2020 might be the year of the pandemic, but it’s also the year of the picnic.
Hanging outdoors is the only way we can catch up with friends and family right now, and what better way to do it than with a picnic?
Restaurants, cafes and other hospo businesses across Melbourne have started putting together fancy picnic packs and hampers so you can laze and graze in style – minimal prep and cooking required. Here are 12 of our favourite new options, plus some ice-cold booze and coffee suggestions to go along with them.
Entrecôte’s Parisian pique-nique, $94.90 for two people
The South Yarra bistro is celebrating spring with Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, or lunch on the grass. Inside each picnic box you’ll find a Ned’s Bake baguette with French butter; local camembert with grapes and strawberries, a petite quiche Lorraine; lentil salad with French dressing; three desserts (including macarons); and charcuterie such as chicken-and-tarragon terrine, saucisson, and rare-roasted Cape Grim porterhouse.
There’s also a vegetarian option, and boozy drinks are available at Entrecôte’s adults-only lemonade stand. Bonus: you can hire tables and bistro chairs to use at King’s Domain Park just across the road. Available every day for pick-up only in South Yarra, with 24 hours’ notice preferred.
Free to Feed’s mezze grazing box, $65 for four to five people
This not-for-profit supports asylum seekers, refugees and new migrants by engaging them to run food classes and initiatives. It’s been delivering at-home meals since lockdown began, but this meze grazing box is designed to be enjoyed outdoors.
The meat option has baked chicken drumettes and shaved pastrami, while the vegetarian box includes roasted cauliflower and spinach kibbah (a spiced Levantine meatball). Both come with focaccia, spiced nuts, dolma, pickled vegetables and marinated olives, roasted beetroot with tamarind and tahini, Syrian baba ganoush, goat’s cheese balls and saffron-goat’s cheese arancini. Available Fridays for pick-up or delivery.
Rosella’s picnic, $80
Collingwood bar and deli Rosella is packing picnic platters full of Italian delicacies. There’s friselle (crunchy double-baked bread) with acqua pazza (a herby broth with poached snapper); focaccia, anchovies, salumi and cheese; an orecchiette pasta salad with buffalo mozzarella; almond biscotti; and more. Available Wednesday to Saturday for pick-up only from Collingwood, with 24 hours’ notice preferred.
Bibelot’s high tea at home, from $50 to $270
For five years, Bibelot has been a go-to South Melbourne spot for petite desserts, and since July it’s been delivering its signature high tea sets across town. With sunny days upon us, we think the spread of sweet and savoury bites is picnic-perfect.
There are buttermilk scones with jam and cream; pastrami sliders; egg salad, chicken salad and dill and cucumber sandwiches; raspberry and rhubarb tarts; hazelnut-praline crunch; macarons; and chocolate bonbons. Available Friday to Sunday for pick-up or delivery within 20 kilometres of South Melbourne.
Komeyui’s temari sushi and picnic boxes, $153 for both
Japanese diner Komeyui moved into swish new digs during the first lockdown, and its premium takeaway offering is still going strong with these new boxes. There are three options: a six-piece set of temari (round balls of sushi rice) topped with avocado, grilled eel, king prawn and spicy salmon ($55); a larger snack box with beef omusubi (traditional rice triangles), tuna-seaweed sandwiches, pork gyoza, panko-crumbed prawns, salt-cured wagyu and more ($98); or both together, with sparkling water ($153). Available for pick-up or delivery ($150 minimum order) within 30 kilometres of South Melbourne.
Maker & Monger’s Victorian farmhouse cheese platter, $40 for two people
Prahran Market’s chapel of cheese is making it easy to support local producers while enjoying a day out. This platter features cheeses from some of owner Anthony Femia’s favourite Victorian makers: Brigid’s Well goat’s cheese, Berrys Creek blue and more. It also includes Dandenong Ranges honeycomb, fresh and dried Victorian fruit, water crackers – you can add on a bottle of Pennyweight wine. Available for pick-up or delivery within 15 kilometres on market days.
Rustica’s barbeque pack, $85 for four people
You can’t use public barbies just yet, but Rustica’s barbeque pack is easy to cook up at home and carry to the park in your picnic basket. It comes with mini milk-bun burgers and Wagyu patties; beef skewers and snags; condiments; a leafy salad; and a sourdough loaf. Available Thursday to Monday for delivery within 10 kilometres of the CBD, with 48 hours’ notice.
Elwood Bathers’s picnic pack, $150 for two people
Elwood Bathers already feels like a holiday home, and now with its picnic pack, you can lounge on the beach, oyster in hand, and pretend you’re on vacay. The pack includes freshly shucked oysters; chargrilled prawns with garlic butter; warm bread and charcuterie; and two main dishes (choose from fish of the day, flathead with chips, kebabs or a burger). Plus, it comes with complimentary picnic mat and table hire. Available from midday Friday to Sunday for pick-up only in Elwood.
Temple Brewing Company’s South American picnic, $50 for food only or $65 with four beers
This Brunswick East brewery is known for its refreshing Bicycle Beer, one of several crisp brews you can get with its weekend picnic pack. Food-wise, there are pastéis (fried Brazilian pastries) with either Wagyu and cheese or brussels sprout and mushroom ragu; Cajun popcorn cassava; grilled plantain with sugarcane honey; and more.
You can go food-only or add on any four Temple beers for an extra $15. Available Friday to Sunday for pick-up or delivery within three kilometres of Brunswick East. Call (03) 9380 8999 to order.
Kimasu’s 15 katsu sandos, $85
For an easy handheld meal, this modern Japanese restaurant in Caroline Springs has you covered with its katsu sandos – juicy, panko-crumbed, deep-fried cutlets enveloped in fluffy white bread. There are four styles to choose from: pork with tonkatsu sauce, spicy chicken with kewpie, prawn with nori powder, and three-cheese croquette. Grab 15 of your favourite or mix and match. Order via email the day before for pick-up or delivery within 11 kilometres of Caroline Springs.
Curtis Stone’s gourmet picnic box, $150 for two people
The celebrated Aussie chef just launched a picnic-themed pop-up in LA, but he’s still sharing the love Down Under with a new gourmet, park-ready pack. It comes with local olives, lavash, stracciatella and smoked tomato salsa, Yarra Valley goat’s cheese, charcuterie, your choice of main (smoked salmon with wild greens; roasted chicken; or pepper-crusted eye fillet), two salads and a dessert (our pick is the citron tart with burnt meringue). Available Monday to Saturday for delivery within 30 kilometres of the CBD, with 48 hours’ notice.
Josh Nicholson’s canapé park pack, $100
Former fine-dining chef Josh Nicholson has taken over the kitchen at Jamsheed Urban Winery to create a range of fancy canapés. Choose from cured Ora King salmon blinis; City Larder chicken-liver pate with blueberry compote; beef tartare with sourdough croute; lobster and tarragon milk buns; prawn cocktails; and pea, mint and ricotta tartlets.
Get a small box with one type of canapé, or a larger box with three kinds (and a tin of Yarra Valley Caviar). Available for pick-up only in Preston, and pick-up or delivery within five kilometres of Brunswick and Hawthorn.
Diggin’ in the Cellars
The folks behind Toorak Cellars, Milton Wine Shop, The Alps and The Moon have been diggin’ through wine cellars around the world to supply their bars for a decade. But earlier this year they launched DITC, an online vino store which delivers topnotch natty wines to your home – and now the park. On sunny weekends the team will cart orders straight from the warehouse to picnic rugs around Edinburgh Gardens. Order by 2pm for same-day delivery within 18 kilometres of CBD, or picnic delivery between 2pm and 5pm on select Fridays and Saturdays.
Canned (and cask) coffee
Stay perky and caffeinated all day with cold coffee from some of Melbourne’s best cafes and roasters. Last year, one Broadsheet editor couldn’t stop thinking about Seven Seeds’ coffee goon bag, and there’s a canned version too. St Ali brews a number of packaged cold coffees, as does Wide Open Road. Calere bottles iced filters and white coffees with beans from Ona, and Minor Figures has a range of foamy nitro cold brews perfect for picnicking.
Cocktails to-go from top local bars
We’ve already rounded up the best takeaway cocktails – all made with the precision you’d expect from Melbourne’s top bars – but here are some that are particularly great for springtime drinking. There’s a sugarcane and bee pollen Re-Fashioned from Byrdi; a 200-millilitre bottle of Bar Americano’s namesake cocktail; a strawberries and cream-inspired drink from Black Pearl, made in collaboration with Broadsheet; fruity punch in mandarin and apple flavours from Lay Low Bar; and an Above Board classic with melon, fernet and blackberry. And mark your calendars: The Everleigh’s new range of spritzed cocktails launches at the end of the month.
As part of Melbourne’s current stage-four lockdown rules, up to five people – from no more than two households – may meet outdoors. All people must remain within five kilometres of their homes. If you’re concerned about visiting businesses or public spaces, or have questions about self-isolation and coronavirus testing, check out the latest from the Department of Health and Human Services.