Vue de Monde
Me, and skyscrapers, and fancy, classy meals-with-a-view… we don’t really mix all that well. I always feel like I don’t belong inside scenes like that. I’m more used to casual, breezy brunches and $10 ramen dinners. Revolving doors and polished floors intimidate me.
And yet, the food pathways I’ve taken lately has gone more and more elaborate…
The Lui Bar, Lvl 55 Rialto
The lead-up to this visit stemmed from a simple statement from cousin trouble when we were planning her February visit.
“You’re a food blogger. It’s important you visit Vue de Monde.”
I blinked stupidly for awhile, then realised she’s got a point there.
Several Wednesdays later, I found myself popping ears with Trouble & Co as we shot up an elevator towards the 55th floor of the Rialto. The doors opened into a beautiful glass capsule of a bar with decadent furniture and stunning views. We were at The Lui Bar, a lounge where customers wait and have drinks while their tables in Vue de Monde got prepared for lunch service.
I love how trouble sort of looks out for me, even all the way from across the ocean. From her point of view, I guess she’s thinking along the lines of: how can I speak with confidence about Melbourne’s food scene if I haven’t even eaten at the stalwarts?
So it appears my food journey is once again guided by the people around me. I feel grateful for that.
It was a clear day, and my eyes melted at the crystal cityscape that fell off the wide window’s edge right in front of me. The smear of cream-tone buildings stretched right towards the bay like a carelessly made crêpe. I blinked quite a number of times. We were supposed to have pre-drinks before lunch started, but let’s just say I was too busy drinking in the views.
I suspect that even if our table was ready when we arrived, this preliminary wait in the bar was factored-in as a mandatory part of the whole experience. The views were stunning from up here. So why not let us gawk for awhile before letting us into the ‘dungeon’?
The Dungeon (…kidding!)
I think I almost imagined a hiss of sliding doors as a tall and dignified French waiter came out to greet us and lead us into the restaurant proper. I stepped into Vue de Monde with a look of awe…
As for the space itself, I can’t go beyond Agnes’s description. She called it a “man cave”, ha ha! But it was true! Black walls, black floors, black chairs with kangaroo leather lining the tables, chairs and baskets. And on top of every table, lay a curious assortment of rocks, pebbles and wood.
The Lui Martini 21
Cousin trouble and geek hubby were the only ones amongst us who got a drink from the bar. Trouble’s martini arrived in a frozen glass with a condiment array tray. So you’re expected to play with the drops and mists of vermouth and bitters to create your very own martini. If I were a cocktail person, that would’ve kept me occupied. So fun!
Housemade chips / San Pellegrino Sparkling 9.5
A serve of really crisp housemade chips arrived to tease our appetites, they were great!
Around this point, we started discussing with mister French waiter how to go about with this meal. We could go a la carte at $150 for 4 courses, or there’s the 10 course gastronomes menu at $250. But being a lunch session, mister waiter suggested a trimmed-down gastronomes menu consisting of 6 courses, priced at $210. We went for that.
Oysters & lime
Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar
A series of starters started coming. Fresh oysters with native finger limes, bright and clean. The smoked eel was coated with caramelised white chocolate sugar and then topped with black avruga caviar. It almost tasted like candy!
Even some of the amuse bouche involved some elaborate preparation work (on marble slabs) in front of us. Also, there were no table implements to eat these bite-sized hors d’œuvres with, they wanted us to touch the food… use our hands.
Salt cured venison
Celeriac, sunflower seed
We discovered delicious slices of cured venison wrapped around a herb emulsion. And curious triangles of celeriac ‘ravioli’ that sat on a piece of rock, and in each parcel a pinch of sunflower purée. The rocks and slabs of stone that littered our table started to make sense, they weren’t just for decoration, these two became the pedestals for our amuse bouches.
Spanner crab, rockmelon, salmon roe
We embarked on our first course proper with a wonderful combination of light and fresh, sea and fruit. Spanner crab in mayonnaise came sandwiched by triangular wafers of fresh rockmelon, like an ice cream sandwich. On top, a scatter of sea bean and saltbush. A mixture of salmon roe and melon juice was then delicately poured on with a gold spoon.
A very enjoyable dish that straddles the thin line between a light dessert and an entrée. Someone on our table commented that it’s “very seaish in a very fresh way”.
Even the act of serving butter involved pomp and circumstance. A trolley was wheeled in with a large wooden bucket, wherein, the waiter explained, lies artisan butter from the central South of France. It’s Eschire butter, reputedly one of France’s finest butters. He proceeds to quenelle them for us.
Sourdough damper, sesame seed bun
Breads arrived nestled inside a warm basket made of kangaroo leather. Sourdough damper is a kind of outback bread that’s baked in a camp oven, or buried under the embers of a dying campfire. Hence, we found its outsides nicely charred. Delightful. The breads went very nicely with the milky, cheesy butter.
At this point, one of the rocks on our table was revealed as a container for salt and pepper. But what about those pieces that looked like piggy banks?
We discovered that the breads stayed warm because there was a piece of hot stone at the bottom of the kangaroo leather basket.
Marron, kohlrabi, caviar, tarragon butter
It seemed like we’ve had a lot of things already. But nope, this dish was only course number two.
A whole, salt-crusted WA freshwater marron sat next to a beautiful tarragon emulsion. And on the side, two discs of fresh kohlrabi hid a nest of caviar.
Dip the marron into the emlusion and savour. Geek hubby thought this tasted amazing. I found the marron gently sweet and soft, yet also bouncy with a young ‘crunch’. It was quite exquisite. This dish also involved no cutlery again. They wanted us to dive in, and ‘get involved’ with our fingers.
This meal was paced very nicely. During this interlude, our waiter mentioned something about the cutlery and kangaroo leather being procured during the Australian Goldrush era.
He also told us how they’re big on sustainability. Water used by the restaurant is recycled, they use LED lights to save on electricity, they try to use chemical-free cleaning agents, and all the furniture in The Lui Bar was actually bought via eBay!
I liked the attention to detail involved. Here, an ornate Christofle spoon rests against wood and leather.
Course number three
This arrived on our table next. It reminded me of sunsets, ringed planets and ragged cliffs. A waiter proceeded to pare fresh shavings of truffle over the mysterious foodscape. I love it when the plates come interesting.
Duck egg, lamb sweetbreads, pickled onion, truffle
You’re looking at a 64ºC duck egg yolk cooked for 35mins then laid atop a celeriac purée. To enjoy all that goodness, we got a sausage of lamb sweetbreads, ciabatta crisps, onion rings, pickled onions and onion thyme sauce.
Thick, wet, delicious and dippy. That’s why we were provided with a fork, knife and spoon to consume this dish with.
I think that was the first time I’d eaten freshly shaved truffles, it was pretty swoon-worthy. A very earthy and rich course, but the pickled onion helped give some weighted counterpoint.
As our stoic French waiter was clearing our plates, we learnt that he actually had a sense of humour. He asked us “so how was your breakfast?”.
Naughty-looking wooden table implements were next placed in front of us. By this point, I’d already clued-in that there’s a lot of theatricality involved with this meal-in-the-sky. So I was quite excited to see what they’re going to come up with next.
Cucumber sorbet, crushed herbs
It was our palate cleanser, done with smoke and mirrors. We were each presented with a little bowl of baby parsley, frozen lime, viola flowers and lemon balm, which were then snap frozen on our table using liquid nitrogen. Before the mists cleared, we had to pound the fresh frozen herbs into a powder using the wooden club as a pestle. Very fun. Once done, a serve of cucumber sorbet was placed in the bowl.
That was the most elaborate palate cleanser I’d ever experienced, and it tasted gentle and fresh, although I wished the delicate tasting cucumber sorbet was just a touch less sweet.
Photographic interlude: Kangaroo chairs, working chefs, a food blogger’s notebook, and vessels for water
Barramundi, herb emulsion, prawn, smoked bone marrow
Course number four materialises. Pan fried barramundi, prawn carpaccio, pea shoots, wasabi leaf, snow pea chips, wasabi foam, and smoked bone marrow stock infused with shallot and parsley.
While the dish is built around a fish from the sea, the flavours oddly brought me inland because of the use of bone marrow stock. A nice and light offering, although I believe cousin trouble’s fish was a touch undercooked.
Once again, we discovered how the sticks and stones on our table each had a function to perform. A gnarled branch as fork rest, and a rock with a slit to hold our steak knives. How elegantly ergonomic! I chuckled inside when mister French waiter added with a straight face “now you understand it’s not for putting coins in”.
Blackmore wagyu beef, fig, pear
Our fifth course came as 9-score wagyu beef tenderloin, cooked over coals, torched fig, charred pear, mountain peppers, macadamia nut, finished with a roasted fig sauce.
I was pretty much swooning over the soft, succulent coal-smoked wagyu beef. And the other components also worked nicely for me, especially the sweet brightness from a charred fresh pear. Geek hubby did comment that he wasn’t that fond of fig and beef together as a combination though. I secretly kept quiet about how much I liked that combination…!
That was the last of our savoury courses. Before we embarked on dessert, we took our time chatting, relaxing, visiting the viewing deck, and sneaking into the restroom. I think this is the first restaurant I’ve blogged about where I’d taken a picture of the inside of its restroom,. Couldn’t help it, the washbasin looked so unusual!
Selection of cheeses, cubicle’d in a glass cabinet on a trolley. (We did not have a cheese course.)
Beer & nuts
When we got back to our table, a second palate cleanser was waiting for us. This time, it’s a whimsical take on the idea of having ‘beer and nuts’. We drank passionfruit liquorice beer and had a frozen ball of coconut sorbet with it. Citrus and cleansing.
I also liked how all the rocks and wood were gathered together and stacked in the middle of the table like a campfire. It’s like a way of signalling the end of a meal. These little touches, along with the breathtaking views, impeccable service and good food made this meal quite an experience to remember.
Tonka bean soufflé
Our desserts arrived grandly, sitting perfectly risen on a trolley. The waitress explained it’s a soufflé made with tonka beans from Central and South America, topped with dark chocolate mousse. She then scooped smoked chocolate ice cream out of a chilled black cauldron with a gold spoon, plunged the ice cream into the soufflé with nautical precision, before resting the spoon, kissed with chocolate, on the plate.
A perfect soufflé demonstrates a superb level of skill in the kitchen, but I personally am not a fan of soufflés. This dessert tasted rich, sweet, and yet also light at the same time. We thought the tonka beans imparted hints of light vanilla, bitter almonds and tobacco spice. Different and interesting.
That was the end of our meal in the restaurant. By then, we’d grown to like mister French waiter’s stoic yet subtly humorous temperament. He took us on a short tour of the private function room. That’s when I realised that the restaurant pretty much takes up all of the 55th floor in the Rialto. This means they’ve got a complete 360º view of Melbourne.
We were invited to adjourn into The Lui Bar to have our petit fours, I sat in the bar’s lounge for five minutes, waiting for my companions before it became obvious that they weren’t joining me. How childish of adults to play hide-and-seek.
Petit fours in the sky
Minted marshmallows w thyme, honeycomb salted caramel ice cream sticks, chocolate lamingtons w raspberry, one penny alcoholic jellies
I found them in the outdoor sky deck, a viewing gallery complete with wind and sun. We moved the petit fours outside so that we could enjoy them whilst witnessing the pulse of the city. I imagined us as criminal masterminds of the underworld, all we needed was some opera music and a buncha stupid henchmen to terrorise the populace.
High mountain green tea 20ea
I liked how the one penny jellies wobbled, and they imparted a stubborn edible stain of copper on our fingers. We also ordered green tea to go with the petit fours. A word of warning here, they charged us $20 per person for the tea. So for our table of 4, our teas tagged on an additional $80 to the bill. You may want to skip teas when you visit unless you’re really into teas.
This was the last view of Vue de Monde before we took the private elevator back down to planet earth.
I loved how theatrical, imaginative and interactive the entire experience was. The food was actually very nice to eat and the ingredients felt quite local and seasonal. Cousin trouble observed that the food here was overall simple, straight, with a bit of fussiness but not overly fussy, which was good. The chef knew when to stop being too clever with the food, just like how good writers know when to stop over-embellishing their stories. This way, both diners and readers alike don’t end up lost.
It was a meal to remember. This degustation felt like a beguiling, playful and delicious escapade.