Anyone that regularly reads my blog – or at least ‘likes’ my Facebook page (that’s all of you right?) might recall that I have a bucketlist of food experiences that I keep in my phone consisting mostly of restaurants that I want to dine at around the world. Some of the restaurants listed are fine dining (Tetsuya’s, Las Bravas and Ultraviolet), some aren’t (Tim Ho Wan, The Salt Lick, Pimenti’s) and some are simply food experiences that I want to tick off (eating oysters at Coffin Bay, fish and chips on Bronte Beach, lobster rolls in Maine). There are only a few restaurants within Australia that I have listed and the first one that I was able to tick off last month was Vue De Monde in Melbourne.
Late last year MS tried desperately to get us a reservation whilst down in Melbourne for our birthday weekend in December but to no avail. VDM is so popular that it can be booked out months in advance. It just so happened that we planned another Melbourne trip for the Fitness Expo in March and lucky enough this time around MS was able to secure a booking on a Friday night for the two of us. MS knows the way to my heart – through food. The guy on the other end of the phone at VDM took a deposit after asking MS “You do know how much this restaurant costs right?” – ahem yes thank you very much! Yes it wasn’t going to be a cheap night out that’s for sure but not something we do very often (if ever).
Now I’m not going to go into logistics or fancy words in my ‘review’ of VDM because this restaurant has been reviewed countless times by much more qualified and ‘in the know’ people than this Vixen however I thought I would give my take on the whole experience…
After setting off from our holiday apartment in St Kilda with ample time to arrive at our destination – the Rialto only 6km away – we ended up getting stuck in crazy afternoon traffic on St Kilda Rd and arrived 20 minutes late for our 6pm booking (we left at 5pm!!!) There is nothing that gets me more wild than being late for something and I managed to keep my cool for the entire time, only losing it in the last 10 minutes. So then of course ultra cool, calm and collective MS lost it totally as well. Great start to our romantic evening together. FML.
We finally arrived and leaving the car with the valet we made our way to reception where we were met by a friendly lady that took us to VDM personal elevator. Less than a minute later we were 55 storeys up and being greeted at the elevator door by a male host. He led us past the bar and to a large tinted glass door to which he opened to the restaurant.
As the door opened we were greeted with a breathtaking 180 degree view of Melbourne – hence the name Vue De Monde. The dining room with its 20 or so tables each with a candle flickering, polished black floors and enormous windows looking out onto the twilight was nearly equally as impressive. The host led us to our table for the evening where we were seated and left momentarily until we were again greeted by our host for the evening.
Since we were seated slightly back from the windows with an empty table directly in front of us he asked if we would like to move closer to the window to which we happily obliged. He then explained the course of the evening to us – basically they bring out 7 courses and then you decide if you want to continue (are you still hungry?) or if you have had enough. Directly behind us the busy kitchen was a hive of activity with no less than 20 chefs cooking up a storm at various cooking stations. It was actually quite theatrical to watch and as the sun went down the reflection of the kitchen behind us provided a beautiful backdrop for our prime position overlooking Melbourne. Damn I’m poetic.
The host left us momentarily whilst the sommelier came over and introduced himself. He handed the two of us the wine ‘bible’ which I reluctantly took drawing in a deep breath as I opened the first page. I mean I don’t want to sound cheap but I know how much the wines cost at these kind of restaurants. I’m happy to spend a few hundred dollars on dinner once in a blue moon (don’t think I’m a toff because I’m really not) but I sure as hell won’t spend $80 on a glass of wine.
The sommelier asked me what kind of wine I liked – I’m a white wine kind of girl – and directed me towards some ridiculously expensive wines. To an uneducated wine drinker like myself the difference in taste between a $200 bottle of wine and a $20 bottle is negligable (ha who am I kidding – I’ve never had a $200 bottle of wine). In the end I tastefully directed the guy towards a cheap(er) glass that he recommended (AU$38), although I did feel a bit of pressure to go more expensive, something that made me mildly uncomfortable and I did feel a little judged by Mr Sommelier. Pfft. He then moved onto MS who asked him what wine he preferred. MS is no wine drinker – this man barely drinks at all – so he ordered a cider and after getting the shock of his life when the sommelier recommended an AU$80 bottle of cider (for 330ml!!!!) he chose the cheapest one on the menu (AU$18). Although I can’t remember for the life of me what we ordered, both the wine and the cider tasted pretty darn good.
And so the meal began. First off we were given some salt and vinegar crisps with hazelnut cream pate to entice our taste buds. Someone must have secretly called ahead and told the kitchen about mine and MS massive penchant for anything Salt and Vinegar – my favourite flavour. It used to be Atomic Tomato until I got really drunk a few years ago, ate an entire large packet to myself and then threw it up again. Yeah, you know what? A post about Vue De Monde probably isn’t the right place to talk about that story. And so the meal progressed from there.
In the middle of our table was a collection of, well they can only be described as rocks, but nice smooth ones of all different shapes and sizes. Through the course of the evening our waitress overturned them to reveal various grooves for holding the ornate cutlery and hidden reserves of salt and pepper. It was quite cool as I initially thought they were just for decoration.
Following our salt and vinegar ‘chips’ a selection of grilled meats on skewers were brought out. We ate eel, oysters, rock wallaby, sea urchin, ducks tongue and lambs hearts. And although neither of us would normally eat some of the things (namely the lambs heart and duck tongue) that were laid out in front of us we both respected the prestigious restaurant that we (I) had chosen to dine in – and as they say ‘when in Rome…’
We even had some tea…
Each dish was presented by a different chef, sometimes in a very theatrical way that even sometimes required diner participation – we used a pestle to grind up our own mortar of wood sorrel that had been frozen with liquid nitrogen. After crushing the wood sorrel the waitress added a small scoop of refreshingly different cucumber sorbet. Unfortunately the photo below was post grinding and sorbet. The presentation of each dish, as one would expect, was flawless and each presented in its own creative way.
About 4 dishes in our waitress brought out a large basket of ‘butter’ with freshly baked sour dough bread. Both MS and I were in awe of the enormous amount of hand churned butter that she presented in front of us and I can honestly say this ‘bread and butter’ was one of the highlights of our meal. Yes, it’s true. We were dining at one of Australia’s premier restaurants and we were loving the bread and butter. To say that I slathered that butter on thick was an understatement. It was TO. DIE. FOR.
Later on our host for the evening came over for a chat and asked what our favourite dish had been so far. Old Cadbury ‘one glass of wine goes straight to my head’ me couldn’t for the life of me remember any of the dishes that had come out off the top of my head other than the bread and butter. I think he was a little taken a-back that that’s what I came up with but he did bring us another serve since we liked it so much. High fives all around!
Earlier I said that although MS and I don’t normally eat adventurous things like duck tongue and lambs hearts but we try to go with the flow at a place like VDM. MS was doing surprisingly well, that was until the duck yolk came out. He just has a thing about runny yolk and not even dining at VDM was going to make him eat it. I however thought the velvety duck yolk was absolutely delicious especially paired with the pear and truffle that it was served alongside. The egg was cooked sous vide at 64 degrees resulting in a rich, creamy and delightful egg yolk. Wow it was just so damn decadent that I ate MS’ as well. Yes I may have to change my name to fatvixen soon.
And yet there was more! (In no particular order – not that I could remember anyway).
The desserts followed not long after our parade of meals. First up was the Chocolate Souffle. Now I don’t know about you but I tend to get disappointed with souffles. They look so damn delicious and then you stick your spoon in and it’s mostly air. I’m a lover of dense and moist desserts but the souffle was sweet and decadent, nonetheless.
Our final dish for the evening was a selection of petit fours… (I forgot to take a photo of the Eucalyptus Ice Cream)
Lastly our host asked us if we would like anything else, to which MS replied that he would love some tea. Uh oh. Big mistake. The tea sommelier ensued with his book of teas from around the world. I think the cheapest tea in the book was AU$33, and that was for only one person. After receiving the rundown of all the teas that were available and where they had come from – some so damn expensive you would think they were grown in a hydroponic setup on Mars! MS was ever so forthcoming when he asked if he could just have ‘normal’ English Breakfast tea. The tea guy did his very best to hide his disgust but I saw it flit across his face ever so gently. In the end we got some whizz bang flash tea that was a little higher in price than we expected but still very reasonable compared to what was on offer.
When we finished up there was an awkward period of not knowing if all the meals were finished or still coming and how we actually paid the bill and left. Do you just raise your hand and click your fingers in a fancy restaurant or is that only in the movies? In the end we figured it out and upon leaving we were given a foodie gift bag filled with tasty sweets as well as all the ingredients for an impromptu Vue De Monde breakfast ‘for the morning after’. Inside the bag was cookies, tea, a freshly baked loaf of brioche, honey, muesli and a book of restaurants around the world. The cookies were gone before we even made it back to our apartment – MS didn’t want his so I ate them both (oops fatvixen strikes again). It was a lovely surprise to receive upon leaving and certainly not something I expected. It really topped off what was a fantastic and memorable evening for both MS and I.
In conclusion (my long drawn out one): I thought that the food was exemplary at Vue De Monde but it didn’t blow my mind. We tried some things but that we would never have eaten had we not have been at a very fancy restaurant. Still, the beef tongue, lambs hearts and duck tongues were actually kind of tasty. Hmmm, ok well you can have the duck tongues, the texture was just too weird for me.
The only drawback(s) from our fantastic dinner at Vue De Monde was, for both MS and I, the wine guy and the tea guy. Although we only saw the tea guy once, right at the end of our meal, unlike the wine guy who came to our table fairly regularly, they both made us feel uneasy. Maybe it was because I felt that the wine guy was (secretly) hell-bent on trying to sell us a $200 glass of wine and that made me feel pretty uncomfortable and almost obligated to buy expensive alcohol. It’s hard for me to convey in this post – without sounding like a complete twit or even worse ‘stingy’ – why I think that spending $200 on a glass of wine is unreasonable especially considering how much dinner had cost us.
Anyhow it was the experience of a once in a lifetime meal with the love of my life that really made it for me, as cliché as that sounds. It certainly wasn’t to sample the extensive wine list that was so carefully chosen by Vue De Monde’s team of sommelier’s over many months. And then again I don’t want to take away from the exemplary job that both the tea and wine sommelier were doing but I guess wine and tea isn’t really something that I have learnt to appreciate – certainly no where near as much as food anyway. Again I think I sound like an idiot attempting to explain myself and my amateur review but I guess that’s just it. I’m an amateur blogger that does restaurant reviews in her spare time as a hobby. My regular posts consist of things like ‘where does one find the best fish and chips in Cairns?’ and where I think the best Som Tum is. I don’t review restaurants like Vue De Monde on a regular basis but it’s nice to get all fancy and posh once in a while whilst taking in the views of the Melbourne skyline from the 55th floor of the Rialto and gushing about just how amazing their bread and butter is.
PS: And just for the record, the next day MS and I went to Nando’s for lunch.
PPS: The total bill at Vue De Monde for anyone that would like to know came to $579… That was for 2 degustations, a glass of wine and 2 ciders.
Vue De Monde
Level 55 Rialto 525 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9691 3888
Yes, you heard me. That’s what I’ve titled this post and I am sticking with it because it’s the most accurate description of what MS and I did when we went to Melbourne for 5 days during December. As the story goes… Our birthdays are only two days apart and for the last two birthdays (2011 and 2012) that we have been together we have done the “let’s get retarded and drink shots with our friends and random strangers” thing so this year we decided to do something different. I was at out at sea and MS emailed me asking if I wanted to go to Melbourne and eat instead of organise the pool party that we had originally planned, which involved lots of drinking no doubt. I was like ‘does a bear sh*t in the woods’? Hell yeah I would rather do that! He knows me so well and before I knew it our flights were booked for our little eating vacation to Melbourne.
Now as some of you may know and as I have hinted in previous posts, I haven’t exactly been able to eat a whole lot of the food that I wanted this year. Most of my diet has been somewhat restricted and whilst I am still watching what I eat now, let’s just say I wasn’t going to be watching anything other than my pants get tighter down in Melbourne. We had originally planned a trip to Melbourne in November but then had to cancel it because I got called to go to sea. In the lead up to that I had researched my little butt off of all the places I wanted to go – and yes the majority were cafe’s, restaurants and ice cream shops – for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert.
So we took off on our adventure flying down with Tiger Airways (first time I had ever flown with them) even after all the bad stuff we had heard. I must say our experience with them was nothing like many others – the airfares were cheap and it was on time. No complaints from me, except for the cabin crew’s hideous uniforms. Who designed those monstrosities?! We rented a car and drove to a studio apartment that we rented just off Flinders Street on a website called Airbnb. That website is absolute gold. In fact I doubt I will ever use wotif again. Our lovely host Linton met us, gave us the rundown and left us to our own devices. Here is a link for the place that we stayed – such a great little spot. If you are heading down to Melbourne and need somewhere to stay I can’t recommend this place enough! It’s in the perfect location to explore Melbourne! Just as long as it’s free when we go to stay there next ok?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, enough about my life story hey. Just get to the food you say! Since we got in a little late in the afternoon we pretty much hung around in our room for a bit *wink wink* and then went straight out for dinner. For our first dinner out in Melbourne I had chosen the Newmarket Hotel on the outskirts of St Kilda. We both planned to have a couple of drinks so we left the car behind and caught a tram there. Turns out neither of us are good at figuring out public transport (I never had this much trouble in China!) and after much f*cking around we finally got on a tram which took us about 20 minutes to go only 6 km and then we had to walk 800m with MS complaining about his shoes. I was the one in heels FFS.
As we walked towards the Newmarket Hotel I thought ‘jeez what kind of a sh*thole is this?’ From the outside it was a very unassuming brick building that didn’t look very speccy. On the inside it was super modern restaurant/bar that was packed to the rafters with people having drinks and/or dinner. Lucky for the both of us I had called up and made a booking a couple of days prior so we had a couple of drinks whilst waiting for our table. The lovely female waitress that led us to our table for two was a gem and looked after us from the get go. At our table we ordered a pitcher of ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico’ – Blanco Tequila, Ginger Liqueur, Raspberry Puree, Lemon, Sugar and Ginger Beer for AU$38 and for our food we ordered the ‘So Cal Spread’ for AU$55 per person because the Californian/Mexican menu was so bloody good that we just couldn’t choose. And a bit of everything we did.
Our pitcher of tequila arrived and it was just what the doctor ordered but the best part about it was that they had rimmed the glass (is that what you call it?) with sugar, kind of like jelly crystals. It was a nice surprise from the usual salty rim and had MS and I declaring that we were definitely going to do it next time we had tequila cocktails at home (yeah that’s never). The Newmarket Hotel was da (the) bomb!
First up was the Soft Shell Crab Tacos, Guacamole, Shaved Fennel, Spicy Corn and Tomatillo Salsa. What an awesome start to the meal! These were super flavoursome – so much so that my non seafood loving boyfriend forgot that he was eating soft shell crab. Something he would normally never eat. He gobbled it up and so did I.
Our second course on the ‘So Cal Spread’ was the BBQ corn on the cob with chilli and queso freso. Again, MS doesn’t particularly like corn. In fact I have never seen him eat it. I am starting to see a trend here because like me he loved the corn. It was probably the best damn corn I have ever tasted. The queso freso was like a creamy cheesy sauce over the top and holy crap it was good! MS ate the lot once again.
We didn’t wait long for our next two dishes arrived – Wood BBQ chorizo with pears, violet artichokes and seasonal pickles and . My word, each dish was better than the last so far! This was outstanding and probably my second best dish of the night, after dessert of course, but MS declared it his favourite. Who would have thought to pair pears with chorizo? What a magnificent ‘pearing’! I would love to get the recipe to recreate this one at a BBQ of my own.
The second dish was a selection of more soft tacos – one of them with prawns and the other I could have sworn the waitress said scallop but I can’t see anything resembling a scallop on their online menu. Let’s just say there were excellent, albeit a little spicy for MS. The prawn ones were definitely my favourite with fragrant herbs and jicama slaw.
That was our entree’s done – sheesh how was I gonna fit the mains and dessert in? I was gonna give it my best shot that’s for sure. I ordered a glass of wine since our pitcher had run out and our two mains arrived. In the middle the waitress placed the Newmarket Wood Roasted Chicken – Organic Milawa chook with smoked bacon, sweet corn, spring vegetables and buttermilk and the XL St Louis style pork ribs, Newmarket Hotel’s BBQ sauce and apple slaw.
Okay, okay, I lied when I said that the dessert was my favourite and then the chorizo second. Let’s just put the dessert in a whole category by itself because this stuff is savoury and that is sweet. The Wood Roasted Chicken was my favourite dish. It was so creamy and so so so tender and… oh wow. I had some of the pork ribs, which were delicious btw, but this chicken in buttermilk was the business. I ate every last piece of corn in that dish and even considered gnawing the chicken off the bone but looked around at the Newmarket crowd which included lots of men wearing cardigans around their neck and figured that I probably shouldn’t. Dammit.
By that point we were pretty much stuffed but I was really looking forward to that dessert. It was Valrhona single origin chocolate cazuela with pears, salted caramel and vanilla ice cream. What’s the hell is that you ask? Well think of it as like a big fudgey, chocolatey, caramely brownie baked in a clay pot with pears. It. Was. Heaven. And again, here I go, one of the best desserts I have ever tasted. Okay so it may have been the cocktail, the pitcher of tequila and the wine talking by that stage but considering the amount of food we had I think that overtook the alcohol I had consumed. It was super chocolately and fudgy and went oh so well with the sweet pears.
After that would you believe that MS wanted another dessert. The waitress said that was no problem and after some umming and ahhing whilst viewing the menu to choose which one we wanted – I wanted the Peruvian quinoa pudding with cinnamon, pineapple and coconut (everything tastes better with cinnamon in it) but MS claimed that he didn’t like quinoa (FFS!) and in the end he let the waitress steer him towards the Tres leche cake with drunken fruits and rhubard. He won’t eat quinoa but he will eat rhubarb?!!! So I forgot to get a photo of this one and neither of us particularly liked it. I thought it tasted like 3 pieces of white bread sandwiched together drenched in some sort of sweet milk. We’ve been jipped! On doing a little bit of research while writing this post it just so happens that ‘tres leche cake’ means ‘three milks bread’. Who would have thought?! It was ok but it had nothing on the amazing dessert that we had just eaten before it.
So there you go… that was our first dinner out on our food tour of Melbourne and it was a hit for both of us. I gave myself a secret pat on the back for finding it as MS still thinks that was one of the best meals that we had whilst in Melbourne. I think the best part is definitely in ordering the ‘So Cal Spread’ and not knowing what is coming out next. Food excitement is the best kind of excitement! Stay tuned for my next ‘Eating ourselves stupid in Melbourne post’….