In February, Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (MFWF) announced we’d have three distinctly different opportunities to get around the festivities this year – thanks to a three-pronged, season-hopping program. That meant a tight but terrific edit of events in March, the main event in August and a brand new regional-focused events series in the spring.
Now all the details of the winter instalment are here – and it’s just as much of a whopper as we were bracing for. Ten days, 150 events (both ticketed and free, including workshops and demos), and a new home base: the Queen Victoria Market.
And, notably, some of the program’s most exciting events are also some of its most accessible. Particularly those that were planned for last year but didn’t get to take flight when the festival pivoted online.
First, one for the spud supporters: Maximum Chips, a night of all-you-can-eat hot chips where you can expect chips of the shoestring and crinkle-cut varieties, French fries and “maybe a sneaky potato gem”. Similarly carby is The Big Spaghetti, a mammoth pasta party with 20 different pasta dishes from 10 stalls, helmed by the country’s best Italian restaurants. Among them: Tipo 00, Marameo and Sydney’s Cafe Paci. Stellar. There’ll also be a next-level convenience store popping up for the duration of the festival, stocked with grab-and-go food and cocktails from top Victorian spots. (An Andrew McConnell creation, inspired by a famous Japanese egg sando, is on the cards.)
For the Signature Chef series, MFWF is coaxing to Melbourne some pioneers in cuisines lesser seen in Australia. Paul Carmichael, of Sydney’s now-closed Caribbean fine diner Momofuku Seiobo, is pulling from his upbringing to serve fried-fish cutters, or sandwiches, rum punch and reggae at Belles. Meanwhile, mother-and-daughter duo Farida and Durkhanai Ayubi, of Adelaide’s peerless Parwana, will bring their Afghan dishes to Elwood restaurant Lezzet, with help from Tulum’s star Turkish chef Coskun Uysal.
Other highlights include Welcome to the Jungle, a one-night-only plant-based party by none other than Shannon Martinez – alongside the folks from Fancy Hank’s and Rumi – with cocktails by the tropical-inspired Luwow; and the fire-powered Remix Grill, with flame-licked snacks by the likes of Jerry Mai, Shane Delia, Tina Li and Tom Sarafian (and marshmallow-toasting for the littlies).
There’ll also be in-depth “Crawl and Bite” tours of a tonne of Melbourne areas that’ll let you get the best of their food and booze in one hit. Explore the CBD, Lygon Street, South Yarra, Gertrude Street, Footscray, Flemington, Dandenong or Oakleigh. And the Rising Stars series will hero chefs on the rise – such as Etta’s Rosheen Kaul, Sunda’s Nabil Ansari and New Quarter’s Scott Lord – who’ll serve snacks alongside cocktails by Starward Whisky.
In the words of Anthea Loucas Bosha, CEO of Food & Drink Victoria (the not-for-profit parent company behind MFWF): “We’ll be serving you more than 1500 Martinis, 8000 bowls of pasta and 200,000 hot chips.” Get ready.