Isn’t it funny how some experiences feel like they happened yesterday, and how some feel like decades have passed? Looking back at my blog, I can’t believe that we last went to Café Vue for the cocktail night over two years ago. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago! How did we let so much time go by?
Bro, Alastair and I went for a return visit recently with Maria and Daz. When Maria made the booking, she was only able to secure us a table outside (if you’ve been there, they’re the tables in the covered alley leading up to the Bistro) but considering how tiny Café Vue is, I thought that was fine.
When we arrived, it turned out that there were three tables available inside the café. There were four tables sitting in the alley. Hmmm. Four can’t fit into three, so one table had to stay outside. Yes, we were the good table and decided that we would stay outside, which earnt us a glass of bubbles each as thanks. Yay free booze! Fortunately, we received the bubbles before Maria mentioned the waiter’s arse… to his face… otherwise I’m not sure we would’ve had anything! It wasn’t quite as sleazy as it sounds – we were just having a laugh – certainly, the rest of us were laughing rather a lot
at Maria! And on balance, talking about his arse was not that bad – a customer sitting inside threw a tanty and called the staff c–ts, so we were angels by comparison. (Thank goodness for Tantrum Man making us seem normal!)
The theme for evening was: Tales of the cocktail. When our first cocktail came out, we were told that the evening would progress from the beginning of cocktails through the years to a modern cocktail. Our first cocktail was named the Fish House Punch and was an apertiff to open up our palate. Apparently this concoction was created even before the word cocktail was invented and while it’s very potent, the flavour of the alcohol is masked so it’s deceptively drinkable. The Fish House Punch contained peach liquor, cognac, rum, lemon and lime, and was very citrusy and sweet.
To eat, we were given Spring Bay scallops with XO sauce and house made prawn crackers. These two plump scallops were up there with the nicest scallops I’ve ever eaten. They were juicy and sweet, with the XO sauce adding a rich, salty fishiness.
The second cocktail was the H. Johnson’s Martini. This was a traditional martini, made with gin and sweet vermouth and bitters. We were told that back in the day, people were accustomed to sweeter drinks, so the martini had sweet vermouth rather than dry vermouth. When I saw martini on the menu, I was concerned that it would be too alcoholic to be enjoyable, but surprise surprise! It was great! The gin gave the drink an enjoyable, smooth body and it had enough sweetness to be very drinkable. It was a very pleasant surprise and was my second favourite cocktail of the evening. As soon as I finished it, I wanted another one!
Oh, and the olive sitting in the martini wasn’t a proper olive. Instead, it was olive paste with a pistachio inside. Using the spherification technique, the olive paste had been dropped into an agar agar type mixture to form what looked like an olive, tasted like an olive, but wasn’t actually a proper olive. Neat!
The second food dish was a skate salad with capers and brown butter dressing. The skate (stingray) had been poached in its own juices. It was delish, super buttery, with the capers giving some sourness, and what I think was endive providing a touch of crunchy bitterness.
Moving along, the third cocktail was South Side – made with gin, mint and lemon. This cocktail represented the Prohibition era, and was served in a plastic bag. Goon bag cocktail! During Prohibition in the United States, from 1920 – 1933, the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol for consumption was banned. As we all know, Prohibition didn’t work for a number of reasons, and during the period, Speakeasies popped up to illegally sell alcoholic beverages. I found this cocktail overwhelmingly sweet – like a very sweet lemon cordial. It was far too sickly for my tastes. If this was a representation of the Prohibition era, I’m glad I wasn’t around at that time, for more reasons than one!
The cocktail was paired with a confit duck leg a’ l’ orange spring roll. Shredded duck and carrot puree had been stuffed into a crispy spring roll wrapper and served on top of carrot ribbons. I found it quite salty (maybe it was to offset the sweetness of the cocktail?) but it was a very tasty, posh version of a spring roll.
Next up we had a Zombie, made with pineapple, passionfruit and rum. Funny, but I don’t seem to have noted anything about the history of this cocktail, but Wikipedia says that it first appeared in the late 1930s and is named for its perceived effects on the drinker. I know that it was made with a white based rum, and then topped with overproof rum. The original cocktail is known for being very potent, with the fruit juices disguising the strength of the alcohol. Ours tasted very pineappley and tangy – like a Fruju ice block! It could’ve been very strong, or very weak – it was impossible to tell.
The fourth food dish was fresh goat’s curd with capsicum gel and rye bread croutons. This was the dish that we were all really not looking forward to, as none of us are goat’s cheese fans. The green jelly was made from capscium juice set with agar agar, and there was also a gel made with three colours of capsicum. To our relief, the goat’s curd was very mild and silky. There was a very faint after aroma of musky goat, but we all managed to stomach it, though I don’t know about how much we enjoyed it. The rocket was also very mild, and helped mask any goatiness from the curd.
And finally, the last cocktail was a chocolate flip which was created and presented in a more modern way – inside egg shells! Maria stated the obvious when it came out, “Oh it’s eggs!” To which our waiter replied, unintentionally shooting her down, “Yes. Eggs. In an egg carton.” (He did apologise later, but the rest of us were hysterical with laughter. Sorry Mazza!).
The chocolate flip was made by shaking the alcohol, sugar and egg over ice with a touch of chartreuse. It was really something! I could taste the alcohol in it, but it had transformed into a smooth custard that was chocolatey and mellow, with a hint of aniseed and saffron from the chartreuse. It was thick and silky, and everyone’s favourite cocktail of the night.
For dessert, as if the chocolate flip wasn’t enough, we had a chocolate mousse with caramelised pistachio and maraschino cherry jelly. Dessert also got a big tick from us all, being a good smooth mousse. I was particularly intrigued by the white pistachio snow – it was a very, very fine dust that sort of dissolved on the tongue. Fascinating.
We ended with another round of cocktails, a bit more chatter and laughter, before calling it a night.
I think cocktail night at Cafe Vue is fantastic for $75pp. Not every single cocktail or dish was a hit, but on the whole we had a great time. The theme changes each month, they do vegetarian or mocktails on request, and it’s held every Friday evening. I can’t wait to go again – hopefully it won’t take another two years!
For a previous post on Cafe Vue cocktail night see: Christmas in July.
And for more posts on Cafe Vue cocktail nights see these blogs:
430 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Phone: 9691 3888
[googleMap name=”Cafe Vue” description=”Melbourne” width=”600″ height=”300″ directions_to=”false”]430 Little Collins Street[/googleMap]