The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival opened to the public yesterday with the annual Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch, held in Prahran’s Victoria Gardens and attended by more than 1,500 people. Coinciding with International Women’s Day, the menu was designed by chefs Karen Martini, Nicky Riemer and Lauren Eldridge, while Stomping Ground Brewing Company worked with women brewers and Pink Boots Society to create a limited-edition beer for the day.
VIPs at the lunch included Bank of Melbourne chief executive Michelle Winzer, Visit Victoria CEO Peter Bingeman and Food + Wine chairman Radek Sali, as well as hospitality heavyweights including Sepia’s Martin Benn and restaurateur Chris Lucas, and journalists from Good Food, Delicious and Gourmet Traveller.
“The Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch gets better every year,” said Ms Winzer. “Pockets of greenery in our suburbs like Prahran’s Victoria Gardens are just one of the things that make this one of the world’s most liveable cities – the Festival opens our eyes to hidden treasures all over our state.”
The headline chefs of the event spoke about the position of women in the restaurant industry today and raised a glass to the achievements of their peers.
The night before, the city turned on a balmy evening for the official kick-off of the March program, with the great and the good of the culinary world flocking to The Malthouse Theatre at Southbank as the sun went down for a night of great music, great conversation and, of course, extraordinary food and wine.
For the next three days The Malthouse becomes The House of Food and Wine, the festival HQ, and for the launch event on Thursday it was host to top chefs from Melbourne, around Australia and the wider world. They came to toast the Festival with cocktails from Bar Kyoto Protocol, a pop-up from Belles founder Morgan McGlone, as well as wine from Tahbilk, beer brewed by Stomping Ground and drinks from Sanpellegrino.
This being a food and wine festival, the snacks were top-drawer, with George Calombaris on the souva and Alejandro Saravia working the grills with flair, while Shannon Martinez made vegan tacos al pastor. Elsewhere, Lauren Eldridge turned out plum tarts, David Moyle worked his magic on mussels and Sundae School rocked the ice-cream situation.
The night’s speakers – Festival CEO Anthea Loucas Bosha, Food + Wine Victoria chairman Radek Sali, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events The Hon Martin Pakula, Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood and Michelle Winzer, chief executive of the Bank of Melbourne, the Festival’s presenting partner, spoke of the importance of the Festival and food in the culture of Melbourne, and of the need to reinforce Melbourne’s reputation as one of the world’s great food cities – if not the world’s greatest.
“There’s a reason why we are called the events capital of Australia,” said Ms Loucas Bosha.
“Dining in Melbourne is different because you can taste any flavour from around the world if you know where to look,” said Ms Winzer. “It could be refined Chinese down a hidden city laneway at Flower Drum or by taking a country drive to Birregurra’s Brae for something uniquely Australian from its garden and orchard.”
Over the next two weeks Melbourne and the rest of the state will play host to more than 200 food and wine events, from lunch aboard the Mornington Express train to family favourite River Graze and dégustations with top international chefs like Heston Blumenthal. Tickets are on sale now.