Hot on the heels of lunch at Marque came dinner at Vue de Monde.
Save up your pennies and go. Every foodie deserves to try this once in their lives.
Seriously, the best meal I have ever eaten.
I've been trying to work out what makes it so special. The rooms are lovely, an old barrister's chambers in Collins Street. Each 'room' holds about 5 tables and you can see into each 'room' from where you are sitting. Very uncluttered and spacious. Wineglasses holding flowers hang from the light fittings, it's eclectic and interesting. I've decided that Shannon Bennet is an artist as well as a chef, and that sets him apart from many others. The food was the most beautifully presented it has ever been my privilege to eat.
And the staff were friendly, engaging and very interested in what we thought about the dishes and the food generally. My hat off to Shannon for encouraging such dedication and interest in his staff. Our waiter told us that he and the other staff were as dedicated to perfection in their contribution to the whole event as the chef is himself, that for them this was a career, not a time-filler. And it certainly shows.
Again, a carte blanche here. I confessed to not liking oysters and thus missed out on the first spectacular dish. Before this came, though, we had house-made crisps with a dipping sauce and house marinated olives. Yumm.
Here is my companion's entree, which I missed out on, because it contains an oyster. It was a piece of sashimi fish (?) with osietra caviar, and an oyster is contained in the fish backbone. The 'sand' was a sweet fine praline. It was served on a small wooden table, like a tiny japanese writing bench.
As the non-oyster eater, I had fine vegetables with a savoury egg custard.
From now on, my companion and I had the same dishes.
The Heidi vegetable garden. The white 'curds' are olive oil that has been emulsified and then foamed somehow. It melted in your mouth, leaving the flavour of good oil behind.
Saumon Fume. This dish arrived under a glass cloche filled with smoke. The waiter chatted to us, explaining that the longer the dish was under smoke the more the food would take in that flavour. He then lifted the cloches, revealing this. Small pieces of raw salmon, tiny vegetables and a rich beef jus, all subtly flavoured with smoke.
Oeuf de Canard et Truffe. A baked duck egg yolk sitting on a bed of mashed potato, with tiny fried onion rings, surrounded by a clear onion broth. Over the top are shaved manjimup truffles. A taste sensation.
Legumes au vinaigrette et Langue de Wagyu. Long slices of nashi pear and cucumber interspersed with smoked wagyu tongue, and a clear parsley reduction. Very unmemorable. It was supposed to be a light dish acting as a palate cleanser, but failed somehow. Nothing was remarkable about it. Apparently it will be off from tomorrow ;-) The presentation was interesting, as all the food was on the rim of the plate with the sauce poured into the bowl. (Note the beautiful glasses!)
Sorbet au concombre. Stunning, fabulous, wonderful. A savoury cucumber sorbet with a light elderflower granita on top, and frozen lime as well. What an amazing combination of flavours!
Ecrivesse Rotie. Roasted marron, spanner crab, deep fried ducks tongues and apple puree. With flowers.
Kangarou. Rare kangaroo backstrap with rosella, coffee and chocolate. Very reminiscent of the venison/beef cheek dish I had had at marque 2 weeks ago and again today at lunch. The kangaroo had been chargrilled and had a wonderful smoky taste with a very rich meat flavour. Really lovely piece of meat, beautifully cooked, and with interesting sauces.
Boeuf de Blackmore et Oignons. Blackmore wagyu steak, on the small plate to the left, 90% marbled. Sooooo flavoursome. Plus Wagyu oxtail with beetroot and wood sorrel on the glass plate in front. Fabulous combination (and I am running out of superlatives!)
Thus ended the savoury courses. Alessi toothpicks, then on to cheese.
Telegraph Rd sapphire blue, mustard greens and apple, with parmesan dust and crackers.
Entremet Sucre. Another palate cleanser - frozen icecream topped with popping candy, on a shot glass of homemade lemonade. Delicious.
Rhubarb au lait. Milk powder, milk sorbet, cream puffs, rhubarb. The most beautiful rhubarb. In small squares, not soggy or bitter. Wonder how he does that? I think there was milk jelly there too..
Souffle au chocolat. Chocolate Souffle. This came with a test tube sticking out the middle. The waiter withdrew the tube and poured into the hole left behind a fine creme anglaise. Very rich, we only ate about half of this. Perfect souffle consistency though, as you can see from the photo!
Even though we had had enough at this stage, we had one final plate to get through:
The restaurant's selection of petits-fours. These were macaroons, souffle and jam 'lamingtons', flat tuiles with grand marnier dipping sauce, and a jar of salted caramels and jellies.
As we left, the sommelier bade us goodnight at the first doorway, the maitresse d' at the second door, and our own waiter at the third. He handed us each a brown paper bag, containing 2 fresh organic eggs, 2 homemade muesli biscuits dipped in chocolate, a little bag with the makings of a tea infusion, and a small sweet brioche loaf. Breakfast. Isn't that the extra mile that gives us the 'I'll be back' feeling?
As a final thought, what made this better than any other restaurant experience? I think it was the whole event, not just the food or the service or the presentation, but the sum of all of them. I want to quote from one of my favourite food blogs, Eat Almost Anything when she ate at Vue de Monde:
"When I look back on the meal we've just had I am reminded of Anthony Bourdain's thoughts on one of the meals he enjoyed in Chicago, that it was a meal that moved beyond simple nourishment, that is was about the sensation and the pleasure and I think that exactly defines this experience."
I can only repeat, save your pennies and do yourself a favour. Go to Melbourne and eat at Vue de Monde once in your life. I know I'll be back.