Vue De Monde, Melbourne

When Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Future Yet Come decides to take me out to dinner, he’d probably take me to Vue De Monde to wallow amongst the Baby Boomer dugongs in suits and pearls. That crystalline vision into how my life would transpire if I spent the next twenty odd years focusing upon crapulence would scare me much more than a pauper’s grave.

It did scare me.

This is no fault of Shannon Bennett’s, the oft lauded chef behind the restaurant frequently name-dropped as the best restaurant in Australia.

The only thing that Bennett has left lacking from Vue de Monde is a sense of pomposity. If you were fresh from doing the rounds of France’s most ostentatious eateries I’m not sure whether this would delight or disappoint. The room at Normanby Chambers in Little Collins St, Melbourne is lit with bare strings of oversized, chromed bulbs, the focus of the entire room being upon the open kitchen with mirror above the staff doing the plating. The architectural message is that you’re there for the food and for the front-of-house theatrics that accompany it.

(The Laguiole silverware is a little pompous but much like a Hard Rock Café, it is available for purchase in the gift shop. The fish fork would be a handy piece of equipment for aerating compost.)

It isn’t the level of service that sets apart Vue de Monde but its distinctiveness. It is not a slavish attentiveness that is confused for service at many a fine dining establishment but the ability of staff to have some agency in their roles. If I was making a bad decision in choosing a wine or dish or attempting to customise something to meet my foolish caprices, I get the feeling that Vue De Monde’s crew would tell me that I’m making a grave mistake in no uncertain terms rather than an obsequious “has Sir considered the…”-type suggestion.

The egalitarian service is the most Australian element of the whole experience but does rest upon retaining and training the best of staff, the people that you can rely upon to chat comfortably about how a thermomixer works or the technique used to turn parmesan into a rough sand. Delicious, delicious sand. There is no menu; you submit yourself to the whims of those service staff. They can be steered in a particular direction but the absolute and final control over your food is out of your hands. They chose:

Amuse bouche: A single cos lettuce leaf containing a smear of jamon paste and a sous-vide quail egg balanced atop a wine glass half filled with silky ham consommé and pea foam.

Plate of salmon from Vue De Monde, Melbourne

Salmon attacked from all sides: smoked, sliced, jerked, creamed; some sort of dried fish foam (salted cod, perchance?) and a frankly superfluous layer of gelatinized something. There is caviar and micro-herbage. Cubes of fried sourdough on each end.

Mushrooms: tubes of liquified Swiss Brown (?), slightly gummy and al dente on the outside but squirting silky shroom juice from within; with pan-fried shimeji (?) and slices of eringi(?); tarragon emulsion. My mushroom identification skills would kill me in an unforgiving forest.

Gel canneloni, serrano ham and parmesan sand from Vue De Monde, Melbourne

Gel cannelloni with powdered parmesan cheese and olives; two perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes topped with their own dried skin; some respectable Serrano ham. Where the hell do you get a tomato this impeccable and ripe in winter? I love technique; the mix of industrialisation of food (gel) with small-producer artisanship (ham). It also seems to look like an in-joke about hot dogs, to which I am obviously not averse.

Foie gras, frozen in liquid nitrogen then powdered in a thermomixer, served cold with a dash of “Thai” curry sauce (poured at the table) and three flawless nasturtium leaves. I wish that I could get dispensation for punching people every time that they call a curry “Thai” because it contains coconut milk. But the foie gras, melting on the tongue, is awe-inspiring and smooth like chocolate.

Cold shot of verjus with hibiscus tea, served in a martini glass.

Toro and tuna ceviche from Vue De Monde, Melbourne

A dainty square of toro on a perfect corn puree; tuna ceviche topped with glass noodles soaked in a lightish soy, shredded fennel(?) and something else green. All surrounded by tuna bone stock and butter. A microdot of sesame salt on the side. By this point my palate is pretty much shot from all the permutations of fat.

Hare: two slices of hare loin on pureed, roasted garlic; a gamy hare jelly; yeast foam; a sourdough lattice. More microherbs.

We skipped out on dessert. I would possibly have burst an internal part. My stomach is still not well trained back into ingesting huge quantities of high fat, Western food. I walked out feeling like somebody had inflated a balloon full of rich creamery butter within me. I’m still recovering.

Probably the only complaint that I could muster was the umami-ness of nigh on everything; all playing on the centre and back of the palate rather than forcing anything to the edges of sour, astringent or bitter. I could have probably specified against this in advance. I’m sure that if you’re a much bigger aficionado of French cuisine, you’d pointy out that I’m missing much of the subtlety but the effect of having so much umami does feel like the chefs aren’t painting from the full palette available to them.

Price: we ate and drank at roughly the speed of $1 per minute per person, for three hours. You do the math.

Location: Vue de Monde, 430 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, Australia
Phone: +61 3 9691 3888.

9 Comments Vue De Monde, Melbourne

  1. stickyfingers

    Phil – that first paragraph – wow. So nice to read a review ov VDM devoid of sycophancy.

    I noticed the question marks – did they not send you the menu afterwards? VDM keeps a record of the details so that you don’t get the same meal next time you visit.

    Reply
  2. Duncan | Syrup&Tang

    What a simple, clear account of the dining experience. I had a similar ‘how much umami can a guy take?’ impression last year at Interlude, though it sounds like mine had more variety than yours. It’s an interesting issue. Robin Wickens didn’t regard it as a deliberate umami profile, but more one of seasoning appropriately. I wonder what Shannon Bennett would say?

    Reply
  3. Phil Lees

    Sticky – they did offer to send the menu through but it hasn’t arrived yet. I’d much rather write from my own impressions of a restaurant than rely upon their PR to fill the gaps.

    D – I do wonder if the umami profile is deliberate because it’s such an easy thing to match with wine: just serve any wine that is loosely acidic/astringent/tannin-y. It gives the sommelier plenty of room to move. It’s also a flavour profile that is outside the general MSG-averse population’s experience.

    Reply
  4. Thermomixer

    Lucky you didn’t get the truffles also. Not sure what to think about VdM. You really do need balance. The mushroom dish was likely to have been mushroom gnocchi produced a la Ferran Adria with sodium alginate/calcium chloride skin. Interesting to see the dried tomato skins – they probably added more of your umami. Lucky you didn’t wait for dessert – the smoking chocolate cigar might have been the death of you. I took a friend there for a birthday recently & we got to see the 2 thermomixes, liquid nitrogen Pacojet etc. on a show thru of the kitchen. There are some great ideas but maybe too many on one night?

    Reply
  5. Mel

    Great review and interesting place. I’m not a real “foodie”, so I’ve never quite seen the point in all these more scientific methods used in cooking – liquid nitrogen, etc. I guess I’m into the more “rustic” thang. I also hate gelatin.

    Their gift shop sure is precious!

    Reply
  6. Phil Lees

    Mel – I’m a big fan of pushing different industrial techniques as long as you’re not eating them every day of the week. I think that the point is that they’re difficult to replicate at home and that is why you pay a premium for them in a restaurant. I did feel like Vue du Monde uses the more “scientific” techniques – foams, the “sand”, gels – judiciously.

    Reply
  7. Phil Lees

    Sticky – a menu came through, but it wasn’t mine. Here is what somebody else ate at Vue de Monde on the same night that I did – the only common dish was the amuse:

    AMUSE BOUCHE – Pea and jamon soup with a jamon tartare served with a confit quail yolk on a lettuce raft

    BOUILLABAISSE ‘EN CINQ MINUTES’ ET TARTARE DE KINGFISH – 5 minute bouillabaisse, tartare of kingfish, buffalo milk skin, finished with aromatic herbs, and a touch of theatre

    RISOTTO AUX CHAMPIGNONS – Classically inspired cep and king brown mushroom risotto

    PAIN PERDU ACCOMPAGNÉ DE FOIE GRAS – French toast, green apple purée and foie gras flavoured with eight spice and jamon Serrano Gran Reserva

    TRUITE FUMÉE – Ocean trout with horseradish and baby beets, served with black cabbage and smoked at the table

    JUS AU VERJUS – Liquid frozen verjus

    MILLE FEUILLE DE CHEVREUIL – Venison loin, poached, with a mille feuille of braised leg meat and saffron mousseline topped with a petal

    SALaDE DE FRUITS – Fruit salad

    PULLET EGGS – Prune and Armagnac eggnog, pistachio custard, orange and white chocolate mousse, served in an egg carton

    SoufflÉ Rothschild – Demoulded Grand Marnier soufflé with an apricot sauce

    &

    BISCUIT au chocolat – Michel Bras’ classic self-saucing Valrhona chocolate biscuit with mocha sauce, coffee and milk powder and iced double cream

    NOTRE SÉLECTION DE CAFÉS, THÉS, INFUSIONS ET PETITS-FOURS – A selection of coffee, teas, infusions and petits-fours

    Reply
  8. Phil Lees

    I should have mentioned that Vue du Monde did get back to me with their menu, as follows:

    AMUSE BOUCHE
    Pea and jamon soup with a jamon tartare served with a confit quail yolk on a lettuce raft

    ~

    SAUMON AUX EPICES
    Salmon jerky with toasted brioche, smoked salmon veil, Sterling caviar and a fish emulsion

    ~

    GNOCCHI AUX CHAMPIGNONS
    Liquid cep gnocchi with mushrooms and tarragon emulsion

    ~

    Cannellonis Á la tomate et au Jambon

    Tomato cannelloni with Parmesan parfait, black olive powder and jamon Serrano Gran Reserva

    ~

    PARFAIT DE FOIE D’OIE
    Parfait of goose liver ‘powdered’, nasturcium leaves, crispy rice and Thai capsicum curry

    ~

    TATAKI DE THON
    Seared Blue Fin tuna and Blue Fin tuna tartare served with sweet corn purée and a salad of fennel, spring onion, soy yuzu noodle and sesame

    ~

    JUS AU VERJUS
    Liquid frozen verjus

    ~

    LIÈVRE POCHÉ

    Poached loin of hare with a garlic purée, carpaccio of chestnut, yeast air and bread lattice

    ~

    NOTRE SÉLECTION DE CAFÉS, THÉS, INFUSIONS ET PETITS-FOURS

    A selection of coffee, teas, infusions and petits-fours

    Reply
  9. Suzie

    I was there a while ago (about 2 yrs ago), and the thing that I liked about was that the food all seemed a bit witty and playful in concept and execution. It inspired me to the buy the cookbook, but the only thing I make from it regularly is the mushroom cappucino (which in my opinion is very good). I agree about the other diners …. but what else will you get when you charge that much for a meal?

    Reply

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