Published on 12 October 2021
A picnic consists of three things; company, a rug and a meal. But a great picnic? For us it’s that same good company, a rug big enough for five, and a meal that celebrates and supports the food and drink community in Melbourne.
The company (and the rug) is up to you, of course, but we’ve got some suggestions about the food and drink side of things that should prove useful, and we’ve laid them out according to what sort of picnic you’re throwing (and when). Dig in.
The Early Bird
Worms might not be on the menu (no judgement) but when you’re trying to land a sweet site in a sought-after spot when the weather is good, there’s much to be said for an early start. If you’re looking to beat the crowd and go for some AM-leaning picnicking, here’s three sure bets for loading up the basket.
Start your day out west eating bagels with all the trimmings. Migrant Coffee’s picnic pack includes four bagels with fresh salad, pastrami, smoked salmon, sliced leg ham and cheese. Accompaniments of atchara, chicharron and polvoron keep flavour front-and-centre. Add in some canned (Victorian) prosecco and bottles of orange juice, and you’ve got Mimosas to make your morning. (PSA: bubbles before juice, friends, bubbles before juice.)
Migrant Coffee picnic pack, $100 for four, migrantcoffee.com
Elsternwick’s Carter Lovett will kickstart your day with activated-almond bircher, house-made friands, pastries, egg sandwiches and soba noodle salad (with a vegan option too). If you’re more the later-to-rise type, too, Carter Lovett has you covered with lunch boxes to go.
Carter Lovett breakfast box, $70 for two ($30 per additional person), carterlovett.com.au
Morning tea platters from Earl Canteen feature local, seasonal produce and are made fresh, by hand, every day. Will your brunch be sweet and fruity, slightly savoury or packed full of baked goods? It’s win-win-win.
Earl Canteen Morning Tea Platters, from $50, earlcanteen.foodstorm.com
You’re inclined to roll out the rug and set yourself up for a long, lazy day - and these grazing platters suit you right down to the ground.
Le déjeuner sans la Tour Eiffel? Entrecôte is serving up a Parisian pique-nique without the tourists and hagglers. Quiche Lorraine and charcuterie, Victorian camembert served with a baguette, grapes and strawberries, and of course, macarons and tarts for a sweet finish. Best enjoyed shoulder-to-shoulder in King’s Domain Park with cafe tables and bistro chairs available to hire from Entrecôte.
Parisian pique-nique by Entrecôte, $94.90 for two, entrecote.com.au
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Jerry Mai understands sunny days feel few and far between at the moment. When we’re lucky enough to see rays poke through the clouds, head straight to the park; Bia Hoi will sort out the food. This Vietnamese spread is as refreshing as it is delicious. Spring rolls, mini banh mis and chicken and avocado rice paper rolls are finger food at its best, especially when they’re accompanied by sugarcane prawns and Mai’s fried chicken.
Bia Hoi picnic pack, $55 for two or three, biahoibar.com.au
Take your picnic waterside, breathe in the sea air and devour the Elwood Bathers’ seafood picnic. Prawns, Marie Rose sauce and oysters with mignonette will quickly remind you of all the reasons why you love the warmer weather. You’ll want to dip your toes in before you even get to the smoked salmon, sour cream, caper berries and cornichons.
Elwood Bathers’ seafood picnic, $125, elwoodbathers.com
A Bahari picnic gives you the liberty to design your own picnic from their takeaway and feasting menus. They guarantee their slow-roasted lamb shoulder and fasolakia-style green-bean salad are picnic friendly - all you need to do is remember the cutlery.
Matilda 159 Domain
The Matilda picnic box is the image that comes to mind when you picture a top-tier picnic, and the restaurant’s prime spot right over the road from the Botanic Gardens doesn’t hurt, either. Duck rillettes, chicken and chive sandwiches, potato salad and house-cured meats? Yes please.
Matilda picnic box, $70 for two, matilda159.com
Bread is often pigeonholed at picnics as the vehicle to transport ingredients from rug to mouth. What happens when bread becomes the hero? Bakery-cum-cafe Rustica brings bread to the front. Sourdough baguettes and cranberry-walnut loaf are accompanied by picnic staples that know their place on this board.
Rustica grazing charcuterie box, from $55 for two, rusticasourdough.com.au
The Plant-Based Picnicker
Greens for a day on the green? Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Smith & Deli
What would a vegan list be without Shannon Martinez’s genius? This pack includes every picnic staple: hot salami, mixed olives, truffled brie, quince paste and babaghanoush, all plant-based, all ready to rock your rug.
Smith & Deli picnic platter, $30, smithanddaughters.com/smithanddeli
Free to Feed
Getting your picnic catered by Free to Feed is a win-win situation. Support refugees and people seeking asylum through employment and impress your picnic-pals with Shadi’s Syrian DIY falafel wraps and Abeer’s charred broccoli salad on the side.
Brave Meals by Free to Feed, from $40, freetofeed.org.au/brave-meals
Nestled in Ovolo South Yarra, Lona Misa is the fruit of a creative collaboration that links Ian Curley’s European background with Shannon Martinez’s Latin heritage and plant-based skills. A Lona Misa picnic equates to the likes of guacamole served with totopos, an oyster-mushroom ceviche and salt-baked pumpkin served with an almond salsa macha. If you’re looking for something really full-service, too, they’ll rent you picnic baskets with plates, a blanket and glasses.
A Lona Misa Picnic, $70 for two, ovolohotels.com/ovolo/south-yarra/lona-misa/
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Rice Paper Scissors
The Yarra might be a long way from the Mekong but Rice Paper Scissors will transport your tastebuds to its sultry banks with both omni and vegan boxes. The refreshing vegan picnic box includes pineapple ceviche with smoked coconut puree, lemongrass tofu banh mi, Vietnamese slaw and a Burmese tea leaf salad.
Rice Paper Scissors vegan picnic box, $35 per person, ricepaperscissors.com.au
The Seafood Spread
Nothing says upmarket rug-work like the fruits of the deep blue. Indulge in high-class picnicking with these seafood-enriched offers.
Four words: hot buttered lobster roll. This South Yarra landmark knows what’s up. Enjoying these rolls with freshly shucked oysters, craft beer and crisp cocktails, you’ll be the envy of most. Except, perhaps, for anyone who decided to take it up a notch and order the chilled seafood platter loaded with king prawns, spanner crab, oysters, marron and bonito. There’s no wrong answer here.
Botanical Hotel hot buttered lobster roll, $15, botanicalhotel.com.au
The Fishmonger’s Son
The Fishmonger’s Son has put together not one, but three spring boxes. The Lunch Box combines crayfish and prawn in the comfort of a crunchy white baguette, with mayo and finely sliced red onion and a bag of Pafritas. The Blini Pack comes with Melbourne Pantry smoked salmon, Lard Ass creme fraiche and Yarra Valley caviar. Or keep it simple with a dozen oysters and finger-lime caviar.
The Fishmonger's Son spring boxes, from $40, thefishmongersson.com
A bento box makes for an excellent picnic meal. Ishizuka’s Master Bento, though, takes it to the next level. Its precise composition changes daily following quality produce, but expect a selection of fresh seafood, wagyu beef, pretty vegetables, pickles and tamago. Order some of Ishizuka’s premium cocktails and/or a matcha tarte Tatin for the full experience.
Ishizuka’s Master Bento, $150 for one or two, ishizuka.com.au
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The Sweet tooth
Perhaps it’s mid-afternoon and you’ve already had lunch or it’s a special occasion that can only be truly celebrated with sugar, or maybe you just want to skip straight to dessert. Whatever the reason, these venues are making picnics even sweeter.
Cake in a can? It sure is a practical way of transporting a sponge to a picnic. Sugar Labo are the brains behind this latest picnic trend. Their Japanese-style cake comes in six flavours: tiramisu, matcha black sesame, mango pomelo, lychee rose, magnum and peach oolong.
Sugar Labo can cakes pack, $80 for six, sugarlabo.com.au
Melbourne loves sandwiches. If you have a sandwich-shaped space on your rug, Piccolina has just the way to fill it. They’re doing a new gelato sandwich each week of spring, taking inspiration from the food of Romania, France, Argentina, Colombia, India and Indonesia along the way.
Piccolina Gelato Sandwiches, $20, in store at Collingwood, Richmond, Hawthorn or St Kilda
Intricate, opulent and handcrafted - an accurate description for the sweets coming out of the kitchen at thus artisan pâtisserie. Build your own selection of macarons and petits gâteaux or remove yourself from the decision-making process and get the Gourmandise board of bite-sized treats.
Bibelot Gourmandise board, $35, bibelot.com.au
By Josie Biggs
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