Tag Archives: Vue de Monde

Amaru, Melbourne

P1190048Chef: Clinton McIver   Website: www.amarumelbourne.com.au  Cuisine: Modern Australian

High Street Armadale isn’t exactly the most exciting street when it comes to the fine dining scene of Melbourne yet Clinton McIver is certainly working hard to change that fact. Once a Vue de Monde chef, McIver has taken his first steps in making his own mark in the fine dining scene after an unexpected stint in the Claytons Bowl Club. I must confess I was completely unaware of Amaru until my last visit to Lume, where several front of house members spoke very highly of their food. I didn’t need any other excuse to make a reservation.

P1190050I was rather surprised to find an ample and generous dining room with only eight tables and six counter seats holding a maximum capacity of up to 30 people. The textured render on the wall, the natural wood tables and minimal decoration echoed the minimalist Scandinavian theme that continued through the beautifully handcrafted ceramicware. P1190054The service by the front of house was friendly and personal, although it did take a while before our aperitif order was taken and served. The choice of the menu was simple. There was one tasting menu option priced at 95 AUD for lunch and a more extensive 120 AUD tasting menu for dinner. As the 120 AUD option was not offered we assumed that there was no possibility to upgrade our menu so agreed with the shorter menu. We also opted for a matching wine option which was extremely flexible. This was very welcome as one of my dining companion asked only for red wine to be matched.P1190058We had the best table of the dining room with a perfect view over the kitchen and the pass. Personally I thought it offered a better view over the kitchen than the ‘chef’s table’ which was technically seats at the counter of the bar.P1190059Course 1: Activated Nuts and Seeds – A moist savoury biscuit with a distinct flavour of sesame that reminded me of Japanese black sesame rice crackers, and Course 2: Walnut Leaves / Compressed Pear – served with a smoked eel mousse and shavings of jerusalem artichoke; served together over a bed of empty walnut shells.

P1190061Course 3: Eel / Onion / Pickle – Served over a typical Finnish bread (one of the three chefs was Finnish which explained the Nordic flavours). This was our favourite snack course with a good balance of the rich eel mousse against the pickled onion and dill. P1190064Course 4: Swede / Natural yeast / Pork Sausage – A surprise course which wasn’t on our menu which drew a close to the amuse bouche segment. The warm deep fried Swede was a perfect canvas to take on the flavour of the crumbled salty pork sausage. Not a bad start.P1190069Course 5: Tuna Belly / Shaved Radish / Sweet Ginger / Granny Smith apple / Horseradish oil – The dish was completed at the table with the cold pressed Granny Smith Apple juice and horseradish oil.

Matched wine: 2014 Le Grand Cros, Rose, Cote de Provence, Provence, France

P1190073Under the thin slithers of the fatty tuna belly was a bed of tuna loin tartare. The larger salt crystals enhanced the flavours of what was rather a subtle and delicate dish. There was a weak but definite present apple juice flavour that surprisingly worked well. It wasn’t personally my favourite dish as I felt the tuna belly could have been used better but I admired the courage to try something different.

P1190057For our next course we were offered the option of adding some shavings of Manjimup Truffle, sourced from Western Australia for 20 AUD per person. I wasn’t initially sure about spending 20 AUD for a truffle I’ve previously found to be bland but I was certainly glad to have opted for it in hindsight (and that’s the beauty of hindsight!).P1190077Course 6: Organic Hen Egg / Celeriac / Sea Butter / Truffle – A generous portion of black truffle was consistently given to each of us on our table to go with our course.

Matched wine: 2014 Tissot ‘Patchwork’, Chardonnay, Jura, France

P1190082Whilst the earthy black truffle was a triumphant addition to the gooey poached egg yolk, the true star of this dish was the celeriac. The celeriac had been salt baked before being sliced into wafer thin slithers and served over the egg yolk. The slightly charred edges gave it a distinct smokey flavour which melded beautifully with the truffle and egg.P1190084We were thoughtfully provided with a slice of toasted home baked sourdough to mop up the rich egg yolk and tiny morsels of black truffle. My only complaint was that it was slightly burnt on the edges which detracted slightly from the dish.P1190087Course 7: Dry Aged Duck / Liquorice / Kombu Butter / Leek – I personally do like my duck on the pinker side but this bird could have done with another thirty seconds on the heat. The liquorice used to season the duck was a novelty which contrasted well against the bitter charred leek. The meat, however, due to its rareness was slightly difficult to cut through despite the crispy skin.

Matched wine: 2012 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf de Pape, Rhone, France

P1190090Course 8: Emu Egg / Toasted Hay / Unfiltered Olive Oil / Vinegar – Equally impressive as the celeriac dish was this rich and creamy hay-infused ice cream that had been made from emu egg. The unfiltered olive oil and apple vinegar reduction added a combination of both sweet and savoury flavours to the ice cream. The smooth texture, richness and complex flavours – this dish had it all.

Matched sake: 2013 Emishiki ‘Monsoon’ Yamadanishiki, Saga Prefecture, Japan

P1190094Course 9: Roasted Artichoke / Fuji Apple / Verbena – It was difficult to shine after the previous ice cream dish. While this dish wasn’t bad at all, and you could distinctly pick out the flavour of the apple and hints of verbena, it was nowhere near as memorable as the ice cream. This closed the main part of the tasting menu.

Matched wine: 2010 Burklin-Wolf Auslese ‘Ruppertsberger’ Riesling, Pfalz, Germany

P1190097Course 10: A Taste of Gin & Tonic – The first of the two petit fours was a sphere of gin and tonic jelly. It was a good palate cleanser but I found it more alcoholic than anything else.P1190098Course 11: Chocolate Shiso Ganache / Crystallised Pumpkin Seed –  To finish off was a dense bitter chocolate ganache ball infused with shiso flavour.

Overall, at circa 200 AUD a head I thought this was good value for money particularly given the extra black truffle course. The meal was mostly good, although the simple mistakes on the toast and the preparation of the duck was surprising. This was particularly due to the two outstanding dishes  which showed promise of what other great things we could expect from McIver. A word of warning however for those who are contemplating on skipping breakfast or lunch before coming here with an appetite; I left slightly hungry. It could have been the shorter lunch menu or the absence of the usual serving of bread on the side, but you have been warned.

Stefano’s, Mildura

P1150435Chef: Jim McDougall  Website: www.stefano.com.au Cuisine: Modern Italian

So my wife and I finally got around to organising our honeymoon a year from our wedding and we opted for a rather unconventional road trip from Melbourne up to Uluru. Whilst the focus of the trip was to explore the red centre of Australia, it would have been very out of character for us to miss out on some culinary indulgence. As our first stop was in Mildura I wasted no time in booking a table at the town’s oldest and most prestigious fine dining institution, Stefano’s. From humble beginnings since his arrival in Australia in 1974, Stefano de Pieri has built an empire in Mildura including a restaurant, cafe, bakery and brewery. He has since handed over the reins of the restaurant to his former apprentice and chef at Vue de Monde, Jim McDougall, propelling the restaurant from rustic Italian cooking to a modern cuisine.

P1150441The dining room of the main restaurant is located in the cellar of the building and as you can see it did make a fantastic venue for a romantic and intimate meal. But beware when making your reservation for there is also a modern room at the end of the long corridor with better lighting which sadly did not retain that rustic cellar atmosphere. If you have a table for two people you’ve probably got a good chance in avoiding the modern room and knocking your head on its low beamed entrance. P1150436We arrived a little early and were escorted to our table ducking our heads under the (fortunately padded and leather clad) beams. It didn’t take long before two selections of butter were brought out with some bread. My wife’s olfactory senses immediately picked up the white truffle that had been infused into one of the butter before it even landed on our table. We hardly touched the other butter that had been whipped with saltbush. It was actually pretty good but it wasn’t truffle after all, and my wife does do a good impression of a truffle pig at the best of times.

P1150444We opted for the white sourdough bread which was decent but nothing extraordinary. The service was friendly and relaxed, although the attention to detail of the front of house had room for improvement. For example, on more than one occasion my matching wine had not been timed well and poured too early or late. I also felt that the front of house were not well rehearsed with the content of the menu, often lacking in descriptions or details of the course.

P1150466As it was a Saturday night, we had the choice of either a six-course or eight-course degustation menu. We didn’t hesitate in splurging out for the latter since this was our honeymoon. As usual we were asked whether we had any allergies or dietary requirements and on this occasion my wife informed them that she was pregnant. Our waitress frowned when we mentioned no raw meat and seafood, and soft cheese. She continued on to tell us that they could not substitute the charcuterie amuse bouche which naturally annoyed us at the price tag we were paying. To further add to our annoyance, she said she would try and get one of the main courses substituted but that never came to fruition. Lucky we didn’t have any allergies. P1150450Our first amuse bouche of the evening was a couple of slices of Cured Kangaroo. They still insisted serving us two portions despite knowing my wife couldn’t have any of it. In all fairness, it was pretty average. It was a bit like a flavourless jerky with a hint of sweetness. Next course please.

P1150452Some Roasted Pumpkin seeds with Paprika which was a nice snack that would have gone better with a beer and not at a fine dining establishment.

P1150453A trio of bite size meaty selections including chicken liver parfait encased in a beetroot gel, duck rillettes and pork wrapped in prosciutto. The parfait was rather too soft and I struggled getting it off the plate with the stick. I did enjoy the progression of flavours with the salty prosciutto being the tastiest item but they were all cold.

P1150456The last instalment of the amuse bouche, Tomato Gazpacho, was exactly what it said on paper. It was a celebration of tomato from the region, served as a sauce, sorbet and raw. This was far more enjoyable and even my wife who is normally not keen about tomatoes enjoyed it. Good acidity and use of textures. A perfectly refreshing dish to cleanse the palate before the first course.

P1150459I could see the influence of Vue de Monde in the first course of the Wild Cowal Lake Yabbie, Cod Liver Parfait, Bulrush and Grapes which was accompanied with a glass of the 2009 Huia Gewurtztraminer, Marlborough. However, I really did not like this dish at all. The parfait had a texture of butter which was quite unpleasant and I couldn’t understand why slices of grapes were on this plate. The worst bit was the yabbie which was cold and flavourless.

P1150462A fairly average salad was presented as part of the second course to go with…

P1150465Kangaroo Carpaccio served on a Murray River Salt Block, another dish my wife could not eat. Lucky she had some salad at least. Unfortunately, I left the carpaccio too long on the salty block making it inedible as I was getting quite upset with the service here. My wife didn’t want to make a fuss so I grinned when the waitress came to pick up the empty plate asking both of us how the dish was. Lovely, just lovely.

P1150467The cooking under McDougall may have departed from being rustic but this restaurant was undeniably Italian. The Agnolotti of Smoked Sheep’s Cheese, Smoked Butter, Sweetbreads and Black Garlic was by far the best dish of the evening. I couldn’t quite pick out the black garlic but I loved how the creamy cheese and butter married with the salty sweetbread. The pasta, to their credit, was cooked perfect – al dente, but then with stefano’s heritage I wouldn’t have expected any less.

P1150472I expected to see a risotto dish next but instead we had Loxton Pork, Celeriac, Fermented Cucumber and Cider with a glass of 2013 Rieslingfreak No. 5. The pork was dry in texture yet had a very oily coating. Maybe it had been left in the frying pan too long? Who knows. The riesling certainly did a good job to wash down that oiliness.

P1150475The waiting time at this point increased two-folds and it took over forty minutes before we had the Ikejime Murray Cod, Quinoa, Bone Marrow and Inland Sea Plants with one of my favourite wine, 2010 Toolangi Estate Pinot Noir. Other than reading out the dish as it was being presented, there was no effort to explaining what “ikijime” meant (fortunately I knew as I am Japanese). I did enjoy the quinoa soaking up the sticky sauce with the cod fillet. A bold move in matching the dish with a pinot noir but it worked well with the bone marrow.

P1150479On to the main course of the evening starting with the Roasted Duck, Roasted Malt, Buckwheat Popcorn and Fig which I opted for after my wife was told it would be a shame if it was cooked well done as she would have to request given the pregancy, as the chef recommended it was only done pink. I felt the sweetness of the delicious fresh fig was lost amongst the heavy malt sauce, adding only a fibrous texture to the dish. However the meat was cooked well and I really enjoyed the buckwheat popcorn. The malt sauce did seem to dominate the palate and overall, I thought, overshadowed the mallard. P1150481My wife had the Dry Aged Mallee Beef with Variations of Onion. The meat was lovely and sweet. She did have to request it well done, which is not her usual preference, but still found it very juicy and flavoursome. The various preparations of onions was lovely but nothing particularly special.P1150485We opted for an extra cheese course which was, for me, the Whipped gorgonzola, honey, pistachio and crushed lavosh with…

P1150483… some brioche to spread the cheese on. Overall, I found this too sweet for my liking. I prefer my cheese to be much more savoury… stinky… cheesy. They kindly substituted some parmesan cheese for my wife, although it didn’t really work. However, kudos was given for the attempt.

P1150488A palate cleanser ensued by the name of Michael Keenan Citrus. Again, no explanation was given as to who Michael Keenan was but at a wild guess I assume he was a citrus grower from the region? It consisted of two types of citrus jubes containing a lemon and mandarin juice. A superb palate cleanser that burst with an intense flavour and left a refreshing note that didn’t distract the palate from the next dish. Wow!

P1150490The first sweet course of the evening was the Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Desert Lime, Basil & Caramel matched with the 2013 Mount Horrocks Cordon-Cut Riesling. A rather odd combination of a buttery panna cotta with an extremely intense citrus flavour that tingled your tongue. I’m still undecided as to whether I liked it or not, and visually you’d agree that it was not very interesting.

P1150492The last course was a celebration of plum with the Plum Dried for 6 Hours, Black Sesame & Green Tea with a glass of… guess what? Japanese Hakutsuru Plum Wine of course! The depth of flavour from the plum purée and jelly was divine and its sharp contrast to the sweet black sesame was spot on. I did however wish that there was a nice big dollop of plum ice cream to hold everything together.

P1150495The meal finished with a beautifully carved wooden tray containing Potato & Nutella, Jubes, Lavendar & Caramel. 

I was generally disappointed with the overall experience here and my wife even more so after some fond memories she had from her last meal here a few years ago. If I put aside some fundamentally flawed service we had here tonight ranging from the restaurants inflexible approach to the inconsistent level of attention, the food here was very mixed. At one end you had some decent dishes like the agnolotti and the palate cleanser, yet on the other hand you had utterly flavourless dishes like the yabbie and the kangaroo carpaccio. Let’s hope our experience that night is a result of some teething issues from the change in style and direction of the restaurant because otherwise I certainly think the $400 bill was absurd for what you got.

Vue de Monde, Melbourne

VDM001Chef: Shannon Bennett  Website: www.vudedemonde.com.au  Cuisine: Modern French

I’ve always regarded Vue de Monde very highly ever since my first visit back in 2010. Of the handful of restaurants I visited with my wife during that trip, Shannon Bennett was the only one who managed to excite my palate with his food following the disappointing meals at Cutler & Co and the highly acclaimed Quay. How Vue de Monde has not dominated the Gourmet Traveller list is still beyond me. I guess it’s one of those unexplainable mysteries in life, just like how Iggy’s in Singapore made the San Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants list when I wouldn’t even consider them in my top 200.

P1130311Since my last visit I had heard via my wife (who took a sneaky meal there with my father in law in my absence) that Vue de Monde had gone up in the world. Literally! Since my last visit, Vue de Monde had moved from their humble digs on Little Collins Street to the 55th floor of the Rialto, previously the observation deck. According to my wife, Vue de Monde was now complete. Not only did it have the best food and service in Australia, it also had a spectacular view and aesthetic of a modern fine dining restaurant. One that was on par with many great names in the world. Obviously I was keen to return. Sadly it was a couple of years later that we finally had the opportunity to return in style by hiring their private Dom Pérignon room for our wedding guests as a number of them had flown all the way from the many corners of the world. Some of my guests had also visited Quay and the Royal Mail Hotel a few days before so I was very keen to hear their opinion as it had been a couple of years since my wife and I had been to either. Suffice to say, our guests were blown away immediately at the start of our meal by the stunning view of Melbourne by night as a backdrop.

P1130297Upon arriving at the restaurant via a dedicated express lift, diners have the option of commencing the evening with an aperitif at the Lui bar. Given the big group we had, I knew that getting everyone there on time would be a struggle so reserving a section to start the evening was a great suggestion by the manager. As a bonus we got to try some of their delicious and unique cocktails. After taking what felt like a few hundred photos of the view, we were finally escorted through the wine cellar to their restaurant and into the private dining room. P1111111Photo courtesy of Dianna Snape

I was very fond of their Paul Smith designed chairs when they were at Little Collin Street (which consequently were flogged off and my wife refused to let me bid) but I liked their futuristic aesthetical transformation. At first glance the room looked slightly cold and modern but at closer inspection you began to comprehend there was much more to it. The thought and attention gone into Ross Didier’s sophisticated furnitures embodied and captured the spirit and soul of Australia. This was Australiana without being kitch and I loved it.

P1130300The armchairs had been upholstered in kangaroo leather and skin, making it extremely comfortable for the six hour tasting menu we were about to embark on. The conventional table linens had been replaced by a stitched dark and textured kangaroo hide which covered the entire table, perfect to lean on with your elbows. Even the pebbles scattered across the table turned out to be more than decoration and played an integral part of the meal as the night progressed and the menu unfolded.


A glass of NV Larmandier Bernier ‘Cuvée Vue de monde’ Vertus Champagne AOC, France was poured out for everyone to start the evening with some hand-cut parsnip chips and a macadamia and apple dip.P1100734The meal then kicked off with an array of amuse bouches starting with Smoked eel, white chocolate and caviar. This had a good textural contrast of the brittle caramelised coating and soft eel inside, although for me there wasn’t enough seasoning coming from the caviar.

P1100741This was followed by Salt cured Wallaby and wasabi. The dried meat reminded me of a very high quality bresaola. I thought the wasabi was a very clever addition as it cut nicely into the meat.

P1100737The Truffle marshmellow had a nice crunch from the bread crumbs although the truffle was a bit lost for me.

P1100732Lastly we were served a Carrot with egg and brown butter emulsion and oyster. It had a good level of sweetness. This was an interesting dish and the flavours reminded me a lot of the langoustine from Noma (of course with at least one major difference!).

There were a few options available from the menu but we all opted for the most comprehensive package of the 10-course degustation menu ($250) with matching wine ($150). A couple of my guests matched their meal with teas, something up and coming in Australia which appeared to work really well.

P1100749To match our first course of Roasted marron with tarragon butter, we were poured a glass of what I call butter on a stick, 2010 Domaine Bachelet-Monnot, Puligny-Montrachet, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy, FranceThe tea sommelier on the other hand served a pot of Tie Guan Yin, Oolong, China. The plump freshwater marron tail sourced from Western Australia was handled with the utmost respect, and it was lightly roasted to keep it moist and juicy. We were advised to pick up the marron tail with our fingers and dip it into the rich toffee-like tarragon brown butter and the intense marron salt. On the side was a sandwich of crispy kohlrabi with a creamy marron filling. It was a very good dish. Shame they didn’t have two tails! P1100755Next up was the Duck yolk, pork, green beans and mint matched with a generous glass of 2003 Dom Pérignon, Épernay, Champagne AOC, France and for the tea lovers a Yunnan White, White Tea, China. The fresh mint cut through the creamy yolk. The yolk had been poached at 58 degrees celsius so that it oozed beautifully over the crispy pork and green beans. The only thing I felt was missing to this delicate dish was a bit more seasoning. Overall I didn’t feel there was enough pork for that seasoning element. So close to a perfect dish. What a shame!

P1100763I was very surprised with the next installment. Whilst strictly not a dish, I feel it deserves a special mention. Head Chef Cory Campbell came in with a wooden bucket on a trolley. It contained the luxurious Échiré butter, typically served in three star establishments in France and a long standing favourite amongst the European royalties. He scooped out a few quenelle and served it with a beer and fennel sourdough. As mentioned countless times, I’m partial to good butter and bread, and this was delicious. I almost forgot the mother tongue of Vue de Monde was French, despite the evident Australian twang.

P1100775The next dish of Melbourne onion soup illustrated this juxtaposition. Charactertistic of Bennett, he displayed his interpretation on classic French cuisine by adding a local twist, using an instrument that would normally make the Melbournian’s favourite beverage: a coffee siphon. The onion consommé which had been brewed in advance for 48 hours at 96 degrees celsius was heated up using a blowtorch, forcing the liquid to slowly cascade to the top where it was infused with fennel herb and caramlised onion.

P1100781The mixture was then poured into each individual’s bowl over an onion prepared in multiple ways – charred, pickled, crisped and poached. The finishing touches included shavings of comté cheese, crispy croutons and macadamian gel set in agar. The result was a remarkably sweet and intense onion soup which had the right balance of cheese and variety of textures. I always find it quite risky to serve soup at a fine dining restaurant but this dish was outstanding and inspired. It was remarkable.

P1100793Next up was Sweet baby corn, brown butter and black truffle, served with a glass of the locally famous 2000 Yarra Yering ‘Dry White Wine No.1’, Yarra Valley, Victoriaor a rather surprising Zealong, Oolong Tea, New Zealand. I had no clue New Zealand produced oolong tea but even more astonishing was that the black truffles sourced from Western Australia were from the same specie as the highly prized Perigord truffles (tuber melanosporum). The baby corn cob cooked and presented in its husk with the brown butter emulsion had bursts of flavours; so much so that I ate the husk as well! The black truffle shavings added an earthy element to this simple yet delicious dish.

P1100811It’s not uncommon to have a second palate cleanser between segments of the meal although Vue de Monde is the only place I know that does this in Australia. A bowl containing a beautiful herb and flower salad was presented. Liquid nitrogen was then poured over the top, and the instantly frozen salad subsequently shattered using a wood pestle. Once settled, a quenelle of Grapefruit and lime sorbet was placed on top to produce a very refreshing palate cleanser.

P1100818Following such a invigorating palate cleanser, the first of the three main dishes was Prawn, nettle, young garlic, smoked barramundi, lettuce, served with one my favourite local wine of 2010 Kooyong Estate, Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria or Woojeong, Green Tea, South Korea. This was another classic Australian dish where the prawn, sourced from Mackay, was prepared “on the barbie” to give a smokey taste and smell. It was accompanied by a clean and flavoursome Barramundi which had been preserved using the Japanese method of “iki jime” (spike to the brain) in order to retain freshness, flavour and most importantly kill the fish in the most humanely possible way. The prawn and fish were served on a bed of garlic purée, with garnishes of nettle, young garlic, kale, lettuce and broccoli that provided some textural contrast and sharpness to the dish. Possibly the best barramundi I’ve tasted to date.

P1100825Finally on to some red meat with the Flinders Island Lamb, olive, Australian anchovies, mustard. The lamb was served two ways – a roasted loin and a crispy belly – and certainly melted in your mouth. Just like the wallaby I had tried at Attica from Flinders Island, it was of superb quality. I was not very fond of the crust of seeds around the belly however and would have preferred a naturally crispier skin. Whilst the lamb was superb in quality, I thought the overall flavour was quite average. The matching wine was 2011 Thousand Candles, Shiraz Pinot Noir Sauvignon Blanc, Yarra Valley, Victoria and Kaga Bocha Hojicha, Roasted Green tea, Japan.

P1100830I had some great memories from the wagyu course I had here last time and was hoping to see it appear in the menu again. I was in luck, or so I thought with the Blackmore Wagyu, beetroot, saltbush, BBQ sauce, truffle.The cheek and tenderloin of the locally reared beef was riddled in marble and melted in your mouth. The sweet home made BBQ sauce was lovely on its own but I felt it completely dominated everything else on the dish from the saltbush and beetroot purée to the black truffle shavings. What’s more, I felt there was not enough seasoning on the dish. The glass of 2008 Querciabella ‘Camartina’, Maremma Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italywas a consolation and a rather smokey Lapsang Suchong, Black tea, China was matched for the tea drinkers.

P1100849Some cheese and a glass of 1988 Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port, Douro, Portugal to cheer me up from the lacklustered two courses. The cheese was decent and I was very impressed that they actually had a tea to match the cheese course with the Hong Shui, Oolong tea, Taiwan.

P1100862The third and last palate cleanser of Passionfruit, liquorice and coconut “beer”. I don’t particularly like liquorice but thought it worked really well as an aftertaste with the passionfruit and coconut sorbet.

P1100866My favourite course of the evening was the first dessert course of Strawberries and cream served with a rather delicious 2006 Dr Loosen, Riesling Beerenauslese, Mosel Saar Ruwer Qmp, Germany. It had nailed all the elements from the creamy ice cream, crunchy and chewy meringue to the fragrance emanating from the cold shavings of frozen strawberries. The icing on the cake was the natural sweetness coming from the strawberries which was divine. I was impressed at how such a simple dish could be so delicious.

P1100876It was a shame that a few of my guests had to rush home before having the last dessert as they needed to relieve their babysitters from their kids. Well… It was 1.30am after all (we started the evening at 6pm). The Chocolate soufflé chocolate mousse, crème anglaise was rather decadent and luxurious, and a not so subtle reminder of the French influence in Bennett’s cuisine. It was definitely in the best five soufflé I’ve had. The crème anglaise was much needed to balance against this imposing tower of chocolate sweetness. I would however say that the combination of this and the 2009 Domain Madeloc, Banyuls Cirera, Languedoc-Roussillon, France was overall too sweet but I won’t lie; I did scrape the ramekin. This was perhaps the one course I would have preferred to have had the tea option as the Dian Hong Gold buds, Black tea, China with a hint of citrus note appeared to go down really well for my two friends.

P1100880We finished the evening with an array of Australiana themed petit fours. Whilst the waiter explained what they were, my wife had to explain the “cultural” significance of each item to our foreign guests as we appreciated it was not necessarily obvious. We were served: chocolate mousse lamingtons with raspberry coulis inside (a typical Australian cake), musk flavoured eucalptus leaves, gin jellied one penny coins (used to play two-up, a traditional Australian gambling game which is now illegal except on Anzac day) and eucalyptus flavoured sorbet balls.

P1100771It was close to 2am when we finally got the bill. I appreciate that the same meal would have probably taken a couple of hours less had we been in a smaller group but we enjoyed every minute of the privacy in the majestic Dom Perignon room with our private view into the kitchens. We left with some goodie bags which contained some brioche bread, tea, honey and muesli. A lovely touch indeed but had the whole experience lived up to my expectation? I thought the food on the whole was great and the service stepped up a notch from our last visit as it was flawless throughout the evening. Nothing seemed too much of an effort for the exceptional front of house team and we were all impressed.P1100823There was of course the matter of the two disappointing meat courses, and I noticed across my two meals there that there was a tendancy to incorporate emulsions repeatedly which felt tiring after a while, both in terms of texture and flavour. Saying that, there were a couple of innovative dishes that were exceptional like the marron tail, onion soup and the strawberry & creams dish. I left the restaurant content that evening with the overall experience and my guests certainly thought it was the best meal they had in Australia. But compared to my experience at Attica a couple of weeks later (see review on this website), I felt the latter had made greater strides in evolving its dishes since my last visit. I know it’s like comparing apples and bananas. Regardless, to me these two restaurants are currently my favourite in Australia and by quite some distance.