“Is that cheese?” asked Liz, as she pointed at the circle of butter while the rest of our table laughed. It was our last day in Melbourne and we’d decided to splurge on a three course lunch at the three-hatted Vue de Monde. It was definitely on the pricey side for lunch at $55 for two courses or $70 for three courses, especially since a few of the group weren’t that into fine-dining (or butter that looks like cheese). But by the end of the fabulous meal, everyone agreed that it was definitely worth every cent.
We dined at Shannon Bennett’s restaurant when it was still located at the Normanby Chambers on Little Collins St. Things have changed a little since then, with Vue de Monde moving to a new location in the Rialto on Collins St, but there is still the option of having lunch for $60 or going all out for their $250 degustation menu.
We’re in awe at the level of service as soon as we step through the doors. It was a rainy day and we were immediately offered to place our wet umbrellas and jackets in cloakroom before being taken to a spacious dining table. The girls in the group were even offered to place their handbags on a shelf rather than the floor – and it’s these little things that make a dining experience so memorable. We took in the sights of the simple but sophisticated dining room, and I was lucky enough to have a clear view of the pass where a mirror was set up to reflect the chefs placing the finishing touches on the dishes before they were sent out.
While we each decided on what we wanted from the menu, some appetisers were placed on our table for us to nibble on. The olives came in a bowl made out the bottom of a wine bottle, while the crisps and sour cream dip which was topped indulgently with caviar were a cute little set where the dish was able to fit perfectly on top of the wavy edge of the bowl of crisps.
After we placed our order (and after I convinced everyone to get something different so we could cover the whole menu!), a waiter came over carrying a basket of bread. We were each offered a warm bread roll which I slathered thickly with the French butter. Yes I wanted more, and yes I was eyeing off the bread basket going off to other tables. But luckily we only had the one bread roll because there was more delicious food to come.
I can’t say what the other entrees tasted like but you know all is well when everyone goes silent save for the clinking of cutlery and there are heads nodding in appreciation. It was hard to decide amongst the three entrees on offer but I saw the word ‘crisp chicken skin’ and I was sold. The dish was presented on a clear glass plate with a garden of shaved celery, parsnip foam, nuggets of lamb sweetbreads and shards of paper-thin, crispy chicken skin. It was my first time eating sweetbreads and they were soft and rich tasting, and not unlike a gourmet chicken nugget. I was hooked.
A surprise palate cleanser came in the form of a celery sorbet, elderflower granita and lime. We weren’t told what this was when it was placed on our table but it was slightly sweet, slightly sour and very refreshing. It definitely woke up my tastebuds in preparation for the main course.
We covered all of the main courses and they all looked like art on a plate. Everyone was pleased with their dishes, especially BLT who was excited and surprised at the coffee and chocolate flavours that came through but went well with all the other elements in her main course. To this day we still haven’t figured out what the skin on the beef and marron dish was, but I had a taste of the beef and it was beautifully tender.
My oxtail dish probably wouldn’t win any beauty contests but it was a fascinating dish. The egg and potato had been passed through a potato ricer so that it almost resembled little noodles. The egg and potato were crumbly in texture but melted in your mouth. Hiding underneath all of this was the shredded oxtail which was rich and flavoursome.
Arriving with our mains was a bowl of pomme puree and a green salad with the hazelnut vinaigrette dressing poured at the table out of a shot glass. The pomme puree was silky and smooth, and we all fought over the last bits. The salad was simple but well-dressed and actually left me wanting just a little bit more.
And onto the final and most anticipated course – dessert! The macadamia, yoghurt and cranberry dessert wasn’t particularly descriptive so it was surprised me when a white, forest-looking dish was placed in front of me. A scoop of yoghurt sorbet sat in the centre of the dish, with an arch of white chocolate around it. The “snow” was yoghurt flavoured as well and scattered amongst it were little crunchy meringue buds for a touch of sweetness. Hidden underneath the “snow” were chopped macadamia nuts and dried cranberries.
Others went for the fried fruit loaf which was cut into a log, fried and drizzled with syrup. A perfect quenelle of smokey ice cream sat on top of the fruit loaf and on either side were two honeydew melon towers and fruit loaf wafers.
The most popular dessert was the coconut soufflé, a light as air dome of coconut dusted with cocoa powder. Channelling some tropical flavours were cubes of sweet, cooked pineapple and some mango sorbet on the side. Needless to say, no one left anything on their plates.
This was definitely a dining experience that will stick around in my memory for a long time. Aside from the food which was a perfect amount for the lunchtime appetite, the service (and the company of course) really made it a meal to remember. We never had to ask for water to be topped out, the waitstaff were informative, polite and super friendly and even folded our napkins for us every time someone left the table. As we were leaving, we were even asked if we required someone to call some transport for us! The combination of amazing food and impeccable service means that Vue de Monde is definitely on my list of restaurants to revisit – one day!
Vue de Monde
Level 55, Rialto
525 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: +61 3 9691 3888
Lunch: Tuesday to Friday and Sunday, noon to 2pm
Dinner: Monday to Saturday, from 6pm