430 Little Collins St, Melbourne (map)
My friend T invited me along to the December Cocktail Night at Cafe Vue on Friday. Shame on me for never having heard of it previously, but here's the deal: on Friday nights, Cafe Vue stays open and hosts evenings which match five themed cocktails with five small dishes, costing $75 per head. Bookings advisable. Each month has a different theme (from memory, T said that November was "Vodka") and December was "Christmas".
As a rule I'm not a fan of spirits with food - I prefer to drink wine or beer when I'm eating. But I'm happy to make an exception in this case - we had a very fun night, loved the food and cocktails and quite frankly... $75 for the five cocktails alone would have been a pretty good price, but once you factor in the nummy little dishes we were served from the VDM kitchen, the price is a real bargain!
The first dish was a consommé of Spanish jamon with blue swimmer crab and a little ball of melon. The consommé was barely tepid when it arrived at our table - not sure if this was by design or because they had many to prepare, but I would have liked it a little warmer. Great flavour combination though...
The accompanying cocktail was called "Honey, the Collins' are here" and was a variant on a Tom Collins. Vodka, honey vodka and white crème de cacao mixed with a splash of vodka and topped with a bit of egg white froth and a sprinkle of honeycomb. According to our waitress, the honeycomb represents the golden star at the top of the Christmas tree (aw!).
The second dish was "scallop baked in bread dough". Funny little calzone parcels arrived on our plates. A quick spot of open heart surgery revealed that there was a scallop shell baked INSIDE the pizza dough, and nestled in the shell were three Nova Scotian scallops (no orange roe) in a bouillabaisse reduction. I was extremely skeptical about this rather bizarre dish, but it turned out to be pretty tasty.
Even better was the matching cocktail - "Brandy blazer with cherry air" - my kinda cocktail, and my favourite of the night. It's a variant on a blue blazer, steeped in spices like cinnamon, star anise and cloves then served warm. The cherry air was made using soy lecithin as an emulsifier. It was delicious!
The third dish was my favourite. Turkey crackers, blueberry chutney and foie gras. The turkey crackers were crisp and sinful, lodged in a nugget of mash and looking like an exotic butterfly about to take flight. My only complaint would be that the flat plate made the foie gras and blueberry hard to scoop up.
The cocktail accompanying the third dish was called a Floral Fizz, and mixed milk with vanilla parfait amour, mango jelly and a dash of soda. We were told the flower crowning the glass was a violet, but one of my dining companions insisted it was a rhododendron. Hmmm. Google Image research into both varieties does not yield a conclusive answer... can any botanists out there assist?
The Cafe Vue interior, with the behatted barman mixing up the next round of cocktails.
The fourth dish was rabbit and buttermilk pancake with green apple purée. Going from left to right is a smear of green apple purée, then the rabbit (I believe this was a cube of rabbit terrine wedged inside more mash, but I could be wrong - we were on our fourth cocktail by this stage, and we'd prefaced the meal with a bottle of Champagne), then a little buttermilk pancake, with dehydrated apple peel snaked over the top. The pancake was a little dry for my liking, almost crumbly. But the rabbit was excellent.
The fourth cocktail, the "Toffee Apple", was really delicious. Apple liqueur, butterscotch liqueur, cloudy apple juice and lime juice, thickened with a bit of xanthan gum and topped with a fabulous disc of strawberry toffee.
The final dish came a close second to the turkey in my estimation. It was a plum pudding ice cream "Alaska". Each miniature baked Alaska contained a scoop of tasty plum pudding ice cream and was finished off with a blowtorch, so that it looked like a sun-burnt Sydney Opera House... :)
Our last cocktail was a Lychee Highball, containing little alginate pearls of fresh ginger juice. Call me a molecular gastronomy ignoramus, but the little alginate pearls were pretty unnecessary, in my view. But the lychee flavour was a terrific way to round off the meal.
I apologise if my comments today aren't particularly insightful, but I really wanted to blog about this Christmas meal before the 25th! Merry Christmas to all, and let me know if you're keen on joining what will be our monthly Cafe Vue Cocktail Night posse in 2008!