Melbourne chef Shannon Bennett is the talent behind award-winning Vue de Monde. A fine-dining eyrie on the 55th floor of the skyline-scoping Rialto building, it’s arguably the city’s best restaurant. As well as glam adjacent cocktail bar Lui, Shannon’s Melbourne empire spans Bistro Vue and a clutch of informal cafés, including Café Vue Heide set in a gorgeous modern art gallery. A passionate traveller, Shannon has authored guides to New York, Paris, Provence and France, so who better to share his take on travel and food?
Where would you take a visitor to Melbourne?
To the Anna Schwartz Gallery on Flinders Lane in the CBD to show them incredible contemporary Australian art; to rooftop bar Madame Brussels for the ultimate in Melbourne quirkiness; and to Cookie restaurant in Curtin House for some top beers and really enjoyable Thai food in a lively atmosphere.
Has Vue de Monde’s move to the Rialto building inspired you?
It has taken me on a whole new path of discovery about who we are as Australians, and about the richness of our history and culture – hence the kangaroo hides and other native design details. Having a dedicated bar (The Lui Bar) and our events space (Vue Events at Rialto) has opened my eyes to two very diverse types of service and guest expectation – both are very different to what we offer in Vue de Monde but they complement each other well.
What’s your ultimate meal?
Something simply made from local ingredients around the table with my family [Shannon is married to actress Madeleine West, and has four young children: daughters Phoenix, Xascha and Xanthe and son Hendrix]. The more complicated life gets the better simplicity tastes, so a perfectly cooked piece of sustainably caught fish or a classic roasted piece of meat such as lamb from Tasmania’s Flinders Island would be my ideal – with some fresh vegetables and salads on the side and a good glass of Burgundy.
Which is your favourite country for a gourmet getaway?
It has to be France – I spent a month in Provence with my family while we wrote my latest book 28 Days in Provence. There is nothing like feeling and acting like a local in France and getting to understand the food culture of a region and cook from its produce every day.
Any secret French eating or drinking spots you’d recommend?
These Paris spots are not so much secrets as must-dos – opulent Le Meurice, Brasserie Bofinger – which influences bistros and brasseries the world over – and either a meal or just a drink at the Plaza Athénée hotel.
How was your stay at Smith hotel Capella Singapore?
Fantastic. Capella Singapore feels like a real retreat, offering serenity in the heart of a bustling city, with a unique view out to the South China Sea. Its Chinese fine-diner Cassia was very good, too.
Any Singapore city food tips?
You have to go to the Bugis Street Markets and try as many of the different foods on offer as you possibly can. Singapore has many of the inspiring parts of being in Asia without all the chaos!
Any restaurant tips for NY?
Corton was a real highlight on my last visit but chef Paul Liebrandt recently left to concentrate on his new restaurant the Elm at Smith stay King & Grove Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Per Se is now an institution, so if you haven’t been it’s a must-do and if you have been before go again. The Spotted Pig is great fun for something a bit more casual, but be prepared to line up.
Who would be your ideal travelling companion?
Someone who sees the world in a very different way, such as Surrealist artist Salvador Dali. That would be a trip!
How do you relax?
I go to the gym every day and also go running as much as I can – it gives me clarity and helps to keep me healthy. Running is great as it’s exercise you can do in any city and an early morning jog gives you a fantastic perspective on a place. It also helps to balance out all those wonderful meals. In Melbourne the Tan, a 3.87-kilometre running track around the Royal Botanic Gardens, is ideal for visitors.
What’s up next for you career-wise?
Entering the world of hotels… In partnership with my good friend Adam Garrisson, I’ve just bought the Burnham Beeches estate at the foothills of the Dandenongs, east of Melbourne. We open our bakery and a casual café there later this year and in future we plan to reopen the hotel part of the property – it’s a very exciting but challenging project.
Thanks to Dianna Snape for Vue de Monde pictures.