Restaurants, bars and cafes may be swinging their doors open today, but our summer of socially distanced picnics is just getting started, and the teams behind South Melbourne diner Half Acre and catering company Food & Desire are bringing swanky picnics to a new outdoor pop-up.

Opening on Saturday, Lakeside at Carousel will take over the Carousel event space at Albert Park – and the lush, 2000-square-metre Pelican Lawn next door, right by the water.

“We’re lucky to have a pretty beautiful spot here,” says Half Acre’s Adam Wright-Smith. “We want people to forget that we’re in a pandemic and just enjoy life again. We’ll do all the hard work to make sure everyone is safe.”

Groups of up to 10 will be able to grab a spot on the lawn under one of dozens of huge striped umbrellas. BYO picnic rug, or add outdoor furniture onto your booking. You can even hire your own bartender for the day.

On the menu you’ll find stacked-up meze platters with barbeque chicken shawarma, falafel, hummus, labneh and salads; fried chicken burgers; Chicago-style hotdogs; fish’n’chips; and cheese and charcuterie boards. For dessert, there’s summery pavlova ice-cream with passionfruit curd; chocolate ice-cream cookies (spiked with Espresso Martini); and hot jam doughnuts.

The breakfast menu includes bacon and egg rolls, acai bowls, fruit salads and more – all to-go.

Meanwhile, the batched-cocktail experts from Lexington Hill will be serving Espresso Martinis and Margaritas. And there’ll also be an on-site bottle shop stocked with Mumm champagne, skin-contact wines, Riot Wine Co spritzes and boozy Brookvale seltzers.

A slightly more upmarket dining experience will kick off on November 7. For the first time in 16 years, the deck at Carousel will become an al fresco restaurant, serving lunch and dinner for up to 50 people. Expect freshly shucked oysters; prawn sliders with lemony mayo; champagne and organic vino; and more.

The pop-up will also open for events such as the Melbourne Cup, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and for Australian Open screenings.

Lakeside at Carousel opens on October 31, and the deck at Carousel opens on November 7. Book online.

Lakeside at Carousel
22 Aughtie Drive, Albert Park

Daily 9am–sunset