Vue de monde
- Elenberg Fraser
- Level 55, Rialto Tower, 525 Collins Street, 3000 Melbourne
People flock to Melbourne to nibble, sip, slurp and munch their way through this city. The crowning jewel of our food tourism is Shannon Bennett’s Vue de Monde – an antipodean outpost of molecular gastronomy that consistently features on countless people’s ‘must do’ Melbourne dining experiences.
In the new Vue de Monde, perched atop of the Rialto Tower, we explored the concept of the dining destination, but moved beyond the clichés that dominate Australian tourism - reef, rock and road – to connect with the local landscape. Melbourne’s environment is the river estuary, the former river that followed Footscray Road, and thus, so is the new Vue de Monde. Harking back to pre-civilisation, the restaurant links ritual, body and memory. How have certain experiences hardwired our senses?
The river estuary experience is connected with the landscape: hunting, fishing and gazing across black pools of the billabong. It is a celebration of life, through corroboree and campfires. These experiences have ingrained latent memories into our bodies that are awakened as you inhabit Vue de Monde.
It begins in the lift, where you are surrounded by reeds encased in salmon covered leather and black floc. Exiting, you push through into the estuary proper and choose one of two paths. The first sees you walk through to the bar, a monolith of locally sourced rough black basalt, the top polished to a mirror finish. This billabong surface reflects the cloud structure above, an art installation by Michaela Dwyer.
Pieces of eccentric furniture create a carnival atmosphere – a true party in the wilderness. Wander through to a terrace filled with the blackened timber forms of a burnt-off landscape. Wet areas offer the ultimate estuarine experience: waterfalls of e-Water run over your hands over the black steel pools of the basins; the room is covered in chrome corrugated iron.
The second path is through the cellar, one wall of which is covered in stainless steel pins in a Clive Barker-esque arrangement, the other is a mirror wall. The only sounds you hear travelling through this live room are you and the people you are with.
From here you emerge into the restaurant and see Joseph Kosuth’s neon sculptures of Charles Darwin’s sketchbooks; on these pages the theories of evolution were formed. The dining room is sparse, it contains timber tables covered in stretched black leather with fireflies suspended above – clusters of tiny light sculptures by Emma Lashmar. This black and light is framed by the backdrop of the panorama room, with views out to the West and towards the river estuary. The kitchen is a campfire, protruding out allowing food to be prepared off to the side. The series of chef’s tables for private dining have intimate relationships with the most exciting parts of the food preparation cycle including the events kitchen and chocolate room – inspired by ‘The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover’.
The events space follows a separate narrative, reflecting the formal organisation of parties at the White House. Traditional round tables of no more than 8, to facilitate group conversation, have diagonal layouts. The lily pads above are the names found on seating diagrams – it is just as important who is behind you as who is next to you.
Dine at Vue de Monde Rialto and let the surroundings liberate your memories of the Australian landscape. Gaze out over the water, smell the campfire burning and celebrate life.