Vue De Monde
We approach the shiny counter in the wide marble lobby of the Rialto Towers. I feel like I’m checking into a 5 star hotel.
‘Booking under Amy?’
‘Right this way,’
We are ushered to a corridor surrounded by four suitably shiny lifts. As the doors close I suddenly realise I didn’t know which floor to go to, but the lift seemed to know already.
A waiter leads us through the wine cellar, passing through a series of button-operated, rotating automatic doors. It all feels a bit sci-fi. I am still fascinated by how shiny everything is.
We are seated by the window with an expansive view over the city. The leather-covered table is adorned with what appears to be some sort of spiritual formation of rocks encircling gnarled pieces of wood.
A transparent circle of apple ‘gel’ enclosing a herby oyster emulsion catches us off guard. It’s not like anything we’ve eaten before. Smoked eel is given an unusual coating of crisp, candied white chocolate, which turns out to be a cracking combination (pardon the pun).
Sashimi-like cured wallaby strips arrive at the table on a block of Himalayan pink salt and are deftly rolled up into bite sized morsels in front of us with chopsticks. Fluffy clouds of panko-crumbed, truffled marshmallows blur the lines between sweet and savoury.
A waiter removes half of one of the rocks to reveal salt and pepper, and we discover that the wood pieces are actually cutlery rests.
Beef tongue, beetroot and bone marrow
Like many Australians, I have always been irrationally repulsed by the idea of eating tongue. Irrational because really, it’s just a muscle like any other. I suppose ‘while at Vue De Monde’ is as good a reason as any to try something new.
Its flavour was strong and decidedly meaty, not unlike short ribs, although this could have been due to the marrow. Teamed with a sticky beetroot reduction and frozen creme fraiche ‘snow’, it was enjoyable so long as I kept myself distracted from the mental image of a cow sticking its tongue out at me.
Duck yolk, pear, white truffle
Fresh Hungarian truffles were displayed under a glass cloche like precious jewels. I was easily sold, and before I knew it $60 worth of truffle shavings topped my plate.
The silky, slow cooked yolk was almost curd-like, running through a crunchy mess of saltbush leaves and wafer-thin pear circles. The pungent truffle’s umami kick really elevated the dish. Worth every cent.
Marron, sweetbreads, lamb floss
Plump, bright marron tail came with lamb floss and creamy sweatbread puree for dipping. Despite my usual distaste for lamb, this didn’t have that usual offensive lamb flavour. Not leaving the marron head to go to waste, a sauce made from it was served afterwards accompanied by fresh bread spread with creamy French butter.
The palate cleanser got a little theatrical. Dry ice was poured into our bowls of wood sorrel, which we were instructed to crush with the provided pestles before a scoop of cucumber sorbet was laid on top.
Barramundi two ways
A dramatic, wide-mouthed barramundi was presented whole before the tender cheek meat was sliced off, piled into lettuce cups and drizzled with Gascony butter.
Part two was the collar, simply deep fried and dusted with lemon myrtle salt. Our dining manner transcended the previous courses’ dignified finger-food niceties and became something far more primal; we tore with teeth, sucked flesh from bone and licked salty fingers. Who said fine dining was all about gels and foams?
Kangaroo, charcoal, onion
The kangaroo fillets were brought to us sitting atop a still-smoking log. Having only been cooked one side, there was a nice contrast between the charry underside and the rest of the juicy, rare meat.
Blackmore Wagyu, smoked bone marrow, saltbush
Rich braised beef, crisp saltbush and delicate cubes of pear were strikingly presented in a hollowed-out bone.
Dessert began in the form of a whimsical ‘chips and dip’ style platter; sweet pastry served as the former while the latter function was performed by a perfect dome-shaped mound of passionfruit curd and a creamy pillow of white chocolate mousse. Soft, white, dehydrated caramel was engimatic: it had all the flavour of dulce de leche, but the texture of powdered milk.
Buttermilk sorbet, malt cream and earthy hay were punctuated with sweet bursts of molasses. The subtle ‘savouriness’ was welcome after the previous dessert, preventing any sugar-induced toothache.
If the Australiana theme was not already obvious, then the petit fours were the real giveaway. Caramelised white chocolate seashells, pennies of rum jelly and ‘lamingtons’ of coconut-covered chocolate mousse cubes were a nice little bit of patriotism with a dash of childhood nostalgia. The eucalyptus sorbet didn’t quite hit the spot though; it tasted a bit medicinal to me.
The food was, in short, elegant. Nothing was ever over-complicated for the sake of it: where required, the ingredients were left to speak for themselves.
My only negative point would be that our dinner wasn’t as intimate as it could have been, due to the fact that waiters were constantly placing or removing cutlery, arranging things on our table or bringing one of the many courses over. We booked for the early sitting (6pm, out by 8pm) and had 8 courses, which was probably why the pace was as such. Perhaps it would have been different in the later sitting.
It may sound cliche, but dining at the Vue De Monde is not just a meal, it is truly an experience. I love that it’s all a little theatrical: the Australiana ‘theme’, hands-on dining and the dramatic at-the-table presentation add a bit of fun to the experience of fine dining, which in recent years has struggled to shake its reputation for being stuffy and formal.
I appreciate that Vue is not in a price range that allows for regular visiting (not for me, anyway), but is absolutely worth it for a special occasion. Highly recommended.Vue De Monde Level 55 Rialto Towers Melbourne