Eureka Skydeck

Yikes!  The Eureka Skydeck 88

We awoke early on Sunday morning in Melbourne to face a beautiful sunny Australian winter’s day.  As we made our way up to the Koorie Heritage Centre, a short walk from our hotel, we noticed that early Sunday morning in Melbourne is not unlike early Sunday morning in Dublin; there were a few lost souls wandering the streets who appeared to have not made it home from Saturday night just yet!

After a browse in the Koorie Heritage Centre, which had an exhibition about the history of the native people in Melbourne, we headed back to the centre of town in the direction of the Eureka Skydeck.  The Eureka Skydeck is not  only home to the Southern Hemisphere’s highest viewing platform (a whole 88 floors above the ground) but it is also an apartment building, where no doubt folks have paid quite a few bucks to avail of the incredible views and proximity to the city centre.

sky deck view

Bleedin’ heck!

Living in such a high building is not my idea of fun.  I must confess that I have a fear of heights. I’ve been trying to push myself to overcome this fear by doing a bungee jump and taking a flying lesson (that was also to cure a fear of flying and I have to say it worked a treat).  But there’s something about extremely tall buildings with glass everywhere that just give me the willies.

You can imagine my horror when we stepped out of the lift at the 88th floor of Melbourne’s Eureka Skydeck to be confronted by (the admittedly absolutely stunning) skyline and the streets that we had just been strolling along 15 minutes earlier a whole 300 metres down below.  My legs turned to jelly.

At the Eureka Skydeck they offer a further experience for those thrill-seekers among us.  This is The Edge experience.  Basically there is a glass cube that you get into which subsequently projects itself 3 metres outside the building.  So there is literally just a bit of  glass between you and the 300 metre drop to the ground.  I know my limits and decided to give it a miss.

As I looked on from the outside terrace, safely secured behind chicken wire, I thought of what types of food could bribe me into putting myself in the potential path of height-induced panic attack.  You wouldn’t get me in that cube for all the green pesto/caramelised red onion hummus/toasted special and pint of Guinness in Grogan’s in the world.  Not a chance.

However, if it meant that I could have another meal like the one we had on Sunday in Melbourne’s Bistro Guillaume, I might just be able to conquer my fear and get in the cube.  For a repeat of the steak frites that I had in the French bistro, I might even look down through the glass floor.

bistro guillame interior

The wonderful Bistro Guillaume

Bistro Guillaume is a short walk from the Eureka Skydeck in the Crowne Plaza Complex.  This is a modern entertainment complex home to a number of up-market restaurants and casinos.  It shows another side of Melbourne, away from the small unique boutiques and into mass entertainment.

From the outside, Bistro Guillaume looks rather ordinary and you might well walk past it without a second glance.  The entrance is just inside the Crown Plaza and as soon as you walk in, you’re greeted with an elegant and crisp décor.  There are windows around the entire half of the restaurant that face out on to the waterfront.  We were seated next to the window and thus had a perfect spot for people watching.  (Incidentally, Melbourne is full of cute doggies in sweaters.  We saw the cutest boxer doggie with a colourful sweater that had dinosaur spikes all along the back so he looked like a little stegosaurus.  Want!)

There was a small but infinitely attentive staff working on this particular Sunday lunch at Guillaume.  We had our main waiter, a sommelier and our assistant waiter, who were polite, informative and left us wanting for nothing.  They had perfected the type of discreet, unobtrusive service that brings a fine dining experience up to another level, the kind where you don’t even know that you’re being waiting on, things just sort of get done.  Fabulous.

bread

Deliciously crispy and warm bread

It seems that sommeliers are common place in Melbourne restaurants, whereas this would be quite a rare thing in Dublin and I would imagine you’d definitely be paying top dollar for a sommelier’s service.  It strikes me that the reason it’s so widespread in Melbourne is that there are some fabulous wines from the state of Victoria.  We got the strong impression that the people here take pride in their wine and take drinking very seriously indeed.  The wine is not just a secondary after thought of the meal; it’s essential to the whole experience.  I really liked that.

That’s not to say that diners in Dublin don’t have a strong appreciation of wine, because we do.  But, after my Melbourne trip, I feel that generally we don’t  look at wine in the same way as we don’t produce it in Ireland.  It seems to me that Melbournians look at wine the same way as we look at our Guinness; the same fondness and fierce pride, and god help you if you pour it wrong!

The sommelier at Bistro Guillaume was a gent.  He helped us pair some beautiful local Victorian wines with our meal, which really enhanced the whole experience.

The lunch menu in Bistro Guillaume is entirely French, using  locally sourced ingredients.  It specialises in simple and traditional food, offering twelve entrées and six Plats de Résistance.

Our lunch was sublime.  The menu was not pretentious and the food was not fussy.  It was just, simply, delicious.  Divine even.

To start, Niall had the traditional French onion soup, which he described as sweet and deliciously cheesy.  I had a taste and let me tell you, it was super.  It was paired with the Coombe Farm 2006 Chardonnay.

french onion soup

Traditional onion soup with gruyére crouton accompanied by Coombe Farm 2006 Chardonnay

I had the unbelievably fluffy twice baked cheese soufflé.  It’s difficult for me to describe how scrumptious this was.  It had just the right amount of cheesiness to it, so that it didn’t over power or leave me with a heavy tum.  The lightness of it, paired with the delicious apple and walnut salad was just what the doctor ordered after my height ordeal at the Skydeck.  The sommelier suggested the deliciously sweet Riesling to go with my starter and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

cheese souffle

Twice baked cheese soufflé with a sald of pears, walnut and baby rocket accompanied by Macforbes 2008 ‘RS9’ Riesling
For his Plat de Résistance, Niall had the pork cutlet with apple purée and celeriac salad, paired with the Hoddles Creek 2008 Pinot Noir.  He enjoyed it, but perhaps not quite as much as I enjoyed my main course.

pork chop

Berkshire pork cutlet on a bed of apple purée, salad of celeriac, green apple and walnut accompanied by Hoddles Creek 2008 Pinot Noir

I think he was having  food envy as I couldn’t help myself from letting out all sorts of annoying squeals of delight as I got stuck into my amaaaaazing steak.

amazing steak

The to-die-for Steak frite with sauce á la bordelaise accompanied by Sorrenberg 2007 Shiraz

The steak frites with sauce á la bordelaise that I enjoyed in Bistro Guillaume was, without a doubt, the most tender, tasty and unforgettable steak I have ever had the pleasure to have eaten.  It was a Sirloin 100% natural grain fed Angus from Shepparton in Victoria,, and I’d like to take this opportunity to first of all thank to beautiful animal that provided the meat, the farmer that bred it, and finally the chef that cooked it perfectly rare as ordered and transformed it into such a wonderful meal.  Heaven.

Although the salad remained untouched throughout the meal, the chips that accompanied the steak were scrumptious as well.  Once I was able to tear myself away from the steak for just one minute to sample the chips, it was obvious straight away that they had been seasoned to perfection before leaving the kitchen.  It was only then, half way through the meal that I realised there was no salt on the table.  In other restaurants that could come across as arrogance but in the case of Bistro Guillaume, it’s a reflection of the subtle understated confidence in which the whole place seems to operate.

We finished off this beautiful lunch by sharing a crème caramel and citrus fruit salad and having a macchiato each.  Another fear of mine is crème caramel, after have a traumatizing taste bud incident back in boarding school involving one of those hideous, wobbly greasy crème caramels that it is somehow legal to serve under the guise of dessert.  I felt that if I was going to have a crème caramel, this was probably the right place.  And right I was.  It was delicious and all but eradicated the memory of the flimsy mass-produced version of my school days!

creme caramel dessert

Sauternes créme caramel with citrus salad

If you live in Melbourne, or are indeed passing through, Bistro Guillaume is a wonderful place for a special lunch.  It’s not exactly cheap, with main courses all around the $40 mark..  However, they are currently offering a $30 lunch deal, with a choice of two starters, two mains, two desserts, and includes a glass of wine, which is exceptional value.  I don’t think the steak is on the $30 lunch deal but it’s my instinct that the standard of the lunch would remain very high indeed.  Check it out for yourself if you have the chance.

More than two hours after we had sat down at our table, we headed back out to join the throngs of people enjoying the Melbourne sunny Sunday.  We were slightly squiffy from the beautiful wine and I was deliriously full and basking in the memory of my Ultimate Steak Experience.  It should have been a 20 minute walk back to the hotel but it took us about 45 minutes, as we were so happy and tired and full and content and absolutely in love with Melbourne.  Here’s me about 2 minutes from the hotel, ready to give in to the post-lunch sleepiness!

wrecked aoife

I can’t go on!! I can’t go on!!