It’s Not the End of the World, but You Can See It from Here
Claim to fame: The world brought to your feet, from the very top of Melbourne
Reason to go: A restaurant with both a view and perspective
To look out for: The Lui Bar is an education in itself
Never eat in a restaurant over 100 feet off the ground or one that won’t hold still, goes the old adage. Vue de Monde doesn’t move (unless it’s very, very, very windy) but at 55 floors above the central business district of Melbourne, it offers a smart rejoinder to the idea that restaurants with stunning views offer poor-quality food. Melbourne is a fairly flat city, and no other buildings offer much to compete with the sightlines, so on a clear day, the vantage from the top of the Rialto Tower is quite remarkable. And yet chances are you’ll be whipping out your phone to snap what’s on the plate rather than the far horizon.
Chef Shannon Bennett is nothing if not ambitious. At his first bistro, which he opened at just 24 in the year 2000 he brought echoes of the French greats such as Olivier Roellinger and Alain Ducasse to the streets of suburban Carlton. When he made his first move into the city proper in 2005, at Normanby Chambers, the room got considerably plusher and he and his chefs appeared more enamored of the Spanish new wave. And then in 2011 he moved the whole enterprise again into this gleaming space picked out in timber, leather, fur and neon.
Here, perhaps most fittingly, Bennett’s view of the world has turned to Australia. His cuisine embraces Asia and Italy in a manner befitting a multicultural nation, and a meal at Vue de Monde might begin with wallaby and melon alongside a beetroot tartlet with sea urchin bottarga.
His love of disciplined technique and its transformative power is undimmed. Kohlrabi becomes noodles, dressed with an herb emulsion and cured duck egg yolk, parmesan mimics snow and accompanies kumato and ume.
And there is theatre here, whether it’s in the relatively classical lines of one of Australia’s most grand cheese trolleys or the arresting sight of a wattleseed damper cooked at the table, the bread placed directly on the coals.
Finally a sense of humor keeps it all grounded, even this far up in the air, as Bennett raids the afternoon teas of Sundays long past for dessert inspiration. Another lamington, vicar?