Vue De Monde is chef Shannon Bennett’s fine dining restaurant that overlooks all other restaurants in Melbourne. Quite literally. The restaurant, situated on the 55th floor of the Rialto Building, is perched at the top of the Melbourne skyline and as you’d expect, the view is absolutely breathtaking and now an integral part of the experience when dining there.
Although they have been situated in this location for just 12 months, Vue De Monde has been a high profile and well recognized restaurant since 2003 when Gourmet Traveller first awarded chef owner Shannon Bennett their Best New Talent award.
Anthony Bourdain recently talked about Australian fine dining restaurants reaching a stage in their development where they felt comfortable producing high quality meals but without the pretentious decore and Vue De Monde fits that description to a tee. The restaurant eschews the traditional white linen tableclothes and dining sets of more toffee-nosed establishments in exchange for kangaroo-hide benchtops that can be wiped clean at a moments notice before the next course is served. The waiter who served us, Chris, was cheerful, knowledgable and delighted in serving us a tasting menu that, allowing for allergies and dietary requirement, was kept a surprise.
The whole experience of dining at Vue was an entertaining spectacle. The staff initially greet you on the ground floor of the Rialto and then escort you to an elevator that doesn’t even have the 55th floor in it as a button. It can only be accessed by a swipe pass which makes you feel like Maxwell Smart on your way in.
Jen and I purposefully arrived early so we could take a moment to enjoy the view and sample a cocktail and champagne at the adjoining Lui Bar. I tried the Macadamia Martini which went down a treat.
The degustation was a lot of fun. It’s probably not the word I was expecting to use but the chefs here delight in playful themes and concepts which they freely explore in one course and then diverge wildly elsewhere for the next. Its loosely described as a combination of French and molecular, according to the Gourmet Traveller review. That sounds about right. It’s all very theatrical.
Take the palate cleansers for example. Now, even at my favourite restaurants, the palate cleanser is a bit of a non-event. Its a culinary punctuation mark for when the menu switches from mains to desserts. At Vue De Monde, one of the palate cleansers was an interactive course where you crushed your own petals in a mortar with a pestle before pouring liquid nitrogen on top, then finally you mashed up the concoction with a cucumber sorbet. Ridiculous! Another dessert course riffed on the concept of ‘beer and nuts’ but concocting a passionfruit dessert to look like a glass of beer and then serving it with coconut balls.
A word of warning – if there’s one thing Vue De Monde doesn’t hold back on, its the experimentation with a wide variety of animal products. I think I ate half a zoo by the time I was done here. Looking back, they served me lamb, beef, wallaby, pigeon, barramundi, salmon, duck, maron and spanner crab. So if you carry a conscience when it comes to eating animals, this might not be for you.
For Jen and I though, this was a terrific experience and the perfect way to celebrate my 30th birthday. The dishes were inventive, the service excellent and the view spectacular.