Living up to expectations
It's got to be hard being at the top. The constant requirement to reinvent and create would typically take its toll on mere mortals, I imagine. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this evening at one of only two three-hatters in Melbourne. I'd been let down before by establishment places with big reputations and lots of hats. But not this time, not this place.
It was my birthday. My wife maintains that we are still in our very, very late twenties, and as such could party with the best of them, so we didn't start our evening until 8pm. Needless to say, by this stage of the evening I was in desperate need of a G and T, and the nice folks at Vue fixed me up with a ripper: Tanqueray gin served on ice, with a twist and a separate decanter of tonic. Ahhh. That's better.
Normally, being my birthday, at this stage I'd abuse the right to peruse the wine list looking for an indulgent French red, but I'd read the website, I'd heard the tweets, I knew what I was after: wine matching, and let's not muck around. There are several different matchings (with several different price tags) just like there are several different menus. It should perhaps be mentioned that there is (at least on Saturday nights) no a la carte option. Read into that what you will.
We'd been planning this evening for a while, and weren't intending to be half-hearted about it, despite a hefty family lunch the same day. Accordingly, there was no hesition: we'll take the long menu, and the good wines. Bring it on, bitches. (Whoops, probably didn't actually say that last part to our waiter, but I was certainly thinking it.)
I won't go through every course and wine match, but a few highlights have to include the Ocean trout with wasabi and baby beetroot, smoked at the table paired with an Alsace riesling. A similar dish, at rival establishment Attica had won dish of the year previously, but I'm afraid I have to say that I actually prefer the Vue de Monde version. The smoke had somehow penetrated deep into the fish, so that the flavour lingered well after you'd swallowed. Some folks might find it almost too smokey, but for me, it was heaven.
A great match was a wine I'd never tasted before: Blaufränkisch, with western plains pork. Blaufränkisch is one of the primary grape varieties produced in Austria, and although rarely seen here, it's worth a try if you can find it. Think Pinot, that's been German-ised a bit. More savoury, slightly grippier tannins, and really good length made this a highlight of the night for me, perhaps to the point of upstaging it's culinary counterpart on the plate. Other diners particularly enjoyed a match of a 15 year old Madeira with the signature cep and king brown mushroom risotto.
There was one little palate cleanser that really stood out to me: a frozen raspberry popsicle, covered in old-school popping candy. If you've seen Heston's feasts, you'll know what I'm talking about - that stunning surprise that makes you feel like a kid again. That theme cropped up a few times, actually, with a bubblegum icecream that I actually liked (I hate bubblegum, but this worked) and a milk-and-cookies style chocolate biscuit to finish.
Throughout the night, service was excellent, to the point of having very little to comment on - just the way I like it. The staff manage to maintain a relatively casual atmosphere, professional without being stuffy, friendly but not intrusive. Clearly a great team. The space is well set out, tables spaced far enough apart that you don't feel like you're eavesdropping, although the hard walls do make it a little noisy at times. An angled mirror above the open kitchen gives you a great view of the dishes being prepared before they hit the table - something I enjoyed immensely.
Overall, this is one three hat venue which, for me at least, lived up to its reputation. I wasn't sure at first, with some of the early dishes being quite subtle, and understated, but by the end of the night I understood why: the menu is designed to be just that, a whole menu, rather than a collection of dishes put together. This was something that I hadn't really noticed (at least consciously) in a degustation menu until now, but I think I really like it. Individual dishes may not be stand-out by themselves, but in the context of the meal, work wonderfully to set up the following dish and lead you through the evening.
Of course, such excellence doesn't come cheap, and this isn't somewhere I"d go on a lazy Friday night, but if you're looking for a really special place, Vue de Monde should be on your list. And if you're keen on food, you have to do it, once.
Compressed cucumber, tuna and wasabi roll
Kingfish with Osetra caviar
Heide vegetable garden
2002 Tahbilk Marsanne Nagambie Lakes, Victoria
Ocean trout with wasabi and baby beetroot, smoked at the table
2005 Domaine Bruno Sorg Riesling ‘Florimaont’ Alsace, France
Green vegetable salad
2007 Azienda Agricola Gulfi ‘Carjcanti’ Sicily, Italy
Classically inspired cep and king brown mushroom risotto
NV Henriques & Henrigues Bual 15years old Madeira, Portugal
Roasted marron with bisque glaze served on hot river stone
1991 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay ‘Art Series’ Margaret River, Western Australia
Western Plains pork with flavours of the earth
2007 Moric Blaufränkisch ‘Sankt Georgen’ Burgenland, Austria
Blackmore wagyu beef with dried berries & earl grey parsnip
2006 Rusden Mataro ‘Full Circle’ Barossa Valley, South Australia
Bruny Island 1792 on sherry & mushroom
1997 La Rioja Alta S.A. Rioja Gran Reserva ‘904’ La Rioja, Spain
Raspberry cloud coated in raspberry snow and topped with popping candy
Blackcurrant sago and blackcurrant mousse with raspberry meringue and bubble gum ice cream
2006 Domaine Huet Vouvray Moelleux ‘Clos du Bourg’ 1er Trie Loire Valley, France
Michel Bras' classic self-saucing chocolate biscuit with chocolate sauce, milk powder and milk ice cream
NV Chambers Grand Muscat Rutherglen, Victoria
A selection of coffee, teas, infusions and petits-fours
Matched, see above.