When I signed on for a trip to the opening week of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF), I had no idea it would be the biggest culinary adventure of my life.
During its 25th anniversary celebration, the 10-day Melbourne Food and Wine Festival also hosted The World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards.
As a die-hard foodie, I was ecstatic at the thought of meeting restaurateurs, lovers of all things food and wine from all over the globe, and the world’s greatest chefs.
From the moment we touched down in Melbourne early Friday morning, we were on the move with a jam-packed itinerary that had us wining and dining for every meal until our departure on Sunday evening.
After checking into our luxurious room at The Langham, Melbourne, we were on our way to the most anticipated event of the festival: The Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch. The lunch saw a record-breaking 1772 diners stretched along 600 metres of the iconic Italian dining strip of Lygon Street in Carlton.
The godfather of Italian cooking, Antonio Carluccio, curated the menu for the lunch, which treated diners to culinary delights including a a whopping 122.5 metres of pizza, 2000 stuffed heirloom tomatoes and 2552kg of Osso Bucco.
Before we knew it, the lunch was over and we were on our way to The House of Food & Wine. This home and heart of the festival played host to a number of events over the 10 days, receiving a bold and exciting face-lift with each new event.
To celebrate the opening night of MFWF, and the first of our culinary adventure, we attended the Italo Dining & Disco Club.
This affair saw MFWF legend Maurice Terzini (Icebergs Dining Room and Bar) partner with Giovanni Paradiso (Fratelli Paradiso) to transform The House of Food & Wine into a kitsch fine-dining Italian street party.
From drinking fine wine in a paper cup to eating takeaway tiramisu on a dance floor while listening to the DJ spin vinyl, this party was unlike anything else I’d experienced. And I loved it!
On our second day, we took advantage of a small break in our schedule and made our way to St Kilda, where we dined at the infamous Matcha Mylkbar – Australia’s first matcha café. The experience was just as I’d imagined: tasty, exciting and matcha-filled.
By this stage, food babies were constant and power naps in-between events were essential. On the third day, one of our naps nearly caused us to miss out on a diverse and delicious dining experience at Pastuso.
We raced towards Melbourne’s iconic ACDC Lane, where Chef Alejandro Saravia and his award-winning kitchen were serving up a contemporary dining experience inspired by a love for Peruvian culture and cuisine. The Cordero al Palo (milk-fed lamb, slow-cooked Andean-style with bush leaves) is a must for any carnivore.
After one too many Pisco Sours and a glass of possibly the best red we’ve ever tasted, we were ready to hit the River Graze City Cellar event and unearth Victoria’s wineries on the banks of the Yarra River.
We chatted with locals, vendors and international visitors for a relaxing boozy afternoon before it was time for yet another power nap and the most intriguing event on our itinerary: The High Society Supper Club. We were told to expect twists and turns, and that we were required to dress to the nines because things were about to get very strange in Chinatown. Curiosity piqued.
We followed Google Maps down a dodgy-looking Chinatown alleyway, and wound up staring at a door with no signage. Not certain we were at the right place, we entered anyway.
There was no swanky party. Just a stairwell leading up to an empty bar.
We eventually found a red door that opened to a bustling secret cocktail and dining bar. As it turns out, we were about to take part in a marijuana-munchies-inspired six-course degustation. Think suckling pig s’mores, Wagyu cheeseburger macarons, smoked bacon and popcorn ice-cream accompanied by an even more impressive cocktail list. The Belleville and Broken Bones crew took us on a fine-dining stoner food adventure that we weren’t ready for but won’t forget – and neither will our tastebuds!
On the third day of MFWF, all my breakfast dreams came true. We returned to The House of Food & Wine for one of my favourite events of the trip: The Breakfast Club.
Celebrating Melbourne’s vibrant breakfast culture, The Breakfast Club was a melting pot of the city’s favourite cafés, restaurants and bars that served up an assortment of sweet and savoury dishes and drinks.
For 25 years, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival has hosted a number of masterclasses that people travel from all over Australia to experience. With The World’s 50 Best Restaurants being hosted in Melbourne this year, it was no surprise the masterclasses were brimming with a line-up of chefs whose restaurants have featured on the list.
We were lucky enough to attend the masterclass held by Grant Achatz, one of the most awarded and recognised chefs in the world. We were lucky enough to hear Grant’s amazing stories as he and his Executive Chef, Mike Bagale, demonstrated how they can make food float.
Before heading back to The House of Food & Wine for the final time, we made the most of The Langham’s amazing Chuan Day Spa with a dip in the pool overlooking the Melbourne skyline and an indulgent Chinese massage.
With our bags packed and our bodies ready for one more round of food, we set off for our last event of the trip: Fire 2.0.
This event was the perfect end to our weekend in Melbourne as it celebrated the oldest and most primal way of cooking. Fire 2.0 saw six of Australia’s top chefs, including Neil Perry and Brisbane’s own Jake Nicolson (Blackbird), cook dishes each over the fire.
Although we had only 40 minutes before leaving for our flight, we managed to get around to all six chefs to try each dish.