28 October 2010
Café Vue at Heide
@ 7 Templestowe Rd, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen
Café Vue at Heide is one of three Café Vue establishments rolled out across Melbourne by Vue de Monde head chef, Shannon Bennett. As BC’s review will attest, I’m not a fan of Vue de Monde, but Shannon Bennett’s take on informal dining has its appeal with its affordably priced, quality simple fare.
Tempted by variety, I was immediately drawn to the signature $15 Lunch Box. Presented in a wooden compartment, the Lunch Box contained the following items:
- hand-cut potato chips with guacamole
- pickled artichoke macaroni salad
- chicken and mayonnaise baguette
- chocolate brownie.
Disposable paper packaging - paper bags, paper cups and even paper patty pans – lined the wooden compartment. Add party poppers and a parading Bozo the Clown and one could have mistaken Café Vue for a children’s party venue. Determined to be open-minded, over the course of the meal I was able to overlook the inherent tackiness of the paper packaging and appreciate the artistry behind the rustic picnic lunch feel the packaging created in concert with the wooden box and Cafe Vue’s leafy surrounds.
My picnic lunch began with an appetiser of crispy hand-cut potato chips and a side of fresh guacamole. The guacamole was minimalist with its avocado, red onion and lemon, but its zesty citrus tang was nevertheless appealing. Contrary to the waiter’s recommendation, I found the two items could be better appreciated if consumed separately.
The theme of simplicity continued with the main which consisted of roasted chicken strips and creamy mayonnaise inside a square baguette. The baguette was very fresh and tasty, but at the end of the day, it was one of those items that you could order at any half decent sandwich place around town.
I am not a fan of artichokes and the pickled artichoke macaroni salad did nothing to convert me. Given my prejudice, you are better off making your own judgment on the artichoke pasta salad.
My picnic lunch was finished off with a delightful chocolate brownie which consisted of a dense nut-speckled chocolate base and a generous layer of smooth chocolate fudge. Although the chocolate itself lacked complexity, I was captivated by its decadent richness.
While I enjoyed Café Vue’s Lunch Box, my primary issue with it is that the portions are very small; the serving sizes are more suitable for a morning tea snack than for an exhaustive lunch meal. However, in one respect this shortcoming proved advantageous as it left me with ample stomach capacity to satiate my ever-present desire for macarons.
For my customised mignardises, I ordered the passionfruit, violet and cassis macarons. Although the waiter took it upon himself to substitute my cassis macaron for a bubblegum variety, the novelty of the latter convinced me to try it rather than have it exchanged. Luckily for me, the bubblegum macaron proved to be the relative highlight of the three.
Everyone has their own interpretation of the ideal macaron. Earlier this year, I indulged in a range of heavenly macarons in a French patisserie in Japan, and they set the benchmark by which I measure other macarons. When bitten into, the thin outer layer of the macaron should crack but shouldn’t crunch. The bite should follow with a sugar-balanced soft flesh of a slightly chewy consistency. And finally, you should be greeted with a silky smooth filling that is packed with intense flavours; flavours which can only be aptly described as fireworks when released into your mouth.
So how did the Café Vue at Heide macarons fare? The macarons had the perfect amount of chewiness but the hardness of the outer layer caused them to produce too much crunch. With the exception of the bubblegum macaron, the flavours were very boring. The overpowering sweetness from the excessive use of sugar further hindered the full communication of flavours. In all, the macarons were very uninspiring.
Despite ending on a sour note, I would still recommend Café Vue at Heide as a place to grab a quick snack or a (very) light lunch. If you’re unable to trek out to Bulleen, you will be able to sample similar offerings at the CBD and St Kilda Café Vue establishments.
Rating: 3/5 (Good)