You came, you saw, you devoured – what a festival it was.
Melbourne, you’ve done it again. Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2023 has drawn to a close after 10 action-packed days of top-tier deliciousness from near and far, and boy, did we eat well. In March, we took to the Treasury Gardens for an Alla Wolf-Tasker extravaganza of a World’s Longest Lunch, presented by La Trobe Financial, setting a cracking standard for the feasting that would follow. We returned to the Gardens the following morning for the World’s Longest Brunch, presented by the crispest apple in the game, the JAZZ™, for a mid-morning soirée led by one of the most celebrated names in baking, the one and only Natalie Paull of Beatrix Bakes.
Over those two days more than 3,000 sat down to share something special across two of flagship events on the Festival’s opening weekend, with many more following suit in the proceeding days. The 2023 Signature Chef Series was another one for the books, with the likes of Lee Tiernan, London’s archangel of flavour and excess, complementing bone marrow and oxtail with speed metal and whiskey at West Footscray’s Harley and Rose, while Ikoyi’s Jeremy Chan had 20 of Vue de Monde’s finest chefs in go-mode for three full days in prepping he and Hugh Allen’s lofty collaborative degustation.
The Agrarian Kitchen’s Rodney Dunn ferried all manner of rustic farm elegance to Flinders Lane’s Cumulus Inc for four special dinners, and over in Collingwood Danny Bowien cast a deliciously wicked spell on vegan landmark Smith + Daughters, leaving lips abuzz and jaws agape with his trademark flair, fluorescence and more than a few Sichuan peppercorns. Embla welcomed Monk’s Yoshihiro Imai from Kyoto for genre-defying pizza (and then played host to Michelle and Barack Obama just two days later), while Vaughan Mabee packed a snapshot of New Zealand’s breathtaking wilds for his trip to Armadale luxury butcher Victor Churchill – and that was just the beginning.
Our Westside Wanders and our Crawl and Bite tours, brought to you by Brick Lane Brewing, continued the much-loved MFWF tradition of progressive dining, with each itinerary offering a one-course, one-drink introduction to three very worthwhile spots – a sort of speed dating exercise between diner and restaurant, if you will, that took us from the intimately lit wine bars of South Melbourne and Balaclava all the way to the grand climes of Werribee South and the snacking hotspots of Aintree and Sunshine.
Special Events returned for the first time in four years, stealing the show on a number of occasions in a program that featured more than a hundred uniquely delicious events. This festival saw 300 ducks summoned for a grand feast in the Plaza Ballroom, the food from Howl’s Moving Castle and the other films of Studio Ghibli brought to life at Robata, it celebrated the Lebanese contribution to Mexican cuisine at Juanita Peaches, and it did it all with big smiles and a few glasses of something excellent.
The Convenient Store, presented by 7-Eleven, brimmed with one-off delights from some of the city’s most exciting kitchen talents all festival long, spiked Slurpees flying out the door at a rate of knots over the whole 10 days, before finally, on the Festival’s closing weekend, we let loose at our new Festival hub at Fed Square for a party that simply would not quit.
The Festival Bar saw two Melburnian flavour giants become one, with the world-beating cocktail wizards at Caretaker’s Cottage making drinks alongside Tom Sarafian, whose hummus we love, but whose kibbeh we will talk about for years to come. Celebrity Sausage, presented by Bakers Delight and brought to life by the keen minds at Meatsmith, invited some of the Festival’s favourite A-listers to design and spruik their dream snags all weekend, while Baker’s Dozen led a league of extraordinary patissiers to the Square to unleash all manner of sweet brilliance before an eager crowd. That’s Amore Cheese were at their soul-warming best, tossing gnocchi through a 40-kilo wheel of Grana Padano as only they know how, while 3RRR’s Cam Smith and The Burnt Sausages had us learning, laughing, and crying with delight as they held down the entertainment from the Main Stage.
We are in awe, Melbourne, of your appetite, your spirit, and your support for Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. Thank you for showing up and making 2023’s Festival our favourite yet – and a special thanks to our destination partner, Visit Victoria, for making it all happen. Let’s do it all again very soon.