(In my Melbourne hotel room at 7.30pm, I dial the concierge on the phone.)
Me: “Excuse me, is this the concierge?”
Me: “Hello, I have a rather strange request. Do you know where I can buy gumboots? My friend and I need them tonight.”
Concierge: “As a matter of fact I do. Big W is open until 10pm tonight and they sell gumboots. I can tell you exactly how to get there. Come and see me in reception when you are ready.”
Me: “Oh thank you! We will be right down.”
Thank goodness for the concierge staff at the Intercontinental Hotel in Melbourne!
Let’s back track a bit, shall we?
I was in a jolly good mood as I was invited by my friend Lorraine to accompany her on a very special media trip to Melbourne. I don’t usually travel much these days unless I can take my daughter Poppy with me, but this particular trip was only 24 hours and was such an exciting opportunity that hubby insisted I take a break and go (yes, he’s lovely!).
So off I went fancy-free and baby-free to Melbourne, to experience the first of a series of special Audi Master Classes being held all over Australia throughout the year. Audi have collaborated with some carefully chosen celebrities in different professions to create exclusive, invitation-only opportunities to allow customers to experience a behind the scenes view of their busy and creative lives.
The ambassadors in the food sector are Shannon Bennett (Vue De Monde), Matt Moran (Aria) and Kylie Kwong (Billy Kwong) and, we of course, are in Melbourne to spend the day with the talented restauranteur and business man Shannon Bennett.
We will be visiting his truffle supplier’s farm (hence the need for gumboots!), then his private property that he is turning into a sustainable garden, bakery and accommodation retreat before heading back to his restaurant for lunch (sans-gumboots!).
The Intercontinental Hotel is located directly next to the Rialto Tower where Vue De Monde restaurant is housed on the 55th floor. Just as a quick aside, the lift numbers only go to 54 floors and so you feel very special when Vue De Monde staff usher you into the lift and have a special keycard to whisk you up to the secret floor. More on that later.
After a quick meet and greet with Shannon, our group of 14 are collected by a fleet of different Audi cars. Lorraine and I are in a very snazzy black Audi A8 car and will be chauffeured around in it all day. Melbourne is freezing, so I am very pleased to use the seat warmer feature, what a luxury! During the hour long trip we snack on yummy breakfast boxes from Cafe Vue, the relaxed sister restaurant of Vue de Monde.
Our first stop is Chestnut Hill Winery and Trufferie, which is Shannon’s main supplier for wine and truffles when they are in season. It had been raining and was very muddy, hence our little trip to Big W for gumboots so that our shoes did not get ruined.
The dogs sniff out a truffle and one game guy in the group kneels down on a pillow and carefully digs it out – success! That’s Shannon in the red jacket and the owner of the property to his left.
Next stop is Burnham Beeches Estate which is co-owned by Shannon and is a working farm. He has planted many different types of vegetables and herbs and uses this produce in his restaurant. He has also recently planted 500 oak and hazelnut trees to try and grow truffles, but he’ll have to wait 6-7 years to see if they are successful.
The property is set to also be an accommodation retreat with villas that are serviced by a worm-farm septic system (apparently the first in Australia). Shannon tells us about a big art deco building on the edge of the property that used to be a hotel in the 80s, and famous for having Princes Charles and Lady Diana stay there for their honeymoon. He is refurbishing this to run it as a hotel once again.
Shannon is very ambitious about making it very eco-friendly and sustainable, and is also starting a farmers market on the property once a month – he obviously likes to keep busy! With three children and another on the way, I have no idea where he finds the time.
Oops, I almost forgot, he is also opening a bakery on the property next month. It will be housed in the building to the left of that fern-covered tower in the picture above.
The next and last stop is to Vue De Monde for lunch – hooray! First, we take a sticky beak around the bar, which is gorgeous. I particularly like the bartenders outfits – they’re bringing bow ties back!
The dining room is usually set up with several tables, however it was reconfigured to form one long communal table for our group. Love the lighting hanging from the ceiling.
Oooh, ahhhh, the beautiful views over Melbourne from so high up.
Finally, the food!
Pemberton marron, truffle and brown butter emulsion. Be still my beating heart! That marron had been slowly roasted and was the most succulent, tender piece of shellfish I have ever put in my mouth. The truffle and butter emulsion was also ridiculously creamy and delicious. Every little bit was mopped up with bread – unladylike, I know, but I couldn’t help myself.
Beef cheek, beetroot, smoked bone marrow. So little words, so many drool-worthy flavours.
The beef cheek was shredded pieces of melt in the mouth awesomeness, with all the other elements playing beautiful supporting roles.
Apple ‘tarte fine’, caramel sauce, creme anglaise. Such a lovely combination of flavours and textures here. Crunchy pastry with soft apples and oozy warm caramel sauce with the creme anglaise slowly melting to cover the lot in a creamy sauce. Divine.
6 types of sugar and honey. Incredibly posh.
I had no room for the prettiest petit fours I have ever been served at a restaurant. But I fit one in.
Luckily, because what looks like a lamington, is actually light-as-air chocolate mousse rolled in coconut and topped with a smooth raspberry sauce. Heavenly. I wanted a second one, but didn’t want to look like a piglet.
This wonderful experience is only available to selected Audi customers who are chosen by staff at dealerships. If you are an Audi owner then you are eligible, and if I were you, I’d plant a seed that you’d love to experience this. Feel free to direct them to my blog post to show where you heard about it.
I realise a small proportion of you are Audi owners (I’m not either!), but I did just want to quickly mention that they have just released a very affordable luxurious option in the A1 Sportback pictured above. Perhaps you could test drive one then go to lunch at Vue De Monde to create your own experience :)
Have you dined at Vue Du Monde or another 3 hatted restaurant in Australia? What did you think?
Fig & Cherry travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Audi Australia. All meals, accommodation and transfers were provided with compliments of Audi Australia (with special thanks to Anna and Beth!).
Vue De Monde
525 Collins Street Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9691 3838