Name: Bistro Vue
Address: 430 Little Collins Street (entrance via New Chancery Laneway)
Ph: 03 9691 3838
Chefs: Shannon Bennett
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 11am until late
Mothers Day is a day to celebrate how wonderful mothers are, and like most celebrations, my family does so through food. When I was younger we did went classic style, delivering poached eggs to my mother in bed. For many years admittedly my father did the actual cooking, but I would get up and use our 1970s juicer to make freshly squeezed orange juice.
Of course, as I grew older, I found it harder and harder to get up early on a Sunday morning. It’s just not my thing these days, and now my family is more likely to go for a lunch.
This year things moved a little differently. We didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day. This year we celebrated Fête des Méres.
Now, yes, technically they’re the same thing and I’m just saying it in French. But after the lunch we had at Bistro Vue it seems ridiculous to think of the day in English.
Bistro Vue, the more traditional side of Shannon Bennett’s great empire, is French, and so very French. There are few other words that could describe it as well as that. Cliché though it is to say, when you walk into the room you are transported across the world. The roof had old wooden beams, empty wine crates and bottles were strewn around the edges of the room, and the walls were covered in jaunty posters. My favourite touch were the decrepit wooden doors, including some that appeared to have absolutely no purpose. Just perfect.
As is de rigueur for a Mothers Day lunch, we started with a glass of French sparkling wine, a 2006 Bulle de Blanquette Brut Bulle No. 1. Not from Champagne, but as light and bubbly as though it were.
The deal was a set three courses for $100, with three choices for each course.
My mother and I started with a quail salad with foie gras yoghurt. It was a basic salad of excellent ingredients, with the sweet quail meat offsetting the bitter salad leaves beautifully. Cutting through was the rich fattiness of the very tiny amount of dressing at the bottom of the dish, just giving that hint of foie gras.
Others on the table had smoked salmon tart with crab rillette, poached egg and hollandaise. Sadly I didn’t get to taste this one, but it was presented like the most exciting eggs Benedict you’ve ever seen.
The selection of mains was universally exceptional. I had the Boeuf en croûte with pomme mousseline and red wine jus. I had a very clean presentation, but there was a slight gap between the pastry and the meat that meant it didn’t look as lush as I had hoped. Any worry dissipated when I bit in to it as it was ludicrously tender and juicy. The jus was rich and the mousseline was soft and creamy. You can tell why this is a classic.
For a lighter option, there was a slow cooked ocean trout with sorrel sauce and green beans. It had a very clean flavour. If you wanted to go the other way and treat your taste buds to absolute decadence, the organic truffle pasta with wild mushrooms fit the bill. Rich and earthy, this was food that oozed sex.
We also had a side order of spinach. Bathed in butter with a touch of curry powder, this was a dish that would turn even the most green-averse eater into Popeye.
When it came to wine I decided to stick to the Gallic feel of the day and ordered a 2008 Louis Moreau Chablis. Fruity and light, it kept everyone in best spirits.
It’s fair to say that the French know their desserts. My parents both had the lemon parfait with chestnut ice cream. A simple but elegant dish, the clean, tart lemon matched with the gentle, cool chestnut. My grandmother went for an intelligently assembled cheese platter.
I, however, went with that hero of French cuisine, a chocolate soufflé. When it was placed on the table, the waitress cut the top open with a knife and proceeded to pour a thick chocolate sauce inside. This little piece of table theatre drew groans of appreciation, and as the viscous liquid dribbled down the side of the ramekin and pooled on the plate my mouth started to water. The soufflé was light, and the sauce had such a rich chocolate flavour that I was left swooning. This is why French cooking dominated the world for so long.
Service was friendly and professional, and the whole day filled everyone with a sense of joie de verve. So if you want take a trip to France but don’t have the cash, get yourself to Bistro Vue and treat yourself, and your mum, to the next best thing.