3 December 2006

Café Vue

Normanby Chambers
430 Little Collins St, Melbourne
(03) 9691 3888
Open: Mon-Fri, 7am-4pm

UNLESS you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Vue de Monde. But unless you’ve got a spare $250 to spend on tucker you probably haven’t sat down to enjoy Shannon Bennett’s spectacular 13-course gastronomes menu.

Not to worry. In what seems to be a trend in Melbourne, Bennett has opened up a cheaper version of his award-winning French restaurant and it’s not bad. Not bad at all.

When I popped into Café Vue at noon on a Thursday I snagged the last of five tables in the prized walkway alongside the cosy café service area. You can’t book, which means you’ve either got to do what we did and eat early or cross your fingers for a fluke.

Café Vue is an order-at-the-bar proposition and even though I was there before the peak lunch crowd, I had to wait quite a few minutes to move to the front of the queue. It gave me enough time to browse (read: drool) over the menu and display cabinet with pre-made options. As tasty as the buffalo mozzarella, olives, garlic oil and fresh tomato baguette ($8.50) looked – not to mention the chocolate tart ($4) - I just couldn’t go past Bennett’s $15 set-menu lunch box.

Literally presented in a cardboard box, my sizable offering came with two small bread rolls, a small cup of smoked salmon mousse, a mature cheese baton, a cup of Russian salad in lobster jelly, a “classic” chicken, lettuce and mayo sandwich and a pistachio cupcake.

The mousse was as light as a savoury mousse should be and with the perfect amount of zing, I could have easily eaten more. I used the remaining roll to have with the cheese and then moved to the salad. I’d never come across a Russian salad before but Google tells me it’s a “strong consume that sets like jelly when cold”. That’s pretty close to the mark and while the mix of vegetables set in jelly didn’t look too appetising, it tasted all right. The chicken sanger was a simple offering done very well and the moist, green pistachio cupcake was enough of a reason on its own to return.

I polished my lunch off with a San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa ($4) which took my bill to just under $20. I would have liked to finish with the “traditional hot chocolate – done the French way” ($6) but the office called. Definitely next time.

Considering I was eating at the mini version of the restaurant just named Restaurant of the Year for the second consecutive time by Gourmet Traveller, I was more than impressed. In the words of Eddie McGuire, lock it in.

9/10

- Zoe

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