Melissa Leong doesn’t like the word “fusion”.

“It implies forcefully joining two things together that may or may not work – this, my friends, is going to work,” the former Masterchef judge tells Broadsheet. She is referring to the upcoming one-night-only sold out celebration of wine, Cantonese and Spanish cuisine hosted by Broadsheet and South Australian wine producer Cat Amongst the Pigeons. The exclusive event, held at Lee Ho Fook on Thursday May 16, will see chefs Victor Liong (playing on home turf) and Matt McConnell (Bar Lourinha) combine their powers in a showcase of Cantonese and Spanish styles and flavours – all expertly paired with Cat Amongst the Pigeons wines.

“I prefer ‘collaboration’,” says Leong, whose role as ambassador for Cat Amongst the Pigeons will see her hosting the evening. “These are chefs at the height of their powers, so I know they will be considering the qualities of each wine, in terms of how it’ll not only complement, but integrate into the dining experience.”

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The event – dubbed Two Chefs Amongst the Pigeons – will unfold in two parts. First, guests will be welcomed with a relaxed wine tasting downstairs, offering a glimpse into the flavour combinations to come. Then, the main event begins upstairs, where Liong and McConnell’s culinary mastery, intuition and instinct will be showcased in 12 dishes across four courses, alongside pairings from Cat Amongst the Pigeons’ bold portfolio.

“Cat Amongst the Pigeons is known for its shiraz – that’s not always a natural knit with Cantonese cuisine in particular, but that’s precisely why I asked Victor and Matt to do this – because I know they’ll not only make it work, they’ll make us think differently about how it can be paired.”

In short, guests can expect an evening of pure indulgence and pleasant surprise. “I like the idea of bringing things together that people wouldn’t normally expect, or have access to,” says Leong. “Shifting or subverting expectations is a little kink of mine.”

Cantonese and Spanish cuisines may seem like unlikely partners, but “historically, it’s not that unlikely, actually,” Leong explains, citing a “storied history” between China and the Iberian countries – which includes Macau’s relationship with Portugal as a colony from 1557 to 1999.

“From egg custard tarts to a love of small dishes, a celebration of seafood and an obsession with cured meats, there is a lot of shared loves and values [between the cuisines]. Both the similarities and the differences between the ways Victor and Matt approach their craft give us an exciting backdrop for creative dishes.”

The two chefs’ approach also mimics that of Cat Amongst the Pigeons, which dares to challenge norms and do things differently when it comes to wine. Based in South Australia, the team produces award-winning wines such as award-winning Barossa shiraz – many of which guests will be able to taste on the night.

More than just a great evening at one of the most exciting dinner parties in town (though it’s very much that, too), it’s also a testament to the relentless creativity and collaborative spirit that sets Melbourne’s dining scene apart.

“We are so lucky to have such culinary talent in Melbourne,” says Leong. “Post-pandemic, I think everyone’s just trying to keep shirts on their employees’ backs, but it’s an awesome time to see collaborations and events come back in. I think collaborations are a fun and vital way to exchange ideas, keep diners excited and to celebrate the significant talent living here in Melbourne.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Cat Amongst the Pigeons.