Aaron had been craving for some French cuisine for some time so we decided to make a trip to Bistro Vue for their $35 lunches, which they have on Saturdays (2 courses plus a glass of wine). Most of you Melburnians are well aware that Vue du Monde is considered Melbourne’s top French restaurant… with a price tag to match too. Fortunately for us mere mortals, Shannon Bennett (the head chef) established two eateries in the same proximity as VDM so that the not-so-wealthy peons can enjoy good quality French fare without spending 10 gazillion dollars. At your lower end of the scale, Cafe Vue is your humble little cafe that serves baguettes, cakes and coffees during the weekday (they are also famed for their $15 little red lunch boxes). Bistro Vue fits in the middle of the continuum, in terms of price and the food they offer which is your traditional French bistro stuff – obviously not as grandiose as VDM, but the staff would certainly raise a carefully plucked eyebrow should you venture in wearing thongs and boardies.
So anyway, Adam and Matty were also keen on eating with us so we made a booking for four at 1pm. Unfortunately, Matt’s law firm decided to be arselaches and forced him to work on some assignment over the weekend which meant that he had to cancel at the last minute (he promised me a red box from Cafe Vue this week though). Given that the weather was ultra shtty, I was half-wanting to cancel as well but the fact that my mum was being her annoying self that morning and the fact that we really didn’t have anything to eat at home made me leave the house and hop on the bus into the city the second I saw her about to walk into my room again to whinge about how untidy it was.
Aaron took this photo of us standing on New Chancery Lane, which was a fine photo on its own… but I wanted to experiment with using black and white shades on Photoshop so off I went. I love the “sigh another bloody photo” expression on Adam’s face.
It was raining pretty heavily by the time and I arrived in the city, and still raining just as hard as the three of us made our way to Bistro Vue, located around the corner from the Cafe Vue/VDM entrance on Little Collins Street. Walking through the courtyard where patrons sip cocktails during Cafe Vue‘s Cocktail Nights on Friday evenings, we approched an imposing doorway which opened to a cozy dining room with rather cliched French elements such as plush red Louis XIV chairs and fittings would look not out of place in Nicolas Sarkozy’s dining room. And while some might find the setting a little too intimidating for a casual Saturday lunch, any nerves that one might have at this establishment are easily swept aside as the warm staff swiftly greet you and offer to take your coats/umbrellas/scarves/papillions. As I took in my surroundings – warm, cozy room that felt like a cellar, chic-looking women and old men in shirts and hats, cute crockery and watched the rain pelt against the window – I almost felt that I was actually in France myself.
The reason why we came here was to take advantage of their $35 two course lunch meal which changes every Saturday. Yesterday, the main dish consisted of grilled salmon which we were all going to have. For the second course, Adam chose the salad entree while both Aaron and I had the crepe suzette souffle for desserts. Of course, you are free to choose from the a la carte menu if you don’t particularly like salmon but I think most people would go for the $35 deal, judging by the number of plates of salmon that floated amongst tables as the afternoon went by.
I really liked the presentation of the butter dish. Two props for the use of unsalted Lescure butter (good quality stuff). Another two props for the use of Murray River sea salt and another two props for the pretty looking peppercorns. We were all given small sticks of warm sourdough bread on our plates to nibble on while waiting for our dishes to arrive.
This was Adam’s entree, a “French Salad” according to the menu we were given. Without any accompanying descriptions, I automatically assumed that Adam would receive a bowl of nicoise salad. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw a plate with what looked like a garden full of worms and other creepy crawlies. Truth be told, it was actually delicious. I think that me and Adam enjoyed it more than Adam did – we couldn’t stop stealing forkfuls from his plate every now and then. I realised that this was Shannon Bennett’s interpretation of Salad Lyonnaise, a frisee (endive), bacon and poached egg salad that they serve in Lyon. I especially loved the joyous contrast in flavours and textures that this salad provided: the saltiness of the worms bacon, the bitterness of the frisee leaves, the creaminess of the semi-runny egg, the nuttiness of the lentils and the sweet tang of the vinegar dressing all left me a very happy camper indeed. I guess the only thing that would’ve made it even better was if Bennett retained the croutons which are traditionally used in this dish but oh well…
This is the main that we all had. Again, the menu description was vague as it only stated “Grilled salmon and asparagus.” It didn’t warn me about how perfectly cooked the salmon was, soft pink meat all the way through with the slightest tinge of rare flesh in the middle. It didn’t tell me how sweet the asparagus stalks were, not too soft and not too crunchy either. It didn’t tell me that the meal was served with a drizzle of warm basil veloute, which provided a rich accompaniment to the fish, largely in part to the the large amount of butter they used in the sauce. And it certainly didn’t tell me that looks could deceive because although the salmon fillet might have looked a little bit small, it was actually very filling (although perhaps the reason why I felt full was because I ended up eating Aaron’s asparagus stalks because he didn’t like them).
Finally, Aaron and I had crepe suzette souffles for dessert. As I mentioned above, I was way beyond feeling hungry but I definitely still had enough room for dessert. A crepe suzette, as you know, is a French dessert consisting of a crepe (thin pancake) drizzled with a warm sauce typically made with caramelised sugar, oranges and liqueur. Once again, Shannon Bennett did his own spin on a traditional French dish. Next to a starting-to-melt scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream, two crepes were filled with what looked like shaving foam but turned out to be a very sweet mixture made out of egg whites and sugar (and probably about 10 billion other ingredients which I couldn’t remember because it was so damn sweet). Basically it was practically an unbaked meringue. While I did manage to eat the entire thing, I was positively STUFFED when I spooned off the last little bit of pancake as it was so rich and sweet. While it certainly wasn’t awful, it’s certainly something that I wouldn’t order given a choice… and definitely not after a rich meal with a week’s recommended intake of butter!
In short, great place for lunch particularly in winter as the food was rather rich. Food, good. Service, friendly. Atmosphere, warm. Tick, tick, tick. I guess my only real complaint was that the $35 menu is fixed, which meant that you can’t even choose between two or three options for each course, something that many other restaurants allow you to do when offering a special lunch menu… so I guess if you hate salmon, then bad luck. Additionally, the menu for each Saturday is posted up a week prior to the actual Saturday that you will rock up to the restaurant. While getting a Saturday lunch booking with a week’s notice isn’t hard at Bistro Vue, I know that some people like to be super-organised and make bookings 2 months in advance so if you’re one of those people, you really wouldn’t have any clue what you’d be getting when you make your booking. Apart from those little whinges, however, everything else was great and I know I’d definitely come here again for lunch.
Later that night: I ended up going back to Aaron’s house with the boys where, armed with bags of junk food, we spent a good half of the evening watching old skool music videos on VH1, including Duran Duran’s 80s classic “View To A Kill” which was used in one of the James Bond movies and set in Paris (hence, my title if you haven’t already picked it up). Later on, we retreated to Aaron’s den where we watched classics such as Ferris Bueller and some bloody Chow Yun Fat movie set in the 80s which consisted of awful Asian mullets and bad fashion. Ahh good times!