The theme for this trip to Melbourne has definitely been the crossing off of long-desired restaurants from my hitlist. With the exception of my beloved Chatime beverages, nearly everything that crosses these lips for the week will be foreign and terribly exciting.
While I've managed to hit (and really dig) Cumulus Inc on both of my previous visits to the sunshine state, I felt somewhat incomplete and a failure of a man as a result of not giving Andrew McConnell's flagship place a whirl.
So, what up, Andrew McConnell's flagship place?
I go for my usual: tasting menu with premium matching wines and we kick off with a selection of snacks.
Paired with a ridiculously good 15 year old manzanilla, my table creaks under the weight of some olives, a delicious Coffin Bay oyster (served natural), beautifully salty and creamy pickled octopus with aioli, the (deservedly) famed foie gras cigar (foie gras in a filo cylinder) and some bread.
First course proper is cured kingfish with avocado puree, sesame, bonito and pickled cucumber. Bright and sharp, it's a refreshing way to kick things off.
Influences have shifted from Spanish to Japanese. Now we're off to China with a crab and mushroom congee that may have abalone in it (I was half asleep today; note to self: coffee first). A bit different to the crab congee at Quay, though equally delicious.
Now to Italy. I love a good tomato salad, and the heirloom tomatoes with smoked goats curd here are delicious. The sweetness of the tomatoes, the herbaceous basil, the crunch of the bread and the smokey, smooth curd all play well together.
I don't want to mention every dish on the tasting menu, but the smoked and fried duck with beetroot was just stupidly delicious. Incredible flavour packed into the duck, mellowed out with some earthy beetroot and paired well to a rich, fruity grenache.
Pictured above is the main course. Two cuts of Cape Grim beef, fatty, meaty strip loin, seared and full of flavour, next to slow-braised short rib that is expectedly delicious and fatty, but not to the detriment of the beautiful flavour of the meat.
I unashamedly love cheese and aged comte has to be in my top 5 favourite cheeses (yeah I've got a list).
Shaved, with shaved Tasmanian truffles, lavosh bread and I think what was lemon butter. Obviously sensational.
Dessert of sheeps milk yoghurt, rhubarb granita, mascerated strawberries and a pine nut granola was, like everything else, quite tasty. I was maybe hoping for a more of a "wow" factor, but admittedly it kept with the pared-back/good-cooking philosophy of the rest of the meal.
Last night, Vue de Monde was over in an hour forty. Cutler kept things bubbling along for three and a half excellent hours. Perhaps just missing out on the very upper echelon of Australian restaurants I've been to, but only by the finest of margins. Every course was excellent and the matching wines were both well-chosen and interesting. Pretty good value too for fine-dining, with around $300 getting you over three hours of great food, wine and service.