Well, burn our jaggery and lash us with caviar – it's time for MFWF 2024. Here are 24 ways to experience the full flavour of this year's Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.

Okay, so at this stage you might’ve missed the boat on a few things – birria from Chicago taco legend Jonathan Zaragoza, mapo from Chengdu tofu god Zhang Fa, whatever artificial intelligence comes up with for The Dinner of the Future at Estelle – and the rest of the Festival program is selling fast. But that’s not to say there’s not a heck of a lot of really great things you can book in for, or indeed just walk up to this March. You want Armenian-Cantonese? We got you. Lao-Filipino? Right here. Japanese-Peruvian? Hai! Neo-Indian via Bangkok? Heyo! Third-wave post-Canadian Chinese? Howdy! How about Cherokee-Torres Strait Islander dining? Absolutely.

Burnt jaggery ice-cream with caviar
Garima Arora is here to show you a new way of thinking about contemporary Indian food. Prepare to be lavished with delight as Gaa pops up at the lush former Fat Duck/Dinner by Heston space.

Fried chicken and buttermilk waffles with togarashi maple syrup
And Dan Hunter’s crinkle-cut disco fries with eggplant and chicken gravy, jalapeño, mozzarella and basil. And Dan Puskas’s Sixpenny mega-slice carrot and pecan cake. And everything else this preposterously talented group of people called Dan are doing for Dan’s Diner, presented by Dan Murphy’s.

Teochew fried fish cake and stuffed shishito pepper skewer, pickled chilli, black vinegar and coriander
Okay, so yes, Pam Yung’s dinner at Etta sold out fast. But you can still see what it looks like when she collaborates with Rosheen Kaul in another culinary romp, with Etta teaming up with their neighbours at Bar Romantica to host Pam and the Potato Head gang for a stand-up hootenanny on Sunday 17 March. Potato Head DJs will be on the decks, Pam and Rosheen and Romantica chef Jack New will be working the grills and the pizza oven, and wine, cocktails and good times will be flowing.

A masala omelette with chicken curry gravy and pao
Toddy Shop’s Mischa Tropp presents his take on a Goan classic at this year’s Indian-led World’s Longest Lunch, presented by Cocobella. Soaking up chicken curry gravy and eggs with a Portuguese-influenced soft white roll definitely sounds like my kind of way to spend a Saturday morning.

The Manzé x Bread Club pie collab
Two of your favourite North Melbourne flavour raiders collaborating on a handful of delight, available at the huuuuuge Baker’s Dozen.

¡Tacos! ¡Tacos! ¡Tacos!
There might be no place richer in tacos in Australia this month than Afloat on 21 March, when Ricos Tacos and El Primo Sanchez jet in to join the home side on the banks of the mighty Yarra for an epic taco party, brought to spangled life with Luzia, the brand-new Mexican-inspired Cirque du Soleil adventure. It’s all you can eat, but I reckon I’ll be making a beeline for the lamb, pasilla chilli and coffee barbacoa, maybe grabbing one for each hand, and going hard from there.

Australia’s most talked-about fancy shawarma
And now, with Paul Farag bringing the acclaimed lamb neck shawarma with tarator, pickles and saj from Aalia in Sydney to Henrietta in Windsor, you can join the conversation.

Some less fancy but still quite radical other shawarma
Paul Farag and the Aalia crew are giving us two bites of the cherry – or two bites of the shawarma, rather – you can also get your taste of the action at his Sunday Shawarma Party. (Or, better still, do both.)

Saffron-poached grapes, walnuts, orange blossom granita, spiced maple cloud
Speaking of life-changing Middle Eastern food, how else do you describe the work of Mohamad Orfali, from the world-striding Orfali Bros in Dubai? He calls this dessert he’s doing for his Maha collab “Close your eyes”; we call it “Open up and say ahh”.

A banana-shaped choux pastry filled with banana jam and golden syrup gelato
Dan Hong’s dinner at Yugen sold out quicker than you can say “let’s do a shoey of Chablis out of an Air Jordan”, but the very good news is that he’s throwing down with Pidapipo at their Brunswick Street lab first Saturday of MFWF, with cheeseburger spring rolls, lockdown prawn toast and all manner of salty-sweet snacking. No bookings needed, just rock up. And if too much Hong is never enough, you can also grab his MFWF exclusive flavour at Pida stores over the course of the whole festival. Booya!

Ebi fry sandwich
The Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street is the official hotel of MFWF 2024, and they’re celebrating the Festival’s international and interstate guests with a range of specials in homage to them across the bar, room service, breakfast and lunch menus. Grab a Neil Perry-inspired Negroni, for example, or a sandwich inspired by Dan Hong’s passion for breaded prawns.

Torta di zucchine, composta di zucchine e cioccolato
Or, to translate: zucchini cake with zucchini and chocolate compote – just one of the neo-Roman rippers Italian star chef Sarah Cicolini has lined up for her Santo Palato pop-up at Seven Seeds.

Macanese curry, butter-poached bugs, tamarind and mango achaar
There’s global palates, and then there’s Kelvin Cheung. Grab a truly international perspective (that’s truly delicious) at Jun’s x Spice Temple.

Green fig, culatello and mozzarella pizza
Lucy Whitlow from Figlia, Ellie Bouhadana from Hope St Radio, Casey Wall from Capitano and Theo Loizou from MasterChef class of 2023 are the brains behind the toppings at The Pizza Sessions, an adventure in pizza awesomeness at Fed Square on 23 and 24 March; this dazzler is Lucy’s, but they’re all certified fressshhh.

Hundred-layer paneer with saag, tomato and raisin
A hundred layers! Count ’em! Indian Accent isn’t one of the world’s most renowned Indian restaurants for nothing, friends.

Stir-fried chayote tips and calamari with green chilli and lime
Chat Thai’s Palisa Anderson and BKK’s Sungeun Mo have built a menu all around Thai congee, and the wonderful dishes that accompany it – this is just one hit among many you’ll get to try.

Char-grilled mussels with warrigal greens
On Sunday 17 March, alumni of the National Indigenous Culinary Institute take over Rockpool Bar & Grill for a one-of-a-kind lunch. Chefs Luke Bourke and Sam May, supported by Ronston Baira and Krystie Sabatino, present a menu that brings together Indigenous food culture and the skills they’ve polished working in some of Australia’s leading restaurants.

Thapdi roti, green-ant chutney, saffron ghee
Ants in the chutney. Not a picnic ruined, in this case, but a flavour you’re going to want more of. You’ll see this dish alongside equally intriguing propositions including a tuber terrine with charred herb broth and sawtooth coriander, and a fermented rice parfait with wildflower honey and water chestnuts when Raja’s Ahana Dutt joins Nabil Ansari at Sunda for an exploration of the tribal cuisines of India.

Sini manti in the style of northern Chinese pot-sticker dumplings
“They’re classic Armenian dumplings made in a Chinese style, where we pan-fry them so the base is crispy instead of baking it so the tops are crispy, with the original filling of beef and onions, plus a tomato, garlic yoghurt (a yoghurt we will make and enrich with cashew cream), and super-nice sumac from Tom’s spice guy.” So says Victor Liong of one of the dishes he and Tom Sarafian have created for their Armenian-Chinese menu at Lee Ho Fook. Bring. It. On.

Comté tart and pickled walnuts
Okay, so yes, technically all the tickets for Noble Rot’s guest spots at Marion on 20 and 21 March got snapped up the moment they went on sale. But if you promise to keep it to yourself, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: they’re also taking a few walk-ins across the day. This means you can ogle the blackboard list of vinous jewels put together by Rot bosses Mark Andrew and Dan Keeling with Marion and Bibendum, and you can also get your taste of the dishes cooked by chef Stephen Harris.

A spicy pork sausage covered in (edible) sparkles
Celebrity Sausage is back, friends, presented once more with gusto by Bakers Delight. If you missed it last year, don’t worry – the concept is as easy to grasp as it is to eat: it’s very like the sort of sausage sizzle you’d see at major hardware retailers, only with giants of the screen, the stage, the track, the field and the airwaves designing the sangas. Case in point: Art Simone from Drag Race. Her directions? Make it spicy, and cover it with sparkles. It’s quite the handful, believe you me. 

Hay custard with wild mushrooms, chicken consommé and dianthus
Nick Parr’s play Gluttony debuts at MFWF 2024. You’re right there at the table as the action takes place around you. And while the drama is fictional, the food is very real, and it’s very good. The fact that Nick convinced Rob Kabboord to do the cooking probably has something to do with it. Rob cooks at The Surly Goat, used to own Merricote, and was also Peter Gilmore’s top gun in the kitchen at Quay for many years. It’s three-hat dining meets three-act intrigue – there’s nothing else quite like it. 

Baby paua fritters
Cory Campbell cut a swathe through Australian dining when he came back, fresh from his time at Noma, leading teams at Vue de Monde, and at Barangaroo House in Sydney. Now he’s rocking Auckland, winning hearts and minds at The Grove. He’s also a friend and mentor of Clinton McIver, chef and patron of Armadale fine-diner Amaru, the newest winner of three hats from the Good Food Guide. With these two talents in the kitchen for Where the Wild Things Are, you can expect bold ideas rendered with finely tuned technique, whether it’s a take on abalone fritters, or mud crab partnered with heirloom squash and a garum made with whiting. It’s luxe, it’s rarefied, it’s going to be wildly tasty. It’s a must.

Mackerel, chicory root, red sorrel and kombu
Kanji Kobayashi left rural Japan as soon as he was old enough, spent years immersed in the cuisines of regional Italy, then returned home to open a place of his own deep in the Japanese countryside. The restaurant is Villa Aida, its food a singular proposition – not Japanese, not Italian, but powerfully connected to both through a sense of country and season. There’s nothing quite like it, and as he partners with Michael Greenlaw at Atria, you’re going to be transported to a new culinary frontier, a mingling of rusticity and elegance wrought in plates like rock lobster with roast carrot, lentils and kombucha sauce, or indeed mackerel, chicory root, red sorrel and kombu.

Might we also suggest something to drink with all that?