For Fox‘s birthday[1. And Michelle’s belated birthday, at least as far as Kelly and I were concerned.] a bunch of us smashed a dinner Vue de Monde, in Melbourne. Willo flew in from Sydney and Kelly flew in from KL to attend. (I was already in Melbourne at the time so I am not as impressive a friend as Kelly or Willo *shrug*).
Wait wait wait. Before I begin, I must confess Michelle has already written a post about the evening. So you should pop over and read that. It’s shorter than mine, so it’ll save you time (I must use too many adjectives or something). However, she’s put some of the narrative responsibility on my shoulders, claiming I “…will be much better at writing about our experience…” than she was. I guess it depends on your love of adjectives. Ok, here we go.
Welcome to Vue de Monde
Wait wait wait. I don’t think I’ll do this as a blow-by-blow. That’d be too boring, and I’ll not meet Michelle’s expectations. Hmmm. Ok, a different, more random approach…
Kevin was our waiter for evening. Well, he was our main waiter; I lost count of the number of people who served us either a meal, some wine, some water, and probably a few things I can’t remember. Kevin, with the Irish accent, was a nice fellow, but probably not much nicer than everyone else we encountered during out 5-hour dinner. Not that I’m hacking on Kevin, it’s just the standard of service was ridiculously high. Kevin was our go-to-guy throughout the evening for any questions or issues we might have. While the night seemed busy, Kevin never seemed to be in a hurry, only politely excusing himself to tend to others when our questions had been answered. This was true for all staff that took care of…
The table we had booked months earlier is called the Chef’s table. It’s situated away from other diners, and right at the end of the long galley kitchen. This was awesome. Not only did we have our own private dining area where we could
swear as much as we wanted to be as loud as we wanted to, but we got to watch the 20-strong kitchen do it’s thing all night long. The kitchen was impressive — the chefs were all working quickly, cooking, squirting, plating up, and weaving in and out of each other’s way like a slightly out of control ballet. Mind you, the young chefs[2. I think there was no one over the age of 28 in the kitchen. Impressive, most impressive.] were never actually out of control; there was no yelling or screaming or Gordon Ramsey-esque carrying on. It was a pleasure to watch.
The actual table itself was also awesome. It had been commissioned by Vue de Monde, and specially constructed from wooden pieces of the MCG’s demolished Great Southern Stand. We were dining on an historic chunk of Melbourne. I even spilled some stuff on it. Hardcore. The table cost 14 thousand dollars. Lucky I hadn’t started drinking yet, so that would’ve sobered me up pretty quick. Cue…
Our course of matching wines came in two variations: expensive, and more expensive. Seeing I’m a beer drinker, Kelly prefers white wines (most of the wines were reds), and none of our gang was Kerry Packer, we chose expensive. Marcus the (young) sommelier did a great job of making the $15–$25 per tasting glass sound like an exciting bargain, so we chose to roll with his advice.
As a beer drinker, I decided to let Vue de Monde lead me along my dining experience path. It was the second time in the evening I said “I’ll have whatever you recommend” (which is not the same as “I’ll have whatever you put in front of me”, even though that would’ve been true too).
The wines were amazing. Not that I know what I’m talking about when to comes to wine. All I know is, each wine Marcus served (and explained the origins and characteristics of) matched the food perfectly. I know this to be true because the meals tasted better with some wine residue[3. Surely there’s a proper name for “wine residue on the tongue”…] on the tongue. I guess Marcus really knew his stuff to be able to match each wine so well to…
We had booked in for the $250 per head tasting menu as a special treat. We figured if we’re going to enjoy what would potentially be the most expensive meal we’ve ever eaten, let’s just go the whole hog[4. Interesting side note: we later saw a tow full pigs heads floating in buckets of water. The chef told us this was to extract all the blood from the head, which would be later soaked in a brine for a couple days before being pulled out, sliced, diced, cooked to perfection, and served.]. In the end, our 5 hour dinner consisted of 17 courses. Which was many, but obviously not too many for the chefs because before our first course was brought out, Kevin (you remember Kevin, right?) asked if anyone had an aversion to a certain food. Fox doesn’t dig on red meat, so Kevin advised that he’d change her meals accordingly. This is something you’d think would be normal for a restaurant, and it probably is, but had I not persuaded Kelly to put aside her (and my) slight reluctance towards eating seafood, and had I not said (for the first time that evening) “I’ll have whatever you recommend”, Kevin and his wizard-like chefs would’ve tailored each of the 17 courses to our tastes. Bespoke like a mofo™ could be the new tagline for Vue de Monde.
I’m in the same “there’s-no-flippin’-way-I’ll-remember-all-the-courses” boat as Michelle, so I cannot describe each and every course. But it doesn’t really matter, ‘cos Vue de Monde emailed us the complete list of meals we had (including Fox’s variations) and the complete list of matching wines. How awesome is that?! To save you downloading the PDF, I’ll do the honourable thing and list…
Smoked eel (with white chocolate glaze) & Blue fin tuna & Buttermilk & Pumpkin.
(One of these items was served in some giant blue fin tune vertebrae. Cool!)
CRABE, BROCOLI, BETTERAVE
Spanner crab, broccoli, beetroot.
Wine: 2009 Pascal Cotat ‚’Les Monts Damns’ Sancerre AOC Loire Valley, France
TOMATE, CÉLERI, FROMAGE DE CHÊVRE
Tomato, celery, goat’s cheese
(This doesn’t sound impressive, but the celery was served in paper-thin ribbons!)
Wine: 2009 Grace Kochu ‘Toribiira’ Yamanashi, Japan
ÉCREVISSE, LANGUE DE BOEUF, ÉMULSION DE BEURRE NOISETTE
Marron, beef tongue, brown butter emulsion
(The beef tongue was a sandwich, served between two thin crackery things. Kevin refused to tell us what it was until after we’d eaten it, and got us to guess what it was. I guessed “delicious” which was technically correct, but he told us it was beef tongue. Fox got a second Marron instead of some tongue, but I can’t speak for later on in the night! Boom Boom!!)
(Also, this meal was served on a hot river stone!)
Wine: 1999 Petaluma Riesling Clare Valley, South Australia
OEUF DE CANARD, RIS D’AGNEAU, OIGNON, TRUFFE
Fried duck egg, lamb sweetbreads, pickled onion, truffle
(The duck egg, it was explained, was just the yolk. It has been separated from the white part but cooking it at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time. It was served on a white puree of some sort, making it look like there was egg white.)
Wine: 2007 Domaine Blain-Gagnard Puligny-Montrachet AOC Burgundy, France
SORBET AU CONCOMBRE, GRANITE AU SUREAU
Cucumber sorbet, elderflower granite, frozen lime.
(This was the palate cleanser. We tried to guess the flavour of the elderflower before we knew what it was. For those of you who don’t know what elderflower tastes like, I reckon it tastes like tinned lychees.)
THON, GRAISSE DE PORC, POIRE ÉPICÉE
Blue fin tuna toro, pork fat, spiced pear
Wine: 2008 Main Ridge Estate Pinot Noir ‘The Acre’ Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
KANGOUROU, CHOU, FRAMBOISE
Kangaroo, cabbage, raspberry
(This meal was inspired by what a young kangaroo would eat in its surrounds. Which, when you think about it kinda morbid — a bit of roo on a warm slice of log, surrounded by raspberries and citrus and greens — but also kinda awesome.)
and for Fox:
LOTTE, GRAISSE DE PORC, POIRE ÉPICÉE
Monk fish, pork fat, spiced pear
Wine: 2001 Giuseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Venetia, Italy
It was at this time Willo started to feel a bit ill and had to leave. This was not due to the food, or rather is was, but not in a bad way. Willo had simply forgotten he shouldn’t be eating duck eggs, but his body reminded him. It was a real shame Willo had to leave — we were all having a blast! — but every cloud has a silver-lining: I called dibs on his serve of roo! Score!
JOUE DE BÆUF DE BLACKMORE, RADIS, ANETH ET SAUCE AUX ANCHOIS
Blackmore wagyu beef cheek, radish, dill, caper, anchovy sauce
and for Fox:
FLET, CHOU NOIR, HERBES DES PLAGES
Flathead, black cabbage, beach herbs
Wine: 2003 Yarra Yarra ‘The Yarra Yarra’ Yarra Valley, Victoria
Frozen lolly, popping candy, house made lemonade
(The first pre-dessert [who doesn’t get excited about pre-desserts?!?!] Popping candy!!, and lemonade in a jar)
AVOINE AUX FRAISES
Yoghurt sorbet, strawberries, oats
CRÈME GLACÉE À MERINGUE CITRONNÉE, CHOCOLAT BLANC, PERSIL
Lemon meringue ice cream, white chocolate, parsley
(This third pre-dessert was a deconstructed lemon tart, and it was grouse)
Wine: 2009 Oakridge Viognier ‘Late Harvest’ Yarra Valley, Victoria
SOUFFLÉ Á LA GRAINE DE TONKA, GLACE AU CACAO FUMÉ
Tonka bean soufflé, smoked cocoa ice cream
(This was the actual dessert)
Wine (yes, we’re still having matching wine at this point): 1985 Warre’s Vintage Port Douro DOC, Portugal
NOTRE SÉLECTION DE CAFÉS, THÉS, INFUSIONS ET PETITS-FOURS
A selection of coffee, teas, infusions & petits-fours
(Fox’s serving came on a special plate!)
Suffice it to say each course was fantastic. Some were better than others, but it was not due to the quality or cooking — the differences were in your preferred tastes. It was really a meal of sampling flavours and flavour combinations you may have never tried, more than a delicious meal. It was an experiment more than a hunger stopper. And the way the meals were presented was exciting and fun: on a warm river stone for Marron, on a log for Kangaroo, in fish vertebrae for marrow, oyster, and caviar.
Many of the courses were brought to us by the chefs that cooked and/or plated them. This was a great way to introduce a dish, and we could ask the chef questions about it like: how do you separate the duck egg yolk from the white part?, or the lime juice from the lime flesh? It broke the evening up for us by having different faces bring out different meals. A particular favourite, for no reason I can remember was…
Two of our courses were served and presented by Crazy Charlie, a young 1st year apprentice with thick rimmed glasses and thick standy-uppy hair. We all agreed he looked like a mad scientist, hence the nickname (which I expect him to keep). Crazy Charlie did an exceptional job at plating, explaining, and answering questions about the courses he served (unfortunately I cannot remember which courses they were, but I know they were delicious).
As a 1st year apprentice, Crazy Charlie was one of the guys left behind to tidy up the kitchen long after most diners had disappeared into the Melbourne night. In fact, there were quite a few people left after midnight, including us. We were glad we stayed because…
Gave us a tour of…
A tour of the kitchen was given by Brendan, a chef who’d presented one (or two) of our courses throughout the evening. He’d been given the job of stepping four well-lubricated and noisy diners — some in high heels — through the slippery floored kitchen in the stage of winding down. Desserts were still being plated though, and it was a pleasure to watch people doing thier thing with such care and precision. There was a guy who was individually placing what looked like flattened sultanas onto a large plate with what looked like some firm mango custard. I saw him place one, then step back for a second, then flip it over, presumably because it didn’t look right the first time. Who knew flattened sultanas had a bad side?
Brendan showed us each station of the kitchen, who works in it, and what they did. He also explained how one gets to work for Vue de Monde and the stages one must rise through to work in the main kitchen. All while other guys were swiftly polishing and cleaning and scrubbing down stations no longer in use. It was in the kitchen where we saw the aforementioned pigs heads in water.
Sadly, all good things come to an end. But even this old adage was well taken care of by Vue de Monde. As we walked towards the door we were farewelled by two waiters, who handed each of us, or rather each of the ladies, a Vue de Monde branded paper bag containing…
Wait. I forgot to mention something pleasant and unexpected which happened. Early in the evening Michelle made…
The walk to the bathroom
As Michelle made her way through the other diners in the restaurant, she noticed each of the 15 wait staff casually turned toward her as she passed, so that none of them had their back to her. The last coupe of wait staff pointed out the bathroom door with outstretched arms and open hands. A flawless and liquid-like ballet of pleasantry. It was subtle touches like this that really made the experience of dining at Vue de Monde a delight.
Anyway, back to…
a Vue de Monde branded paper bag
As we left the building, two waiters handed each of the ladies a Vue de Monde branded paper bag containing…
Seriously. The bag contained some homemade granola, a small loaf of brioche, dried exotic-looking tea mix, a small jar of honey, and two biscuits. (There’s a good photo on Michelle’s blog showing these items). It’s the less subtle touches like this that really made the experience of dining at Vue de Monde a delight. They took care of breakfast!! Amazing.
The end (part 2)
It was close to 1am when we left Vue de Monde. I think I’d speak for everyone at the table when I say it was restaurant dinner I’d ever experienced. Not only for all the reasons mentioned in the 2500+ words above, but for the company also. It astounds me that Michelle, Fox, and Willo, who Kelly And I’ve only known for a few years, have become friends I feel we’ve known a lifetime. I don’t know how that works, I guess some people just click.
…or clique (zing!)
It’s company like this that really, REALLY made the experience of dining at Vue de Monde a delight.
Update: the bill (*gasp*)
Here’s a scan of the bill for the night. We left a roughly 10% tip on top of the total. I think they deserved more actually, but I’m sort of unemployed at the moment. You can hire me!