Vue De Monde Melbourne

Just relax and enjoy The Vue.

Jess and I are in our finest get up because tonight is set to be a night like no other. Tonight we dine at Shannon Bennett’s beacon restaurant Vue De Monde.

Set atop the glistening Rialto Towers high above Melbourne’s bustling city lights our elevator doors open like a portal to a distant realm. After a quick drink next door at the Lui Bar we are taken to our table for two at the top of the world.

Greeted by one of many black tie waiters, we are offered the wine list. The novel is intense so instead of making a decision we opt for the Sommeliers choice; an off dry Riesling from Frankland River in Western Australia. This wine is crisp to start but with a sweetness to the back of the palate and after the first sip, we know that the Frankland Estate Poison Hill 2011 is a great choice.

Snacks arrive in bounty; oysters, smoked eel and white chocolate, a carpaccio of wallaby and some very delicious salt and vinegar chips. Every little bite brings with it a new complexity and a tingle of nervous anticipation for what was to come.

The menu at Vue De Monde is taken either as a la carte or tasting, with the option of a grand tasting menu also. Even though we were already so full after our trip down the rabbit hole at Hare & Grace we knew we had to do grand tasting. We would hate to disappoint you readers by not showing you everything this amazing place has to offer! So I very sneakily undo my belt and get ready.

First course opens with a bang, not with a massive amount of ingredients but with a bang of simplicity. Baby corn cooked in its skin then covered, and I mean covered, in fresh black truffle. Two bites, demolished. The corn is rich and creamy and the truffle gives its wonderful earthy depth. It is a dish marrying two beautiful ingredients perfectly.
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Our second course is met with a rather Willy Wonka-esque contraption that our chef calls a Conar. A device originally intended for brewing coffee; it has been transformed into a vessel for making the most amazing Melbourne onion soup I have ever tasted. In a bowl placed in front of us is several textures of onion, a gruyere cheese foam, a Comte cheese tuille and a brioche crumb. After our onion soup base is filtered through the top layer of the Conar it infuses with fresh onions, herbs and aromatics. This sweet smelling concoction is then poured into our bowls. This dish is possibly one of the most incredible things I have ever eaten. The theatre of the presentation and the taste explosion that is a simple onion soup is something that as a chef I think is truly special.

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I’m still reeling from onion soup but next course is here. Our waiter greets us with good morning before saying “breakfast is served.” A sous vide duck egg with green beans, fresh apple and a pear dust. This dish was refreshing and surprising. The egg was incredibly rich and custardy whilst the crisp fresh apple provided acidity and contrasting texture.

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So far this dining experience has been nothing short of amazing. Then our cutlery is removed from the table. Is this the end? Surely not. It is in fact our next course, Western Australian Marron with tarragon butter and shellfish powder. This dish is to be eaten without cutlery. “Are we allowed?” Well as I am already up to my elbows in delicious tarragon butter and perfectly cooked seafood Jess is forced to play catch up. This for me truly sums up Shannon Bennetts approach to cooking and dining. A truly special ingredient treated with respect and not over complicated. This dish is about breaking down the formality of dining. Eating should be fun not formal. Brilliant not boring. Sensational not stuffy. I truly felt that at that moment Jess and I could have kicked off our shoes and put our feet on the table.

Our next course arrives in a mortar and pestle. We were instructed to grind a multitude of fresh herbs whilst having liquid nitrogen poured into the mortar. The result was a very fine frozen powder which was then topped with a refreshing cucumber sorbet. Yum!

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Next was a dish of barramundi, nettle and a crunchy crispy whole prawn. The barramundi was lovely and sweet. The nettle has been hand foraged and steamed wonderfully. At this point Jess and I were starting to fill up and we knew that there was still much to come.

A dish of Flinders Island lamb with olive, anchovy and mustard gives a wonderful reminiscence of the Australian bush land. The lamb is succulent and tender while the olive gives a kick of briny saltiness along with the anchovy. The mustard foam is finished by chef at the table very nicely.

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Our next dish comes out on a barbecue. Well if my barbecue ever produces something of this quality I’ll give up cooking in my pans! Rich and fatty Blackmore wagyu seared, paired with beetroot, salt bush and of course more and more black truffle. This dish was the perfect main course. I could have eaten it until my stomach exploded. The meat was so tender and beetroot and truffle is such a fantastic combination.

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Suddenly our table is flooded with cheese. Aside from the fact that they wheel an enormous trolley to the table our friendly waiter decides to spare us the agony of choice. Epoisses, French brie, aged comte, cheddar, talleggio. The list goes on and on. I am in lactose heaven. There’s heaped spoonfuls of house made jams and freshly baked bread and crackers. We’re full but we cannot stop. I have hit some sort of food overdrive and keep powering through. Eager for dessert.

However before the two desserts. That’s right two desserts. There is a pre dessert. A liquified shot with flavours of passion fruit, liquorice and coconut. Yum. Keep them coming!

Our first dessert is strawberries & cream. It is like falling head first into a strawberry field. Light fluffy meringue, sticky sweet strawberry textures and of course a decadent vanilla cream. It reminds me somewhat of Eton mess of course it is much more elegant and refined. I think this is what chef Bennett does best. He sucks you into his world.

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Each dish we have eaten has evoked some sort of emotional response from Jess and I. Whether it is the memory of eating my grandmas trifle or hearing the sizzle of beef on a barbecue plate Bennett creates a dining environment that makes you feel so comfortable that your journey is inwards as well as outwards. Amazing.

Finally a French classic. Chocolate soufflé, creme anglaise. This dessert is simple, understated perfection. The soufflé is dramatic and rises straight out of the ramekin. It is light and aerated with a fluffiness that we just cannot stop enjoying.

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We also get some Autraliana themed petit four with a happy birthday plate for Jess. On the plate is a lamington, a eucalyptus sorbet that tasted very much like the gum drops I used to snack on as a kid, and a musk sugar leaf.

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Vue De Monde is one of the most incredible restaurants in Australia and rightfully so. Everything here is just faultless. From its seamless service, its breathtaking location and of course Shannon Bennett’s wonderful interpretation of modern Australian and French cuisine. This is a restaurant that anyone can enjoy. Okay the bill is large but the experience Jess and I had tonight is something we will remember forever. I feel both completely in another world yet comforted and at home. The service is warm, friendly and completely welcoming. This is a restaurant that you will tell everyone you know about. So sit back, relax and take a walk in Shannon’s world.

The Vue from up here is incredible.

Dined 16th April 2013

Level 55 Rialto Towers
525 Collins St Melbourne Vic
www.vuedemonde.com.au

Hare & Grace Melbourne

Falling down the rabbit hole. An enchanting experience at Hare & Grace.

It’s Melbourne Madness and Jess and I are at the incredibly talented Raymond Capaldi’s Hare & Grace for a lunch that we have been salivating over since we read the menu over a month ago. We’re greeted by our friendly little white rabbit and off we go.

Food is ordered and Jess and I get ready for about our fifteenth course in Melbourne Madness. However something happens. Something wonderful. Raymond Capaldi steps out of the kitchen and casually strolls over to our table, he offers us a chance to see some of his new dishes. Umm Yes chef!

Opening with a delightful dish of scallops, ruby grapefruit and “liquorice” we dive into deliciousness. The scallops are perfectly seared and the grapefruit is wonderfully tart. The “liquorice” is in fact a piece of parsnip cooked in squid ink, a nice little twist that provided the dish with parsnips rich creaminess.image

My starting dish is a simple salad of heirloom tomatoes with ‘olive’ and a shallot vinaigrette. The olive is in fact goats cheese dipped in a squid ink gel. It’s almost the end of tomato season and this is like a beautiful farewell. The tomatoes are rich and the vinaigrette adds a sharpness that wakes up the palette like a shock from an electric eel.image

The next dish is a dish of pure creativity. Raymond sauces it himself at our table before telling us all about it. It is a plate of Otway mushrooms served with sea succulents, ground coffee, sesame, pork floss and a chicken fat and walnut emulsion. Wow! From the look of the plate alone this dish looked incredible. Upon tasting it is both rich, subtle and utterly transcendent. The mushrooms are powerful in their flavours and compliment the fatty pork perfectly. The addition of coffee grounds is both a surprise and a treat. They add an earthiness that offsets the salty sea succulents. The entire dish is incredibly balanced and just wonderful. We have tumbled into a Mad Hatters Tea Party and we are loving it!

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The next course is a work of art. Reflecting the beauty of nature this risotto of pearl barley and puffed grains is a wonderful dish rich in flavour and texture. The pearl barley is cooked perfectly, no starchy residue, and the ink sauce binding the dish together has great depth and warmth. The society garlic flowers are a nice little zing also.

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It’s main course time and Jess and I are already getting seriously full. Why oh why did we eat so much of the fantastic bread? Jess is on to her second summer thump, a cocktail made from vodka and chambord with muddled lime and strawberry and I am tipping back pints of Hare and Grace’s own German red lager the ‘Marzen’. These drinks provide little relief however as the enormity of main course is unleashed upon us.

imageFor me a French dish of beef bourgingon. This is classic cooking at its finest; the sautéed speck, the delicate little mushrooms and of course the slathering of what the chefs call 50/50 mash. That is 50% butter and 50% potato. I am taken to French heaven at just the sight of the wonderful bounty laid before us.

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Jess has a lamb navarin with fondant potatoes, leek and turned carrots. Everything is cooked to perfection, the braised lamb is unctuous and neither of us can stop pushing food into our faces.

So despite having very full stomachs we have eaten all our dishes and basically collapsed on the floor of Hare & Grace but surely there is room for dessert yes? This is where we meet head chef Buddha who comes out and tells us a bit about the dishes he has had an influence on within the menu. Ok dessert it is. Bring it on.

I am tempted by many things but I cannot go past the dessert of white peach, basil and an unusual sounding Szechuan pepper jelly. The peach is crisp and refreshing amongst the dehydrated basils intensity but the jelly provides this beautiful floral warmth. Like a Chinese garden breeze flowing across my palate.

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Jess is taken in by a dish called “sticks & stones” an incredible dish consisting of wasabi ice cream rolled in cocoa butter, pistachio, rose water curd, chocolate soil and squid ink grissini. This textural fantasy is truly something out of The Mad Hatters repertoire. The wasabi ice cream has tangy spice while the chocolate keeps the dish dark and earthy. The entire plate looks like a beautiful rock garden and Jess can’t wait to get in an demolish it! Each of these desserts finish our journey off perfectly and our trip down the rabbit hole has been a wonderful experience.

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Chef Raymond and his team are doing incredibly things at Hare & Grace. Whether it’s for a business lunch, a casual bite or if you just want to sit down and have some cracking good food, take a tumble down the Rabbit hole. There may not be a white rabbit for you to follow but keep an eye on the Hare!

Cheers
Josh and Jess

Dined 16th April 2013

525 Collins St Melbourne, Vic
www.hareandgrace.com

The Lui Bar

Lets have a drink @ The Lui Bar, Vue De Monde

Well all this Melbourne madness has got me seriously in need of alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. So Jess and I find ourselves at The Lui Bar on level 55 of the Rialto Towers. So this put me in the mood to talk mixology. We want to know all of your favourite drinks that tip you over the edge, which is likely the way that Jess and I are knocking these drinks back.

Lui Bar is a gorgeous setting with modern French decor, a sophisticated space but comfortable and in no way too stiff. We pick a spot by the window and set to chill. An old fashioned for me and a mojito for Jess. While we sit and discuss the serious full stomachs that we have after our fantastic fall down the rabbit hole at Hare and Grace, I think that it’s time for us to share some recipes for our favourite tipple of choice.

Josh’s Not So Old Fashioned
The old fashioned is a classic drink traditionally made by muddling sugar and bitters before pouring over whiskey and garnishing with an orange wedge. For mine I like to use orange bitters and Appleton estate rum. Appleton estate reserve rum has delicious notes of ginger and vanilla so it picks up the orange whilst adding a hint of spice warmth.

For my drink. I like to chill the glass right down in the fridge first and set a large cube of ice in the freezer. Big enough to almost fill the glass. You’re going to want to sit on this one for a while!

1 sugar cube
5 dashes of angostura orange bitters, more if you like it really bitter.
A tiny splash of water, this gives you a little bit of moisture just to get everything moving.
And last but not least, 60mls of appleton estate rum.

Put your sugar cube into a chilled old fashioned glass, line the edges with the bitters then add the water. Use a spoon or a muddler to crush the sugar cube. Add your large ice cube then pour the rum over the top. Stir to dissolve the sugar and serve with an orange zest garnish. This is sophistication and classic. Don your tux, grab your machine gun and enjoy.

Jess’s Mild Mannered Mojito
The mojito can turn even the rainiest of days into summer in the Caribbean. Jess’s take on this classic is to freshen it up with lots of mint and a serious amount of lime.
Use a Collins glass to serve this or make a pitcher and have yourself a kicking party.

2 tablespoons of caster sugar
A dozen or so ice cubes
45 mls of white rum
150 mls of soda water
A bunch of mint
2 limes

Okay so there is a serious amount of mint and lime, you don’t have to make it quite so zingy but the fresh punchiness of the lime combined with the sweetness of the rum and sugar is just a little piece of Cuban heaven.

First take about half of your mint, half of your limes cut into wedges and jam them into the bottom of a jug or a cocktail mixer. Crush the mint with the lime to release all the essential oils. Add the sugar and muddle again to dissolve. At this point you should have a lovely green mess. This is the base of heaven. Strain the liquid into your glass and add the ice. Pour over your rum and garnish with the remaining lime wedges and mint. Fresh, zesty and delicious. Put on your sunglasses, some chilled out tunes and enjoy.

Lui Bar is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Melbourne. Not simply for the fact that it’s directly next door to the amazing Vue De Monde. It is a space that is elegant and modern with great drinks and wonderful service.

So now we have shared our drinks we want to know all of yours, drop us a comment and give us your recipes. Although if we get too many to try Jess and I may need new livers! Cheers!

Drank in April 2013

Level 55 Rialto Towers
525 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC