Excitement, exhilaration, anticipation...that was my birthday present from Steve. Actually it was lunch at Vue de Monde but it made me feel all those things.
The welcome is professional and slick and we're shown to our table which is between the kitchen and the huge windows. There's so much going on, I'm not sure where to look and it's hard to focus!
Food begins to arrive quite quickly as do our aperitifs and our culinary journey begins. First to arrive is a little pot of potato crisps, salt and vinegar apparently (my preferred flavour) and a macadamia dip. Pretty more ish and very bar snack like. A tray of what looks like rocks arrive with two oysters nestled inside. The various rocks and logs on our table are moved around and used as plates or the tops come off to reveal salt and pepper.
A morsel of smoked eel, whit Peas, pistachio, strawberry on a little glass dish and is interestingly sweet and naturally smoky. Reminscent of the sweet teriyaki unagi of Japan I guess white chocolate isn't so weird after all as it gives it that same sweetness.
A waiter brings over a plate with two slivers of scarlet wallaby with a dollop of green mousse which he expertly rolls up and puts on a rock for us. It's salty and savoury and again moreish.
The last amuse bouche is peas, pistachio, strawberry. Some wasabu snow is spooned onto a tuile which is effectively a sugar disc much like the top of a creme brulee. Hiding beneath that are some frozen strawberry pieces and peas. The snow kind of melts and the whole thing is a little weird. There are crispy sugar shards, cold bits and a hit of wasabi. Not really delicious...more a bit strange and uncertain.
Our table gets quite busy what with the amuse bouches arriving, a waiter explaining how it works and the sommelier arriving with the wine list and an explanation of the wine matching options. It's a manic few minutes.
So we take the easy way out. We tell them we're all in for the food so just give us what they've got and as for the wine, just keep on bringing it! I feel I need a seat belt to strap me in for the long haul!
Spanner crab, kohlrabi, avocado, beach herbs; green and white on a plate with a hint of pink and a touch of black from the caviar. Strikingly fresh this was a good start. I thought the serves of crab were generous and enjoyed the textural contrast of the crunchy kohlrabi and the soft sweet crab.
The next dish, also seafood, sounds so simple; roasted marron, tarragon butter but my goodness it was amazing, One plump marron, one smear of tarragon butter, one pile of salty powder and a crispy wafer. The marron was just so fresh and firm and creamy and sweet and the butter just so rich. Eating it with no cutlery just added to the greedy and naughty experience. More marron please.
Melbourne onion soup; a little bit of dimer table theatre. A plate of different textured onions arrive with a cheese foam, cubes of bread and some grated Gruyere. There are crispy onion rings, caramelised onion, pickled onion, onion gel. A coffee percolator also makes an appearance with a coffee like liquid in it but it's actually onion soup and it's heated from beneath and when the flame is cut out the vacuum means it the liquid is sucked up to infuse with more onions and herbs before comes back down and poured into our dishes.
Undoubtedly it's good onion soup and the melting cheese and bread cubes evoke memories of Paris. The pickled onion stops the soup from being too sweet. And whilst it's yummy, taste wise I'm not sure it's a huge amount better than French Onion soup in Paris. But what I do like is that the onion doesn't become the sludgy, slurry, slimey mess that is usually found in the bottom of the bowl of French Onion soup.
Another simply described dish; duck egg, asparagus but so much more that. There's bacon and crispy bits and green peas or are they beans (?). Whatever they are the whole thing just tastes amazing. I need a spoon to get all the yolk and I want to mop it all up.
We enjoyed a glass of 2003 Dom Perignon along with this so utterly decadent but the bubbles went so well with the egg - both rich and indulgent.
And now for some interaction. We were presented with a bowl of herbs and flowers which were frozen with the addition of liquid nitrogen. With a pestle as part of this courses cutlery we turned the herbs into a powder and a quennelle of grapefruit and lime sorbet placed on top.
Interesting concept and delivery but unfortunately the combination of flavours made it taste like handsoap! Maybe next time we can grind fruit or something less herbaceous and floral.
Our next dish of barramundi, nettle, young garlic, prawn, lettuce came in two parts. The prawn arrived first, shelled and ready to be eaten with a garlic sauce and barramundi foam. The prawn had been cooked on a BBQ grill so the sweetness of the prawn also had a hint of smoky char to it too.
After the prawn came the barramundi head atop a bed of herbs. The chef extracted the cheeks and placed them on a lettuce cup with a drizzle of spiced butter. Delicious san choi bao. And the chef was happy to leave the head for me to poke around and extract more delicious shred of fish meat.
A sign of the meat to come - sword in the stone! I guess steak knife in a rock is more the reality.
We are served lamb from Flinders Island - breast topped with sunflower seeds and rump with a mustard sauce and a dollop of something I can't quite remember. It's very tasty and the saltiness is sweetened by the slice of pear on the plate.
Blackmore Wagyu, beetroot, pear, truffle is servied in parts. The plate arrives with some braised beef, a barbecue sauce and bush apples. A chef chargrills some of the beef which has been cooked sous vide so the chargrilling is to add some flavour and caramelisation. He spoons some beetroot jus on the plate and a waitress shaves some truffle before we tuck in.
We progress to the cheese course and the trolley is wheeled towards us. We discuss our preferences and I enjoy some mild and creamy and some hard and salty. Steve rejoices in mouldy and ripe, mature and stinky. The accompanying breads, crispbreads, jams and pastes are generous and make the whole cheese course very enjoyable. I discover a gorgeous red onion jam that goes so well with the harder salty cheeses but also the mild fatty one.
We move to dessert and the first one is sweetly entitled strawberries and cream. It's a beautiful berry blend with milk ice cream and some meringue held together with berry gels and compotes. It's reminiscent of an Eton Mess and it's my kind of dessert - fruity, creamy and light.
I appreciate for some dessert is about chocolate though and so does Vue de Monde as the second dish is chocolate soufflé, chocolate mousse, crème anglaise. The souffle arrives all plump and light, the waitress makes a hole and pours in the creme anglaise making it swell even more. We dig in and it's light and fluffy and sweet like chocolate. I can imagine just how well received this souffle would be amongst the chocolate lovers. For me it's just a bit too big and a bit too sugary but Steve has no problems. Accompanied by a glass of Pedro Ximenez the whole combo is just a touch too sweet.
As if cheese and two desserts weren't enough, some petit fours arrive. Gin and tonic jelly, lamington, a eucalyptus ice cream ball and a soap flavoured pink leaf. I leave the leaf and the ice cream ball as it's a bit odd. The jelly is ok but the lamington which is like a cube of coconut covered chocolate mousse with a sharp hit of raspberry is delicious and in spite of the chocolate souffle I've just eaten it tastes different to that chocolate - more intense and less sugary and I enjoy it with my cup of tea!
After all that food, the next meal is a distant thought but there's a cute touch from Vue de Monde as they present us with a breakfast bag of cereal, tea, some brioche, a little pot of honey and some cookies.
It's a lovely way of extending the memories of the meal for longer.
Our Vue de Monde experience was entertaining; deliciously sublime in places (marron, duck egg, meat) and weirdly curious in others. We thoroughly enjoyed it and had a great time. I can see that it is a notch above its competitors but that notch is a pricey one!