On level 55 of the Rialto building (it moved there recently, moving from Normandy Chambers, having originally opened in 2000 in the suburb of Carlton), Vue de Monde is the showcase for chef Shannon Bennet's modern cooking. Shannon trained at Le Gavroche in London, and also with Marco Pierre White at The Restaurant and Louis XV in Monaco before returning to Australia. Four courses were priced at AUD 150, and there was a tasting menu available at AUD 250.
The dining room has a striking vista of Melbourne with its floor to ceiling windows, while the kitchen is set at one end of the dining room and is open to view. The floor was dark wood, with tables to match, with no tablecloths but decorated with a series of rocks (I gather this is supposed to be some reference to how the cooking is intended to be close to nature). Wi-fi is provided for diners, which is a nice touch if you are dining alone. An interesting additional decorative item was that my fork rested on a twig which turned out to be from a Penfolds Grange Hermitage hundred year old vine. It was revealing that the chef gets most vegetables from his own three acre farm near Melbourne, thus getting around the problem of poor vegetable quality that I encountered in other restaurants here.
The wine list stretches over 62 pages (around 4,000 bottles are in the cellar), with the cheapest wine that I spotted at AUD 45. Example wines were Marcel Deiss Riesling 2008 at AUD 85 (£54) for a wine that you can pick up on a UK high street for £24 (AUD 38), Jermann Vintage Tunina 2006 at a eye watering price of AUD 225 (£144) compared to a UK retail price of £36 (AUD 57), up to grander wines such as Didier Dagenau Silex 2004 at AUD 460 (£294) compared to a retail price of AUD 116 (£74) and Chateau Margaux 2002 at AUD 3,000 (£1,917) for a wine that you can buy in a UK shop for £368 (AUD 575). Overall, mark-ups seemed quite variable and at times very high indeed.
A series of nibbles appeared, presented on more rocks. Lemon and apple gel with oyster remoulade had good texture but rather subdued taste (5/10), while pumpkin baton with pumpkin seed and chives was pretty but also lacked punch (5/10). Much better were a venison crisp with beef tartare and green papaya dressing (7/10) and smoked eel with white chocolate tuile and avruga caviar, the eel in particular excellent (8/10).
Sourdough grain bread was served in a pouch on warm rocks, and was made in the Vue de Monde bakery; this was good but a little doughy for me (7/10), served with French Echire butter.
A dish of herbs (lemon balm, sorrel) was presented at the table, and then frozen with liquid nitrogen and served with cucumber sorbet. This dish was not just theatrical, as the cucumber sorbet had superb depth of flavour, and worked really well with the frozen herbs (9/10). My starter was rabbit with smoked potato and onion. Prettily presented, the rabbit had lovely texture and flavor, the smoked potato a nice counterpoint to the rabbit (8/10).
The wagyu beef here is supplied by David Blackmore, the first person in Australia to import wagyu cattle from Japan and who uniquely in Australia has pure-bred Mishima cattle. These are grass fed rather than than grain fed as they would be in Japan, with the result that they have a more "beefy" flavour. Mishima cattle come from an island in the sea of Japan, native cattle that were bred on the Japanese mainland with European cattle to create the modern black wagyu cattle. The wagyu served here was grade 9+ i.e. highly marbled, cooked sous vide and then seared to finish. This was served with wild garlic and cherries, the latter a clever idea as they provided some acidity to balance the richness of the quite fatty (and hence flavoursome) beef. I am not normally a fan of Australian wagyu, which I have found elsewhere to be a pale imitation of the quality found in Japan, but this particular piece of beef had superb flavour (9/10).
Cheese is generally a problem in Australia, as legislation prevents the import of unpasteurised cheeses. I did try some today as I was curious to sample some Australian cheese, such as the evocatively named Fire Engine red. This and some French cheeses were served at a good temperature and were pleasant, but did not compare to a cheese board in a top restaurant in France. Hopefully at some point Australia will relax its import restrictions on cheese.
A pre-dessert of tapioca lollipop on popping candy with fresh lemonade, and frozen apple sorbet dipped in a caramel coating did not do much for me, seeming to me to be more about the theatre of the popping candy than about the tastes, though it was certainly pleasant enough (6/10).
My chocolate soufflé (made with Valrhona 70% chocolate) already had a scoop of chocolate sorbet inserted, and the custard was poured over it at the table. I found this dish rather overworked, the custard distracting from what was originally a nicely made soufflé, the liquid masking the lightness of texture of the soufflé itself (6/10 as a dish, though each element was better than this, and to me would have been better served as separate things).
Coffee came with petit fours. Lemon jube was a sour lemon jelly, while there was an excellent chocolate ganache with raspberry puree, as well as honeycomb ice cream dipped in caramel with a biscuit coating, and a mint marshmallow (7/10 petit fours). A list of 45 teas was available, knowledgeably presented by a "tea sommelier" who had travelled extensively in tea producing regions and clearly knew her stuff.
The bill came to AUD 201 (£128) for one with a single glass of wine. Service was very good indeed throughout, friendly and attentive, with staff that clearly knew the dishes very well. Overall I was very impressed with my meal, in particular showing not just excellent technique and inventiveness but a focus on quality ingredients that seems rare in Australian restaurants.