyu beef tenderloin, smoked bone marrow, saltbush and cubes of pear. A wonderful combination of succulent meat, lush marrow and just the right level of acidity. A visually striking and absolutely delicious dish.
Kale, celery, coconut.
Another palate cleanser to prepare us for the next section of our journey. Kale, celery and coconut juice. Bitter and alkalising with a pleasant creaminess. We were ready for dessert.
Passionfruit curd, white chocolate, crackers.
2011 Whistling Eagle Botrytis Semillon, Heathcote, Victoria.
The first dessert was picturesque. A tribute to the passionfruit, while native to South America it grows abundantly in Australia all year round. White chocolate mousse, passionfruit curd, crackers, dehydrated caramel powder and passionfruit juice. An interactive dish where you can mix and match as you please. Tart, sweet, creamy, crunchy. Featuring possibly the most stunning passionfruit curd in existence; it had everything a dessert should have and disappeared in next to no time.
Rhubarb, white chocolate, coffee.
1993 Disznókó ‘Aszu 5 Puttonyos’ Tokaj, Hungary.
Dessert two featured white chocolate, rhubarb and coffee – a combination you may not have thought of but one that works surprisingly well. A squiggle of white chocolate cream punctuated with crunchy chocolate balls, pieces of rhubarb and chocolate soil, not to mention the delightful coffee ice cream. Dylan struggled with the size of this dessert, it was quite substantial and I must agree, after quite a number of courses it may have been a little too much of a good thing.
Tonka bean soufflé, smoked chocolate ice cream.
2009 Domain Madeloc, Banyuls Cirera, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.
The final dessert was not quite what we were expecting. We’d overhead chocolate soufflés being presented to other tables but ours was different. Presented with a towering tonka bean soufflé, our waitress scooped out the centre and filled it with a scoop of smoked chocolate ice cream. And of course an indulgent meal is not complete without another shaving of truffle.
What you may not know is that tonka beans are illegal in many countries, in particular the USA, because they contain a compound believed to be toxic. From everything I’ve heard and read you’d have to eat a hell of a lot of tonka beans in order to fall ill.
Our first taste of tonka beans was wonderful. So many scents flowing from the soufflé – reminiscent of vanilla, almond and cinnamon with hints of tobacco which is no doubt why the smoked chocolate ice cream was matched so well.
A selection of petit-fours.
Petit fours would not disappoint; the Australiana theme continuing right through to the end. Two-up jellies dusted in gold.
Mini ‘lamington’ cubes of chocolate mousse, coated in coconut with a raspberry puree.
Salted caramel seashells doused in olive oil ‘seawater’ and finished off with a native classic, finger lime.
Eucalyptus ice cream pops coated in white chocolate. From the first smell I was transported back to primary school, buying ‘eucos’ from the tuckshop. Nostalgia at its best.
And of course, the evening had to come to an end. We settled the bill and made our way back to the lift where we were handed a little bag containing brioche, muesli, tea and everything you need for breakfast the next morning (reminiscent of Eleven Madison Park in New York).
Cocktails and wine pairing made this the most expensive meal of our lives, overtaking EMP by a small margin. Though we threw our budget out the window and went all out with the wine pairings I must say I don’t feel it’s ideal for the sommelier to put diners on the spot asking how much they’d like to spend on wine. For many this would be a confronting and awkward situation. Personally I feel it would be more suitable for a tiered wine pairing offering to be presented to guests to choose from.
There are many things I have not even touched on – Christofle Jardin d’Eden cutlery, Robert Gordon crockery, Queen B candles, Penfolds Grange vines (the cutlery rests), house made bread, imported Echire butter, sustainability. There is so much more to Vue de Monde than what I could ever cover off here. It’s a restaurant of great beauty, depth and inspiration. They’re telling a story I’m so glad I have been able to experience. An incredible journey with sensational food and wine pairings, amazing service, unbeatable views and an overall unforgettable experience. We’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
Vue de Monde
Level 55, Rialto
525 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9691 3888
Vue de Monde Website