Chinese (or Lunar) New Year is rooted in thousands of years of custom and tradition. It also happens to include two of our favourite things: eating and dancing.
From five-course banquets to light installations along the Yarra, here are the best places to welcome the Year of the Rooster in Melbourne.
Queen Victoria Market
Queen Victoria Market is celebrating the Lunar New Year with Chinese food and festivities every day and night from January 27 to February 12. There will be performances and cooking demonstrations (including by celebrity chef Elizabeth Chong, whose father is said to have developed modern dim sim back in 1945), and lots of authentic Chinese food. The celebrations will culminate in a two-day Lantern Festival.
Chinese New Year Festival
Melbourne’s official Chinese New Year Festival spans locations across the city. At Queensbridge Square take tai chi lessons, or head to the Docklands waterfront for dragon boat trials. Colourful light installations will line the banks of the Yarra for more than two weeks, and there will be performances all over the city, including by the Beijing Dance Academy and China’s Three Tenors.
Festivities around Docklands, Queensbridge Square, Queen Victoria Market and the Yarra River run from Friday January 27 to Sunday February 12. Programming and information available here. Entry is free.
The Millennium Dai Loong Dragon Parade in Chinatown
If you’re going to see one thing in Chinatown over the New Year period, make it this. Each year the performance reuires more than 200 people to awaken the dragon. It’s flamboyant, it’s loud, it’s awesome.
Sunday January 29 in Chinatown. Starts 8.45am. Entry is free.
Crown’s Lunar New Year Festival
This year marks the 15th year of the casino’s elaborate Lunar New Year celebrations, which last four weeks. The casino precinct is transformed into a non-stop festival of light, sound and food, with fireworks, hawker markets on the promenade, cooking demonstrations, dragon processions and karaoke. The Atrium will feature 60 decorative suspended lanterns –12 in the shape of the zodiac animals – and a traditional light and music show.
In and around Crown Casino in Southbank until Sunday February 19. Entry is free. Full program available here.
Ricky & Pinky
The New Year Banquet at Andrew McConnell’s Chinese restaurant involves raw fish “prosperity” salad and “wealthy” fat choy seaweed. Crispy-skin suckling pig is also on the five-course menu.
Available Saturday January 28 only. $65 per person. Book here or call 03 9417 7700.
The special banquet here is seafood-heavy with the requisite Chinese dragon dance during your sitting. There’s a hawker-style market on the Crown promenade outside the restaurant in the unlikely case you’re still hungry after dinner.
January 28. $120 per person. Two sittings are available: 7.30pm and 9.30pm. Bookings and information here or call (03) 8679 1888.
Pickett’s Deli & Rotisserie
Chef Scott Pickett is serving a three-course banquet at his Queen Vic Market outpost. The menu features a tea-smoked ocean trout; suckling pig; and a custard-kumquat tart with five-spiced ice-cream.
Saturday January 28 from 7pm–10pm. $80 per person. Book online here or call (03) 93218 3213.
Hutong & Man Tong
Hu Tong in Prahran and Man Tong at Southbank are doing what they do best: dumplings. Both restaurants have various banquet options with up to 10 courses. There will be roving lion dancers, too.
The Prosperity Dinner is a five-course banquet including blue swimmer crab salad, dumplings and traditional lion dancers.
$98 per person including a welcome drink. Bookings and information here.
Din Tai Fung
Celebrate the Year of the Rooster by eating a bun that looks like one. Din Tai Fung has put a rooster dessert bun on the menu. It is filled with blueberries and cream cheese and steamed to order until February 20. For a more formal celebration, a banquet is on offer. Sadly there will be no buns on this menu, but there will be kung pao chicken and pork dumplings.
Level 4, Emporium shopping centre. Chinese New Year buns are $4.20 each. Three banquet menus will be available at $30, $35 and $45 per person. More information here or call (03) 9654 1876.
The folks at RuYi are hosting banquets on Friday 27 and Saturday 28. The six-course menu includes flaming king prawns, peking duck bao and Wagyu beef pan-fried with truffle. Lion dancing and firecracker performances are included.
Friday January 27 and Saturday January 28 at 5.30pm ($75 pp) and at 8.15pm ($85 pp). A four-course wine-matching degustation is available for an additional $45. Menu and booking here.
FILM AND HISTORY
China on the Big Screen
To escape the parade crowds but still get around the holiday, head to QV outdoor cinema for a screening of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The food and the cocktails will be appropriately themed. Wong Kar-wai’s cult classic In the Mood for Love is also on the program.
Films begin at 8.30pm in the QV each evening. Programming and information here.
The Chinese Museum
Entry to the museum is free on Saturday 28. See exhibitions about the Gold Rush and some of Melbourne’s earliest Chinese migrants. Take the kids along for a Dragon Mural Workshop, where they – or you – can create a dragon scale for a mural that will be displayed at the museum throughout February.
Open 1pm–5pm on Saturday January 28.