Perotta’s At The Gallery, Cairns
I’ve been to Perotta’s At The Gallery a million and one times for breakfast and lunch but I’ve only been there once for dinner way back in about 2004. After a long day in transit on my way home from the NT capital, MS picked me up at the airport and after deciding that neither of us wanted to cook – who am I kidding MS doesn’t cook! – we headed to Perotta’s for dinner. With my Entertainment Book Gold Card offering me ‘buy one get one free’ main meals I figured now was a good a time as any to try out the dinner menu.
The place was about ½ full when we arrived so we chose a seat near the entrance closest to the lagoon. We ordered wine to celebrate the first time seeing each other in 4 weeks and had a squiz at the menus. The menu at Perotta’s has something to suit most people with plenty of variety and not just your standard run of the mill boring dishes. My go to dish when I go there for lunch is the Chilli Salt Squid Salad and although that is featured on the dinner menu I figured it might be time to branch out.
To start with we ordered the Garlic Bruschetta with Fresh Ricotta, Mint and Calabrian Chilli (AU$9) and the Burrata Caprese with Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, Rocket Pesto and Raspberry Vinegar (AU$21). MS asked me what Burrata was and thinking I was all sophisticated and smart I told him that it was a type of Cured Italian Meat. Boy did we get a surprise when it the Burrata arrived at our table a short while later – a good surprise though! Turns out Bresaola is the Italian Cured Meat that I’d gotten confused with and Burrata is actually an Italian Cheese. Pfft I totally knew that.
In all honesty the Garlic Bruschetta wasn’t really anything to write home about but it was actually perfect for mopping up the last bits of Burrata and Rocket Pesto. I’m normally hesitant to eat watermelon since I was a little kid and my dad told me a watermelon vine was going to grow in my stomach after I swallowed a seed. Thanks dad, way to scar me for life and now I absolutely refuse to eat any type of grape (unless in wine) or watermelon (even the ‘seedless’ variety). The Burrata with juicy Heirloom Tomatoes was a beautiful and tasty dish that we both enjoyed. It was a great start to the night – I highly recommend this one.
Next up for our mains MS had ordered the Pork Spare Ribs with Fennel, Apple Cider Vinegar and Pickled Pineapple (AU$37) which came with a big bowl of chips and I had the 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder, 3 Wheat Salad, Almond, Mint, Pomegranate and Spicy Cumin Yogurt (AU$36).
MS’ Pork Spare Ribs were literally falling off the bone – the way ribs should be IMO – and were covered in a delicious tangy glaze. The Pickled Pineapple was nice but needed to be pickled just that little bit longer. We both thought the serving size was a little bit small for $37 but MS was pretty full by the time he polished them off.
My 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder was super tasty albeit a little on the small side for the price ($36). The added crunchy strips of bacon/pancetta/prosciutto whatever the hell it was really added to the dish. Despite the size of the dish I actually struggled to finish it. I find rich cuts of meat like Lamb Shoulder, Lamb Shanks and Beef Cheeks fill me up really quick and I can’t eat a whole lot although I want to. Give me Garlic Bread however and I can eat that carby goodness till the cows come home! We wanted to stick around for dessert especially after I spotted the Eton Mess on the Dessert Menu (the only one I know of in town) but we just couldn’t fit it in.
It’s got to be the number one place in Cairns for people watching – with wine of course! The wait staff are very friendly and professional, in fact it’s consistently one of the better places in Cairns in terms of service (something Cairns is usually lacking in). I do find that the food, particularly the mains, are a little expensive for what you get and this is something that seems to be reiterated in other online reviews I’ve read. Nearly 20 years of good food and service is certainly a mean feat in this small town. According to their website Perotta’s (as the locals like to call it) has been around since 1997 would you believe? Yes I was a little surprised by that too so I guess you could also call this place a bit of a Cairns institution – seems I’m using that word a lot these days.
Perotta’s At The Gallery
38 Abbott St, Cairns QLD 4870. Ph: (07) 40315899
Opening Hours: 7 days a week 6.30am – 10pm
Eating Ourselves Stupid in Tasmania – Hobart (Part 2)
Last but not least … My fourth and final post about my foodie adventures in Tasmania. The next morning we woke bright and early for our trip back to Hobart. We were served a lovely home cooked breakfast in the cosy front room of the Freycinet Waters BnB overlooking the Great Oyster Bay. MS turned his nose up in disgust when our host Karen asked if we wanted some black pudding with our breakfast fare but I happily obliged. What was yesterday a beautiful sunny day was now a miserable wet and windy day but we had no plans to be outside just yet. An hour later we said goodbye to our Freycinet Waters hosts and were on the road headed to Hobart.
We didn’t get far down the road – say about 8 minutes – before we spotted Kate’s Berry Farm to our right. Stopping at a berry farm was non-negotiable so we turned off the main road and drove up to Kate’s for our second (shared) breakfast of Mixed Berry Pancakes on the patio.
Kate’s Berry Farm is perched up the top of the hill overlooking Swansea with more breathtaking views of the Great Oyster Bay and Kate herself is an absolutely delightful lady. We spent a small fortune on chocolate covered berries to take home for loved ones and also snack on in the car for driving sustenance.
Back on the road again we passed some absolutely stunning scenery and out of all the roads we travelled on our short stay in Tassie we both found the road from Swansea to Orford to be the most breathtaking and picturesque route of our journey. All up the drive back to Hobart took just over 2 hours which included two toilet stops for me and MS driving in the wrong direction as he came across the Tasman Bridge (twice) resulting in the one and only argument of our 5 day driving tour of Tasmania. I then gave him the silent treatment for the next hour.
Being lunchtime I took heed of the words of my Foodvixen followers and we made a beeline straight for Hobart bakery institution Jackman and McRoss for a bite to eat. Most of the parking nearby is permit only but being a Sunday we took the risk. As the sign out the front says “bakers of fine breads, cakes and pastries” and damn they weren’t kidding.
Upon entering J&MR we were met with the smell of freshly baked delights and cabinets of mouth-watering sweet and savoury goods.
As well as a ‘takeaway’ section Jackman and McRoss has a dining room which is exactly where MS and I parked ourselves for lunch.
The dining room was packed and there was a steady stream of people stopping in to take some treats home with them. What surprised me the most was how reasonable the prices were with everything on the specials board being no more than about $14.
After the great despair of finding out that they had run out of Scallop and Wakame Pies I settled for the second best offer of Pulled Pork Fillet in Roti Bread with Kale and Veg Vermicelli and Smoked Cherry Mayo for AU$12.50 while MS, the fatty, ordered a Meat Pie and the Lamb Rack Topped with Herbed Lemon Crust on a Stone Fruit and Salted Balsamic Tart for a mere AU$13.50. The Meat Pie was good but it had nothing on the one I had at JK’s in Ingham plus I wanted scallops godammit.
We waited a little longer than we both would have liked but in the meantime we buried the hatchet of our fight earlier that day caused by MS’ shitty driving and actually began to talk to each other again. The Pulled Pork Fillet Roti thing, which for some reason I didn’t get a photo of, was divine although I did find the filling a little on the sweet side.
MS decided that the Lamb Rack was a little too rare for his liking despite me insisting that was how it was supposed to be and instead helped himself to my Pulled Pork Roti. It was quite a large serving so I didn’t mind sharing it just this once.
We returned to our car just over an hour later and were pleasantly surprised to find that it hadn’t been towed. For something less food orientated we did a one hour tour of the harbour with Hobart Historic Cruises onboard the ‘Emmalisa’. It wasn’t nearly as flashy as the fandangle camouflaged cat that hurriedly ferries tourists across the Derwent to and from MONA but this boat had plenty of ‘character’. MS confessed he was a little concerned that it wasn’t particularly sea worthy but I assured him I had been on far less sea worthy boats in my time and the Emmalisa certainly wasn’t one of them. Again I feel like a dumba** that I didn’t get a photo of our Titanic BUT I did get a photo of the MONA cat.
With only four ‘tourists’ onboard, including us, the hour long tour took us past Salamanca Place and the CSIRO Marine Laboratories with their newly commissioned and impressive ship the ‘RV Investigator’ docked out the front, then onwards past the million dollar homes at Battery and Sandy Point, Bellerive, Kangaroo Bay and back to Franklin Wharf for an absolute steal of only AU$20 per person.
The commentary by the Captain was informative and entertaining and MS and I both really enjoyed the cruise although for us one hour was enough.
After our high sea adventures we were both famished – no not really but we ate anyway. We ended up across the road at new Hobart pleaser Frank – from the same people that run Smolt. Earlier that day I had tried in vain to get a booking at Frank for the evening but alas they were all booked out. Shock horror I would have to forgo a meal at a South American influenced restaurant whose menu I had already perused online so we went there for an afternoon ‘snack’.
MS and I took a seat adjacent to the front window just in time to see the Australian ice breaker ‘Aurora Australis’ coming into port. From the Frank menu I ordered the Prawn, Scallop and White Fish Ceviche, Leche De Tigre (AU$21) washed down with a glass of Smolt Pinot Noir 2013 from Tasmania.
MS who is undoubtedly always that much more hungry that I am ordered the Entrana – inside skirt steak with chimichurri and salsa picante (AU$32) and the Charred Sweet Potato, Goat’s Curd, Muddled Almonds, Garlic and Coriander to share (AU$11).
I found the Ceviche to be pretty ‘meh’. More flavour would have been a treat but I think I had built the whole dish up a little too much by drooling over pictures of it on Instagram a few days before.
MS’ steak was certainly better than you’re average steak but the real star of the meal for both of us was the Charred Sweet Potato. I only yesterday wrote to the Gourmet Traveller recipe request section to see if they will publish the recipe because this dish was simply sensational. In fact I would go as far to say that it’s one of the best things I think I have ever put in this big mouth of mine.
Fast forward a few hours (after a nap and some more tennis) and we were dressed and on our way to dinner at Tassie favourite Smolt – another restaurant recommended to me by some of my readers. We couldn’t get a booking but decided we would try out luck with a walk in. Things were coming up Milhouse for our last meal in Tassie we managed to snavel ourselves an intimate table for two down the back of the Italian eating house.
More wine and cider ensued with a complimentary starter of fresh baked bread with olive oil and balsamic for dipping. The flavour of the olive oil was exceptional – so much so that I went straight to Victor’s to find my own dipping oil upon returning home. We had the Jamon Croquettes with Smoked Peppers and Aioli for entree and then backed it up with a couple of pizzas as our main.
The White Anchovy, Olive, Calamari, Watercress, Bechamel and Reggiano Pizza came up trumps for me because as some of you may know I’m a sucker for anchovies (and pickles) while MS loves the sausage so he chose the pizza with Pork Sausage, Chorizo, Chilli, Red Onion, Peppers, Lemon and Reggiano (both AU$25.90). The service at Smolt was excellent and the atmosphere was laid back yet sophisticated plus neither of us could fault the food – I can’t recommend that place enough if you’re in Hobart.
Well there you have it… our trip to Tasmania in a nutshell – or should I say about 1500 words (this post). I’ve travelled overseas and around our beautiful country many times but I can put my hand on my heart and say that Tasmania has been one of my absolute favourite destinations. In the short time that MS and I spent down there we barely scratched the surface of all the things to see and do (and of course eat) in the Apple Isle. MS enjoyed the place so much that he wants to move there permanently. In a state where Scallop Pies are the norm, there’s a vineyard on nearly every corner, world famous oysters, award winning cheeses and cherries are the size of a baby’s fist it’s no wonder that Tasmania was just named in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions to visit in 2015.
Bread In Common, Fremantle
I don’t often gush about restaurants but recently I have found one that is worthy of just that. Currently I am spending quite a bit of time in WA for work and more specifically Fremantle. As with many towns and cities there is always the quintessential tourist trap restaurants, we have them in Cairns and Fremantle is the same. Most prominently there is the Kailis Wharf with its barrage of seafood restaurants, takeaways, the expensive steakhouse and let’s not forget Little Creatures where you can pay anywhere between $13 & $15 for a pint of beer.
Determined not to fall into the trap myself I was given a recommendation to a newish restaurant called Bread In Common by one of crewmates that lives in Perth. Armed with local knowledge I took charge of a dinner ‘date’ I had planned with one of MS’ good friends also currently residing in Perth. GL had been trying in vain to get me to go to the Raw Kitchen – a vegan restaurant that from many a review sounds far too pretentious and expensive (for no meat?), not to mention high in fat, for my liking. Sorry if you’re reading this GL, but I promise to humour you and go to The Raw Kitchen… soon.
Tucked down a quiet street with a bountiful sidewalk garden of herbs and vegetables I found Bread In Common. Whilst GL was still navigating Fremantle’s narrow lanes looking for a car park, I had arrived on foot and early. Upon entering Bread In Common I am met with a small bakery shopfront. The story goes… South of Fremantle in Yallingup there is a boutique bakery that sells this amazing Wood-Fired Organic Flour Bread – apparently their fruit loaf is sensational. People come from miles around to buy it. The bakery owner joins forces with a Perth property giant and owners of Perth landmark restaurants Il Lido and Balthazar and hence the licensed restaurant/cafe/bakery Bread In Common is born.
Beyond the bakery is a truly awesome dining room that needs to be seen to be appreciated. What was once a pharmaceutical warehouse built in the 1890’s is now a dimly lit restaurant adorned with the original red brick walls, high ceilings, polished concrete floors and large communal tables. Earlier this year Bread In Common took out four awards at the 2014 WA Architectural Awards for its ‘conceptual approach to the reinvention of the warehouse’.
My gushing began after I found out that one of the entrees (Mousetraps) was actually little Vegemite and Cheese toasts. I got so excited that I nearly fell off my chair and I’m pretty sure the waiter thought I was a little cuckoo – excess sodium intake perhaps? My penchant for Vegemite has become so ravenous that MS has started to put me on rations in an attempt to lower my salt levels. I’m almost positive that he took a jar of Vegemite back out of our trolley at Coles the other day. I probably shouldn’t tell him about the takeaway packs that I smuggled out of the Qantas Club recently. For our second entree we ordered the Anchovy Toast with Egg Yolk. Those delicious furry fish are another salty delight that I enjoy straight out of the jar. No guys I’m not pregnant.
According to Bread In Common’s website their kitchen food philosophy is about locally sourced, seasonal produce and house made. The constantly evolving menu is constructed to be about sharing and enjoying time in common. GL arrived and we were shown to our table up the back of the restaurant. Bread In Common had already set the mood for sharing – figuring we would go with the flow we ordered two entrees and three mains for the two of us we sipped our wine and caught up whilst waiting for our entrees to arrive.
The Mouse Traps were bite sized toasts of Vegemite-y goodness and although delicious I do think they used the wrong cheese. A slightly stronger cheese flavour would have been better but instead the cheese reminded me of pre-sliced Light and Tasty variety.
The Anchovy Toast with Egg Yolk was a little different to what GL were expecting but probably the highlight of our entrees. The toasts were a little more like crispy pancakes than actual toast with anchovies pressed into them and the egg yolk appeared to be cooked and pureed. A unique combination that worked oh so well.
Next up came our trilogy of mains with the first one for sharing being Broccoli, Apple, Quinoa, Soy, Mustard Seeds, Puffed Amaranth (AU$16). After developing a slight aversion to Broccoli from nearly a year of ‘eating clean’ in 2013 for no other reason than plain stupidity it was nice to have a dish where the broccoli sang (in a good way). The simple but diverse flavours of this dish just can’t be put on paper, nor Toshiba laptop. It was crisp, fresh and flavoursome. Note to self: Google what the hell Amaranth is when I get back into phone range.
GL’s main of choice was the Mushrooms, Chickpeas, Rocket, Hummus, Sorrel for AU$17. I had a taste of the mushrooms with hummus and they literally melted in your mouth. Like the Broccoli Salad it too was full of flavour and fresh ingredients. GL loved this dish.
Lastly, my chosen main was the Beef Rump, Wood Roasted Pumpkin, Capers, Pepita, Fennel, Hay Ash for AU$25 – chosen for the simple fact that I needed some meat with my dinner. The chunks of Beef Rump were cooked to perfection – medium rare, with a slight char on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside. Couple that with the super sweet roasted pumpkin and the crunchy pepitas I thought this dish was faultless.
Finally we were again offered the menu to look over the (only) three desserts listed at the bottom. Although three desserts is plenty there is also the Cheese List to choose from with cheeses from as far and wide as Italy, England and Northern California. Figuring we had probably already eaten enough GL and I opted to share a dessert – Pear, Cheesecake Mousse, Shortbread, Sultana, Saffron, Thyme (AU$18).
My first taste was met with applause and adoration. This dessert dish was one of the best I have eaten in a very long time – on par with that delicious pudding thing I ate at the Newmarket in Melbourne late last year and gelato from that heavenly place we call Gelato Messina. Everything just worked so perfectly together but the absolute pinnacle of the dessert was the thyme ice cream. So good in fact I was gushing about it for weeks afterward and returned for a second helping a few days later – just to make sure it wasn’t all a sweet dream.
After all this food I’m not sure where to finish. I know where I started and that was over 1000 words ago. Earlier I said I don’t often gush about restaurants but this dinner at Bread In Common has to be one of my most memorable in terms of food, service and ambience. Everything at Bread In Common is in my opinion pretty close to top notch. The space is industrial yet modern, the food fresh and innovative and the service is friendly and efficient with just a touch of quirk. Our dinner set us back just over AU$140 – 2 entrees, 3 mains, 1 dessert and 4 glasses of wine, which in my opinion is quite reasonable despite what some reviews on Trip Advisor might say. I know of a few cafes in Cairns charging more than that just for breakfast! Bread In Common is communal dining at its finest, so good in fact I have already been back twice – a mean feat for a girl that doesn’t actually like to share.
Bread In Common
43 Pakenham St, Fremantle WA
Ph: (08) 9336 1032
Opening Hours: 7 days Mon – Thurs 10am – 10pm, Fri 10am – late, Sat 9am – late, Sun 9am – 10pm
Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar, Cairns
True Cairns local’s like myself – or at least ones that have lived in Cairns prior to 2001 – would remember George’s Greek Taverna on the corner of Aplin and Grafton Street. Many a plate was smashed in a furore of music and dancing at George’s over the years. After it was George’s, it was Yanni’s and then finally before closing down last year (or maybe even the year before) it was Adelfia.
I remember going to George’s back in the day many times for dinner. It was always great service, delicious food and there was even the possibility of spotting teenage heart throb Peter Andre (anyone that thinks Mysterious Girl was not an awesome song can kindly escort themselves from this page – that song still rocks).
Unless you read that dubious publication that is the Cairns Life Magazine you probably aren’t aware that George’s has returned to Cairns once again. What was previously long standing Mediterranean and Tapa’s restaurant Casa De Meze upstairs on the esplanade is now Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar (aka the old George’s Greek Taverna).
With my crew in town (and no I don’t mean that like a dance crew, more like sea men haha) and with me being the only local in my crew AND their resident food critic the pressure was on to choose somewhere good for us all to go to dinner. After a bit of a stouche about the previously decided on location, Waterbar and Grill I decided on somewhere that I hadn’t yet been but wanted to try… Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen. It wasn’t Waterbar and Grill that was the problem, lets just say we don’t all get along with our *ahem* esteemed leader.
I booked us a table for 10 for 6.30pm and we all headed down to Yaya’s, minus that one person. We were greeted by the female owner who swiftly showed us to our table all the while giving what must have been a new staff member a bit of a helping hand along the way. The new staff member (a waiter) handed us our menu’s and asked us what we would like to drink. Due to us being ‘dry’ or should I say alcohol free whilst at work (yes dinner was still technically considered work) we ordered a couple of cokes, a lemon lime and bitters and the rest of us had water. From the look of surprise we got from the waiter he must have thought we were from the local AA group or something. I guess it’s not very often they get an entire table of 10 ask for non-alcoholic beverages.
We moved onto the menu’s and after a bit of umming and ahhing we (I) decided on the Sharing Banquet for AU$40 per person. Although the rest of the menu looked delicious we figured the banquet was the best bang for your buck with such a large group plus it encourages a little more interaction amongst the people at the table. Yeah because more interaction is exactly what you need after 2.5 weeks at sea together.
There was a little bit of a wait between us ordering and then getting our first lot of food but after that the meals just kept on coming. First up was the Three Dips with Homemade Bread, Saganaki Cheese, Greek Salad and the Chef’s Choice of Mezedes (small sharing plates).
When I first sat down for dinner I had every intention of ‘going easy’ on the food. That idea was scrapped almost instantly when I spotted the Homemade Bread. It pretty much went downhill from there for me sadly. One thing I simply cannot resist no matter how strong my willpower is fresh, warm bread but I am almost positive I’m not entirely alone on that one. The Three Dips to go with the bread were Tzatziki, Taramosolata and Eggplant. These dips coupled with the crunchy on the outside and warm on the inside homemade bread were way too bloody moorish!
Sometimes I wonder if some of my crew live under a rock because none of them had heard of nor eaten Saganaki Cheese before. But, seriously aside from pork cracking and blue vein cheese it’s got to be one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten. Squeeze that lemon juice over the top and you’re good to go. My workmates all gushed about it for days afterwards.
After hogging ourselves on cheese, bread, dips and mezedes our empty plates were cleared away to make way for the next course.
The Calamari had a light coating of flour and was pan-fried with lemon and olive oil dressing. It was cooked to perfection and melted in your mouth – exactly the way calamari should be! The Fish of the Day was Swordfish with a balsamic drizzle and again cooked to perfection.
The last dish of this course was the Chargrilled Prawns. They were big and juicy although we only got one each, something that we were all a little disappointed about.
Our third and final savoury course was the Chicken Souvlaki and Yaya’s Arni (Baked Lamb and Potatoes). My personal favourite dish of the evening (other than the homemade bread) was the Baked Lamb and Potatoes. Tender pieces of lamb will do it for me every time.
After all this we were pretty much stuffed but there was still dessert to come. George himself (at least I think his name is George) came out from behind the open kitchen to greet us and thank us for coming as our plates of mixed sweets arrived. He offered to toast our dinner with a small glass of port each, including one for himself, but sadly we all had to decline. Typically the only time that I get an offer of free alcohol is when I can’t have it!
As you may have already guessed my crew and I thoroughly enjoyed our sharing banquet at Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar. The simply presented food is both delightful and plentiful (except the prawns). Post banquet I felt like I might need to be rolled out of there having completely gutsed myself, a far cry from my initial thoughts of ‘just having a small dinner’. If the Sharing Banquet sounds a little too much food to bear then there is also an a la carte menu to choose from with no dish over AU$30. There’s even a funky lounge setting inside for those just looking to enjoy some Mezedes and a cocktail from the bar. At Yaya’s the service is efficient, friendly and a little loud but frankly who doesn’t expect a little yelling with their Greek food. Ah just like old times! Just make sure you get the okay from George before you start smashing the plates.
Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar
Level 1, Corner Aplin St and the Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 3033
Opening Hours: Dinner from 5pm 7 days a week, Lunch on Fridays from 12pm
Vue De Monde, Melbourne
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