Vue De Monde | Melbourne

Executive Chef Shannon Bennett is a household name in Melbourne in the same way as Peter Gilmore is in Sydney. Enter Bennett’s Vue De Monde – quite possibly the ultimate antithesis to Quay’s subdued presentation, but giving up none of the flavour sensations that Quay is famed for.

VDM is one of Melbourne’s premier fine dining establishments. Situated at a sky-shattering level 55 of the Rialto Tower, this three-toqued restaurant rewards the discerning diner’s eyes, as well as the palate.

This post has 60 pictures in it – the most of any single restaurant post I’ve ever done. You will soon see why – click in for one of the most splendiferous meals you’ll ever get to feast on.

Date Last Visited: 8/6/14
Address: Level 55/Rialto 525 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Recommended Dish(es): let the staff guide you

Vue de Monde

Hello hello

Being a three-hatted restaurant, one expects something akin to perfection. Such an experience has to start from the very moment one walks in: the moment they are being ushered up the elevator.

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Understated refinement

It all starts when you walk into the lobby. As VDM is high up in a high-rise, you encounter ground-level reception before the restaurant premises itself. Here, reception will guide you through a special elevator that’s solely reserved for VDM.

There are no buttons in the elevator, exuding an exclusive vibe. When you’re paying $240 per head (and this is for lunch, no less), the royal treatment is appreciated.

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It all serves a purpose

The restaurant employs a noir colour schem with dark facades, dark tables and dark chairs. The tables themselves are covered with refined kangaroo pelts (I’m not kidding), which are comfortable to rest your arms on. It’s hard to appreciate touches like these until you have experienced them.

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Yes, the sun does deserve to shine down on a meal like this

I’ll spare you no longer – here is the view that’s directly outside our (panoramic) window. Yeah, it’s amazing. I’ve never eaten at a restaurant so high up, so VDM is able to even serve its European contemporaries in the views department. Sure, it’s no Sydney Harbour (imagine the potential there), but nothing is quite like VDM and its unobstructed views of the Melbourne skyline.

Imagine the place at night. Magical, right?

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Start with some house bubbly ($29 per glass)

As the occasion was for The Lady’s birthday, it was somewhat appropriate to get some bubbly, even though neither of us are drinkers. Sometimes, a show is needed!

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The impressive wine cellar

Given the scope of that wine cellar though, I’m sure that wine connoisseurs will not find VDM’s selection lacking.

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A whole other side to the restaurant – for a wedding!

Vue De Monde’s menu works in a unique way: to an extent, you actually get to decide the menu. This is why if you browse their site, you’ll only see “sample” menus. Indeed, if you decide to communicate what you like and what you don’t to your server, a customised menu will materialise on your table.

Naturally, there will be common elements for every table, but that they are able and willing to do this for diners is a logistical nightmare that I can only commend on them for managing. I personally saw at least 4 dishes plated for other tables that were not part of our menu.

Uh oh, I might need to go back.

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Compressed apple crisps & macadamia pureé

The way I am, I only made one request to the server: go nuts! I let him take control, with the only specification to turn down an optional, $60 truffle course.

First course: compressed apple crisps w/macadamia pureé. The crisps reminded me of Kettle chips, and that’s a great thing. A whole lot of crunch, with a nutty and sugary taste that still managed to remain savoury. The compressed macadamia puree being the rich accompaniment, this was mopped up in short order.

As far as amuse goes, we started out well.

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From left to right: oyster | smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar | duck tongue w/mountain pepper | BBQ lamb hearts

And then, the menu escalates fast.

Not content with serving one or two amuse bouches (two is rare), Vue De Monde decides to go YOLO and decks out four “snacks” (their wording) to consume. It makes for a pretty picture – and it’s at this point you begin to realise that each of those rocks at the beginning had an oh so sly purpose.

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Wait, where’s the oyster?

I have no clue where the oysters came from, but I didn’t care at that point – I was more concerned with trying to figure out how to eat it, given that it was all shell.

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OH YOU

Well, I should have seen that one coming!

As far as oysters go, I had no complaints – zippy citrus notes with oysters is classic, never going out of fashion.

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Smoked eel candy & eel w/caviar. Does not taste like you’d expect.

A sweet outer candy coats savoury smoked eel with a bit of caviar splashed on top. I didn’t totally agree with the flavours of this dish. Texturally, the dish is more interesting with the candy crunch, fighting against the soft, buttery eel.

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Chewy and saucy, a morsel that leaves one wanting

I didn’t expect the duck tongues w/black pepper to be my favourite snack, however it won my heart with that insanely chewy texture and saucy marination. Each bite doesn’t fail to be full of juicy goodness.

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Not a fan of lamb hearts? More for me!

Given a choice, lamb hearts wouldn’t usually be on the menu for me. If Vue De Monde is preparing them however, then I’ll be well taken care of. The hearts have a bit of a gritty texture, but this is well-managed due to the portion size and suppressed by caramelisation.

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Kitchen’s too cramped, so it’s prepared at the table 😉

When I thought the snacks were done, I was left wanting more. But then, lo and behold, we get salt-cured Flinders Island wallaby rolled up at our table.

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Himalayan rock salt – rolling in it

While we’re talking about theatre, Vue De Monde is absolutely chock-full of it. While stiff-tied diners used to European fine dining customs (I’m stereotyping here) may not appreciate, this is something very Australian. Wholeheartedly welcome!

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Salt cured Flinders Island wallaby

The wallaby tastes somewhat like tuna sashimi, with a bit of extra toughness and chewiness from the lean meat. It’s good, and I wish I had a bigger (but still thin) portion.

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Now the family is complete

Now I can take a photo with the entire Brady Bunch 😀

Phew, the snacks are out of the way – how about we start on the first course?

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Barramundi collar w/lemon myrtle seasoning

As if VDM wasn’t flipping the tables enough, the entire menu is flipped as well. Sure, the desserts are still last, but in terms of savoury dishes, the heavy, rich stuff actually comes first. You never know what to expect. Case in point – a giant barramundi collar to start.

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Seriously, this is a huge portion of fish and we’re only getting started.

My goodness, this is a huge portion, with each bite guaranteed to please. The seasoning is a fair bit heavy-handed, and I found it too salty at times. While more balance needs to be exercised there, I could find worse things to complain about. Fortunately, there are none 🙂

Oh, by the way – in true Aussie style, you eat this with your bare hands. Warning – it’s hot! Don’t worry, you’re provided with a hot towel for after. Still, an oddity in a world of silverware and too many knives and forks to count.

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Vue De Monde really needs to expand their kitchen 😉

In our next entry in the “VDM needs to expand their kitchen, jokes” series, we have barramundi round 2 – barramundi cheek w/Gascony butter.

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Working the knife, lifting off the buttery soft cheek of the barramundi

Our server explains to us that there are parts of barramundi that are traditionally underrated, and one such part is the cheek. The cheek is a delicious, fatty area that’s often discarded in lieu of the main meat of the body.

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San choy bao style

After seeing the man at work, skillfully prying out a roughly circular portion of cheek, and plating it up san choy bao style, my eyes have become convinced.

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Barramundi cheek w/Gascony butter

Shortly after, my palate was convinced as well – I’m surprised the cheek isn’t used much, given how good it tastes. It’s literally buttery-soft, given its ultra-high fat content. When you’re lunching at VDM, you forget the meaning of the word “calorie”. There are no rules here.

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Head Chef Cory Campbell gives the lowdown on the Roo

Chef De Cuisine Cory Campbell heads down to our table for the next course of rustic-seared kangaroo w/beetroot reduction. There’s just something so Australian about doing a BBQ right at your table at at a world-class restaurant.

It’s just oh so right.

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Rustic-seared kangaroo w/beetroot reduction & Munthari berries

The kangaroo is done rare, the only way it can be. Anything more and you may as well eat car tyres.

Art could be used to describe how the dish looks. Understated elegance is at work here, and I did marvel at it for a bit before I actually tucked into it.

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A work of art

The dish is very simple in taste – it’s just an example of great produce, really. While I’m not a chef, I know that quality produce gets you 80% of the way – just dress it up a little, cook it well, and you’re done.

I particularly liked the sweetness of the Munthari berries paired with the dish, as it added additional dimensions to the meat itself. It would otherwise have been far more boring.

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Even the cutlery is an example of attention to detail

Speaking of art, check out the cutlery! All stops, pulled. An appreciation for detail is not lost on the eye.

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How many fine dining restaurants do you know that have a fully public kitchen?

VDM’s kitchen is unique as well, in that they hide nothing in the preparation of your food. Only Momofuku Seiobo has given me this experience (in a fine dining restaurant) You can book a chef’s table lunch to see them work close-up, I believe. That said, no matter where you sit, you’ll be hearing many cries of “YES CHEF!” throughout your meal. It’s true – they do that!

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More cooking done at the table

The great VDM BBQ now continues…

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Annnd flip…

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And serve!

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Blackmore wagyu w/beef cheek, charred onions & mustard greens

A second red meat comes in the form of Blackmore wagyu w/beef cheek. This is one of my favourite dishes – it’s just friggin delicious. I love beef cheek, and when we’re talking about some of the finest wagyu Australia can produce, you know you’re getting some insane quality.

It’s the sweetness of the meat, rendezvousing with the classic BBQ char that tips me over the edge. Sensational.

The charred onions and greens were also exceptional – this dish is pretty much perfect. Enough said.

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With what we’ve had so far, liquid nitrogen is the LEAST of our surprises.

No matter what form of theatre you had before, you can always crank it up another notch with liquid nitrogen. I’ve had a similar experience before at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (review pending), and I’m chuffed that it’s here again.

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However, it NEVER fails to look good

Liquid nitrogen is poured into a bed of wood sorrell and other bits of plantae, snap-freezing them. Then use the provided pestle and crush it all up, upon which a quenelle of cucumber sorbet is spooned in. The result is quite the sight.

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“Cucumber & Wood Sorrel” – palate cleanser w/snap-frozen wood sorrel & cucumber sorbet

The cucumber sorbet & freeze-dried wood sorrel is a delightful palate cleanser that goes above-the-fold. It’s super refreshing, which is exactly what a palate cleanser should be.

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And just as quickly, it’s gone

As usual with palate cleansers, I wish I could have a far larger portion. Easily dessert-worthy.

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“Eggs on toast” – duck yolk, pear & saltbush w/optional truffles

The clock is now wound back to breakfast time, when we were greeted with a seemingly confusing “good morning” at first, but realising that our next course is eggs on toast! In the continuation of this whacky menu, breakfast is served!

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Rich, but it’s the perfect portion anyway

This dish makes the second of my favourites at VDM – the textures are incredible. The depth of the duck yolk and truffle sauce, the crunch of the saltbush and “toast”. It’s so rich, but you’ve finished it just before it gets too overwhelming. I’ll have another three, thanks.

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Menu flipping continues – now the bread comes!

Bread, which usually comes much earlier in the course, arrives now. We were a bit apprehensive, given how extensive the menu has been so far, and wondering how much more there is to go…but once we saw the steam coming out of it, we tucked in immediately. Warm bread with butter? No regrets.

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Marron & pine mushroom cream seasoned w/thyme & tarragon

Our next course is an amuse-like marron w/pine mushroom cream. Because we’re Australian, this is also eaten with the hands. Soak up that cream, because you’ll have plenty left over.

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Marron-ated

Sure, you can use the provided towel to clean your fingers, but why not just lick them clean? That works too and it’s delicious to boot!

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“Ducktopus” – duck breast & duck emulsion, seared octopus, corn chip, dehydrated corn powder & corn kernels

Affectionately referred to as the “ducktopus” dish, this duck breast w/octopus pretty much rounds out the mains.

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Eyes: too pretty to eat! Belly: get in it

At this point, I’m in a bit of a food coma, but I was still able to appreciate this dish, given the many textures that are present on the plate. Corn chips and duck? Sure, why not! The duck is as sweet as the chip is crunchy.

That said, the duck itself is a bit too lean – I had to provide a real jaw workout.

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Kingfish, kale, buttermilk & rocket oil

We approach the last of our savoury courses, taking the form of kingfish, kale & buttermilk. I’m glad the savouries ends on a lighter note, but don’t let that fool you. This is one of the best dishes in the entire menu.

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One of the tastiest dishes, even though it doesn’t look it

While it looks somewhat plain, the flavours are some of the best VDM has been able to come up with – crunchy kale says hi to kingfish that’s burst after burst of umami, buttery flavour. What a great way to bow out to the sweets to come!

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Coconut & lemon ice cream, celery

For pre-dessert, we receive two “lollipops” of coconut & lemon ice cream wrapped in celery. These are almost certainly frozen with liquid nitrogen, as there’s almost this creamy “crunch” as one bites into them, and it isn’t just the celery.

The sweetness of the ice cream is balanced out by its inherent citrus notes, while the celery gives a fresh, vegetation-like crispness. Again, just what I need for a pre-dessert.

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That bubbly isn’t so bubbly by now…

Though it’s too late, I should probably drink the rest of that….

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Buttermilk, malt cream, hay, barley crunch

Aside from the fact that this could be a painting on the wall, the buttermilk & malt cream is an amazing dessert. There are three creams, with different textures and flavours. Some sweet, some almost savoury. Some rich, some light. Topped with a sugary barley crunch, this dessert is all sorts of win.

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Oh so good

Probably one of the best things I’ve eaten. This is the one sweet dish from VDM I would choose, if I could only choose one.

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Dark chocolate soufflé

It’s been awhile since I’ve had soufflé, with the last one at Est. When this cup of dark chocolate soufflé heaven got plated up I died a little – I was so full, yet I must soldier on. No soufflé like this should be uneaten.

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If I could lick the pot I would

Love at first bite. Admittedly, I’ve only had a handful of soufflés in my life, but this one ties with Est., and that was a damn good soufflé.

A good example should be light, airy, not overly sweet, and when finished, should not leave a heavy feeling of fullness. Despite the decadent chocolate, VDM nailed it. They are proud of their soufflé and I can see why.

With that, the meal nears its glorious end.

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Hay hay, birthday girl. Petit fours! Clockwise: cherry lamington, agar penny jellies, olive oil & caramel chocolate seashells, menthol lollipop

It doesn’t go out without a bang though – petit fours takes the form of a veritable garden of treats. Of course, VDM will not leave you without making its impression. Did you expect less?

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It’s more like a mousse than an actual cake lamington

The birthday cherry lamington is less like a lamington, and more like a mousse cake. As a result, it’s richer and denser. More bang for your calorie.

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Caramel chocolate seashells w/olive oil & salt. Only two in the picture are edible!

These caramel chocolate seashells were helped along, surprisingly, by the specks of salt sprinkled into them. I wished the rest of those shells were chocolate too 🙁

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Jelly penny

As agar is fairly neutral in flavour, these jelly pennies are more for the novelty than the taste. There’s a slight alcoholic flavour to them, with a subtle sweetness.

In the background we have menthol lollipops. They’re not quite like actual menthol (thank goodness), but more like a snap-frozen cherry candy. My favourite out of these four.

With that, our meal is finally done for good. We were given a short tour of the rest of the restaurant on the way out.

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Plastic? How about shaped glass?

At VDM’s Lui Bar, you can take a drink with the same incredible views of Melbourne’s skyline. Check out the shaped glass on the ceiling!

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Views from the other side

The restaurant has another side (pictured earlier in the post), and this was reserved for a wedding that night. Balling.

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“For the next day” – brioche, honey, digestives, granola & tea

On our way out, we were given a nice little surprise in the form of a “next day” package. It’s a nice gesture, and ensures you’re not going to forget about VDM.

Oh I won’t forget VDM – not for a long, long time. While there are a few faults in that the nature of its eclectic menu means not everything can be perfect, VDM pushes ground like few other restaurants in Australia. For me, this is Melbourne’s best, a standard for all to aspire to.

As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀

Awesome:

  • Food combined with high theatre
  • But the food amazing also
  • Exceptional service

Not so Awesome:

  • Some dishes are a bit of an experiment that miss slightly
  • Some dishes are more theatre than attempting to be exceptional

8.5/10 Caesars

Vue de Monde on Urbanspoon

26 comments on “Vue De Monde | Melbourne”

  1. Romeo Sanuri Reply

    Michael, I was enjoyed your review and photos.
    BTW. would you mind sharing with me what is your gear for shooting?

  2. Matthew Cork Reply

    Hi Michael,

    Excellent review. Your photos are terrific. I’m not sure if you’ve tried St Crispin, but I also thought that was excellent. Not in quite the same league theatrically speaking, but I thought the food wasn’t far off, and about half the price.

    Keep up the great work.

    Cheers

  3. AJMJ Reply

    I think you got special attention as the chefs do not cook the food at your table. While we had similar meals at a 10 course de-gestation wedding lunch. The food was tiny, the flavours hit and miss and the price tag utterly ridiculous. There are much better restaurants in Melbourne where you walk out feeling satisfied rather than violated at the pretentious menu and price tag.

    • Michael Shen Reply

      @AJMJ – thanks for your comments. Belive it or not, I’m not surprised that your experience was different from mine. I don’t think any restaurant can uphold the exact same standard day in, day out.

      That said, I definitely noticed that other tables were getting the exact same treatment, both before, during, and after our own food was finished. I can only base my ratings on my own experience though, so it is regrettable your experience was inferior.

      As for the food, that is something I can’t quite comment on – subjectivity rules the roost here.

    • alicia Reply

      agree, food was tiny, price ridiculous, there are better places than this restaurant but most of all, treatment of client is horrible. Staff is rude, arrogant, except one girl who smiled all the time, others were speaking as if we were at the police station and soon to be sent to jail. THis is Australia, people who come from overseas and open business should learn hospitality first! Smile, be polite, learn manners and if you do not know how, then go to school first!

      • Michael Shen Reply

        Hi Alicia, It is a true shame you experienced service and an experience so horrid that you would go to such lengths in its recount. I have to say, based on two visits to VDM over a year apart, I haven’t received anything but the most professional level of service. Seems like VDM is definitely a polarising restaurant!

        • alicia Reply

          you are right here Michael, it is a polarising restaurant. Now, think: if it were to be that good why is it that some of us see things different? May be our expectations are different? I still believe behaviour to be un-Australian. Thanks for your reply which is much more Australian than their conduct. Alicia

          • Michael Shen Reply

            Indeed, a most curious beast this is. I find it extremely intriguing that VDM is, on the face of it, so well-lauded by food critics here and abroad, yet have heard plenty of diners having an experience akin to yours.

            Perhaps I can consider myself one of the lucky few, to have not experienced such demeanor from the restaurant. Fortunately, I think we can both hope that VDM is an isolated case, and other high-end establishments handle themselves much better.

  4. Padaek Reply

    Another epic post Michael! Wow!! I’ve said this before, but your photos are truly stunning – all the photos in this post/blog are beautiful. I especially love the one of the sunray landscape view – so frame-able!! Vue De Monde looks like a surreal and phenomenal place – food and service looks second to none – I would probably sit like a stunned rabbit not knowing what to do with all the awesomeness going on. Glad you and your lady celebrated a lovely birthday. PS – that glass sculpture looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing this experience. 😀

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Thanks Padaek – I try where I can 🙂

      VDM is definitely one of those experiences you have once or twice in your lifetime. A memory to cherish – one your taste buds, nor your wallet, will forget!

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Would probably depend on when you tried to book…given it’s one of Melbourne’s 3-hatters, anything within 2 months would be unreasonable. Lunches should have more luck, depending on the day.

      Always next time.

  5. irene Reply

    OMFG. I don’t even know what to comment on. All of the dishes look like they were meticulously arranged, so flawless and painting-like! Putting this on my to-go list. Awesome review, Michael!

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