You know those times when you’re going somewhere that everyone absolutely raves about and you start to wonder if maybe it’s overrated? For my birthday I asked to go to Vue de Monde, an Age Good Food Guide 3 hat winner. The verdict: yes it’s pricey but it’s a spectacular dining experience that’s worth it.

When you arrive in the lobby of the Rialto to have dinner at Vue de Monde, there is a restaurant reception desk with a staff member who guides you to Vue’s very own lift that whisks you directly to the 55th floor.  A staff member escorted us in the lift, and when we stepped out we were immediately greeted by another member of the team and taken to a window seat overlooking the bay while we ordered a drink.

Because we were running a little late, we were taken to our table before our drinks arrived.  As you walk through Vue it feels a bit like there’s slight of hand going on with its design and layout.  Some of the large glass walls are doors – later in the evening when I went to the bathroom I was asked if I’d be OK to find my way back (which I was, but if they’re asking people must get lost).

Anyway, back to the restaurant.  It’s hard to describe its spectacular interior design…  the attention to detail is very high.  Even the light fittings look like they’re bespoke.  Tables are covered with animal skin, with kangaroo fur featured on chairs.  There is a huge (and I mean huge) open kitchen which makes you feel like part of the kitchen.  Kitchen benches have angled mirrors over them so that diners can see Chefs plating up.  On the table are a selection of river stones and some gnarled and burnt looking pieces of wood.  These feature as part of our menu and are used for cutlery stands, a butter dish, Excalibur like steak knife holders, and one of the rocks opens to be salt and pepper.  Again, it feels kind of magical in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sense.

I was quite overwhelmed by the whole experience, which kind of explains why there’s no pictures.  That, and the fact that a team of chefs and waiting staff were within metres of us at all times.  The waiting staff were amazingly attentive, with about 4 different staff either serving or monitoring us throughout our dinner.  It just didn’t feel cool to get all touristy and whip out the camera in a place like that…

Our drinks arrived – I ordered a Negroni ($20), a traditional combination of Vermouth, Gin and Campari.  This arrived in a Reidel glass with a large perfect, glistening sphere of ice.  Even my drink looked spectacular (sigh).  Simon had his usual Campari with fresh lime and a couple of cubes of ice.  Not as spectacular but perfect all the same.

We decided to order the 6 course menu ($210 each… yes, you read that right).  What the heck, it was my birthday and we might only visit this restaurant once!  The waiter asked if there was anything we didn’t eat, as they would design the menu for us.  Another waiter (the sommelier I presume) approached and asked if we’d like some wine.  He offered to choose me a wine, then see if I’d like another after that, so I just went with it.  Scary, as some of the wines were quite pricey by the glass – ah well!

Our amuse arrived including Oyster in transparent wrapping, celeriac with sunflower seed, smoked eel with white chocolate and caviar, and a venison roll.  The venison came out on a warmed block of salt, and a waiter rolled it for us into bite sized morsels.  The eel with white chocolate was amazing.  Each of the amuse were designed to be eaten with the hands, and the explanation by the waiters was fabulous.

My wine arrived – a 2008 Grace Chardonnay from Honshu, Japan.  Very different flavour but very nice – they even got the wine right.  So I’ve already waffled on long enough and we haven’t really started eating yet!  So here’s a list of the rest of our courses with some highlights:

  • Spanner crab, green strawberry, saltbush, parsley – the chef came out to drizzle strawberry sauce into the middle of the plate
  • Marron, kholrabi, caviar, tarragon butter – we were encouraged to eat this with our fingers and lick our fingers if needed, which we did with great gusto (p.s. marron is freshwater crayfish and this was the tail, yum)
  • Fried duck egg, lamb sweetbreads, pickled onion, truffle – the chef came out to shave truffle directly onto this dish.  This was my absolute favourite with a duck egg yolk on celeriac puree, lamb sweetbread sausage and sweet onion served with fresh (gulp) truffles.
  • Cleanser – cucumber, sorbet, crushed herbs – one of the chefs poured liquid nitrogen onto the herbs which we then crushed and topped with sorbet
  • Striped trumpeter, herb emulsion, prawn, smoked bone marrow
  • Blackmore wagyu beef, rose petal, anchovy dust – delicious grade 9 wagyu, didn’t love the anchovy but still amazing
  • Beer & nuts – Passionfruit, liquorice, coconut – this was a passionfruit shooter that looked like beer served with frozen coconut balls rolled in coconut dust
  • Lemon meringue, ice cream, white chocolate, lemon curd, parsley – the ice cream was freeze dried and smashed, the white chocolate had lemon oil in it, the lemon curd was delicious and the parsley was a couple of dots of parsley oil on the plate
  • A selection of coffees, teas, infusions and petit fours – this was a chocolate mousse lamington with raspberry filling, a version of a Golden Gaytime, a honey jube and a spearmint meringue we were advised to eat last.  They remembered it was my birthday and sent out a plate with happy birthday written in white chocolate 🙂

During the meal I took up the sommelier on the offer of another glass of wine and this time had a Rose.  It was a 2010 Chateau D’Esclans, Whispering Angel Rose, Provence, France, and was another great choice.

We only had from 6pm to 7:45pm to enjoy our time at Vue.  You might think this isn’t enough time, but at no point did we feel rushed.  The service was warm, attentive and not pretentious (as you expect sometimes in places of this calibre).  The staff took the time to explain each dish and even made recommendations on how to eat them.  Even the chefs that visited our table were friendly and informative.

One of my friends described her dining experience at Vue de Monde as theatre and I tend to agree.  The slight of hand design touches and tableware, the amazing service and the whimsical approach to some seriously amazing food make for a dining experience to remember.

When we finished up, they presented us with a breakfast pack (the one picture I do have) which contained some Heidi (local Melbourne) honey, muesli, a brioche loaf and some chocolate chip cookies (all yummy the next day).  After our meal we walked out through a wine cellar (another secret passage) and were farewelled by two of the staff.  Even your coats are hidden behind a door.  Just to top things off, they emailed us our menu (hence the level of detail in this post), asked for feedback and said they hope to see us again (aww!)(but seriously, that’s really cool).

So I guess it’s pretty obvious – if we get the chance we’re going back.  As I said, yes it was expensive but I don’t regret spending the money one little bit.  Just thinking about what we ate and the overall experience still makes me salivate with delight.  Siiigh.

Loo review – definitely a 10/10.  Immaculate with gorgeous interior design and a continued attention to detail, Aesop hand soap, with an auto switch tap that comes down from the ceiling onto a slab of stone in the middle of the room.  Auto light switches on in the cubicle. Plus the view.  Sigh.

Level 55 Rialto Towers, Collins Street (03) 9691 3888
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