Feb 20, 2014

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Melbourne Food And Wine Festival

Between 28 February and 16 March 2014, Melbourne will come alive for the annual Food and Wine Festival. Basically, it’s a 17-day-long excuse to try as many beverages and gourmet goodies possible. This year, the focus is on water and all the reasons why we can’t live without rivers, oceans and rainfall. There’ll be extended lunches, wine tastings, master classes, food crawls, talks and more. Here’s the lowdown on the highlights.

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The World’s Longest Lunch

The ‘World’s Longest Lunch’ is the festival’s headline act. 1,500 people will gather around a 530-metre long table in Alexandra Park to spend the afternoon indulging in a three-course culinary spectacular. A trio of famous chefs (namely Jacques Reymond, Adam D’Sylva and Stefano de Pieri) will be designing the menu, using three world-famous rivers as inspiration: the Amazon, the Mekong and the more local Murray-Darling. Seppelt will supply the wine and Five Sense the coffee. Even if a ticket is out of reach, it’ll be worth dropping by, just to check out the table.

Bar Express

For this, you’ll need to get yourself a map. Unless, of course, you already know Melbourne’s many laneways like the back of your hand because you’ve spent ample time drinking in the city’s many hidden bars. 22 establishments have conjured up their very own aquatic-inspired cocktail and the festival wants you to test them out – every single one. A couple of creations on the list includes Campari House’s ‘Devil’s Water’ (Belvedere vodka, Mazzenez violet liqueur, Paraiso lychee liqueur, apple juice, lime juice, sugar syrup) and Trunk’s ‘Riding Johnny Utah’ (Cariel vodka, freshly pressed lime juice, house-made sugar syrup, coconut water, ocean foam, sweet coconut sand, coconut mist). Thirsty, anyone?

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The Immersery: Festival Kitchen, Bar and Raingarden

If you’re looking for the centre of the action, head to Queensbridge Square (on the banks of the Yarra River), where you’ll stumble across The Immersery. You’ll be able to watch a handpicked selection of Melbourne chefs at work in an open kitchen; wander through rain gardens demonstrating the relationship between water and food production; and sip on innovative cocktails exploring water in three states – liquid, solid and gas. Several of Melbourne’s top mixologists will be onsite, testing the audience reaction to their groundbreaking ideas.

Restaurant Express

Here’s your chance to check out some of Melbourne’s high-end restaurants, without high-end prices. At more than seventy eateries (all listed in the 2014 Good Food Guide), $40 will buy you a two-course lunch, including a glass of Victorian wine and tea or coffee. Some of the participants include Bistro Guillaume, Bottega, The Deck, Maha and Bistro Thierry.

Master Classes

If you’ve always wanted to know more about food and wine, sign up for one of the festival’s five master classes. For the water master class, Sydney chef Peter Gilmore (Quay), Nathan Outlaw and Aaron Turner will join participants on a day trip to the Bellarine Peninsula, where they’ll have a go at fly fishing and smoking fish before indulging in a four-course lunch at Campbell Point House. There’s also a series of international chef and wine dinners, chef master classes, perfect match sessions and the Acqua Panna ‘Global Wine Experience’, which involves tastings under the guidance of national and international experts. Expect some excited debates over what makes the ideal drop.

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Where to stay

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival attracts thousands of visitors each year. So, if you’re hoping to find luxury hotels in Melbourne, you’re definitely advised to book in advance to avoid disappointment. For central accommodation, the Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens is recommended. It’s set in a beautiful old building, which used to serve as the HQ for the Victorian Police Force and faces onto the oldest park in the city. The famous Queen Victoria Market is just next door.

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Victoria loves her food and wine, and loves to review the best dining locations along with her favourite festivals.

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