The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is back and this year its celebrating 25 years in action. As a sign of its maturity, it has moved into a home of its own.
Although events and masterclasses will take place all over the state, The House of Food & Wine is the festival’s home for the next 10 days. Tucked away on Little Lonsdale Street in Melbourne’s CBD, a two-storey space has been transformed to feel like a real home – and inside lives a family that loves to party.
"This year, we’ve moved away from the festival’s traditional pop-up hub and are celebrating hospitality, design and art at our House of Food and Wine," says Natalie O'Brien, MFWF's CEO. "This is a new concept for us, and includes an event space, wine bar, laneway and art gallery, and will serve as a meeting place for festival goers, plus local and visiting industry."
When you walk in, the first thing you see is colour. Lots of it. The House of Food & Wine family has a lot of friends, among them local illustrators Alice Oehr and Beci Orpin, who were commissioned to create patterns for the space.
For the festival, Oehr worked with Orpin to create patterns that told a story about our relationship with food. When you walk into The House of Food & Wine, these patterns cover almost every available surface, including near the entrance, where it runs like a blue-and-white carpet along the floor up to the ceiling above the bar. The pattern has been splashed on everything from the walls to menus to cushions.
“I wanted to work food into the design as much as possible,” says Oehr. “For the patterns, I took my inspiration from chef’s pants and aprons and kitchen tiles … as well as food.”
Hanging above the chef-pant-printed cushions is a series of giant, ceramic plates rendered in the same colour scheme of blue and white. The ceramics were all custom-made for the festival by local ceramist Ryan Foote. As well as wall hangings and ceramic lamps, Foote created all of the plates that will be used to serve food at the house.
The bar is one of the first things you see when you enter The House. Winemaker Patrick Sullivan has created two custom wines – one red and one white – that will be served on tap throughout the festival, in addition to 13 other drops by the glass. All of the wines on the list are from Victorian and no region has been represented twice, so that visitors can experience a solid cross-section of the state’s offerings.
To top off the wine offering Mark Protheroe of The Recreation has curated a “Wine Wall”, which is exactly what it sounds like. Each bottle on the wall is either very rare or very unusual. Each day Protheroe will select the bottle he wants to open – that bottle will be served by the glass until it runs out and then that’s it.
From the bar, roam upstairs to the art gallery, which is filled with illustrations of signature dishes by chefs in previous festivals. It’s a fitting celebration of 25 years of MFWF. Anna Vu – the woman behind Good Food Crap Drawing – is responsible for each illustration. Each day, Vu will produce a new illustration to add to the collection, based on one of the dishes served at the festival that day.
Heading back downstairs, there are two more rooms. The first is the party room, which is obvious from the giant balloon installation that hangs over the space. There’s a wall covered by more of Alice Oehr’s patterns, and a big empty space – the dance floor.
The last room in the House is called “The Chapel” and it’s set up for feasting. A long table runs the entire length of the space – a giant disco ball hangs above – leaving room for not much else. Here, food is the priority. The Chapel leads out into a laneway, which will be used for street parties, such as the Italo Dining & Disco Club and the Burger Block Party.
It’s a pretty nice house, between the wine and the art and the food and the party spaces. And with Ryan Foote, Alice Oehr, Beci Orpin, Patrick Sullivan and Mark Protheroe on-board to take care of all aspects creative and culinary, MFWF has definitely invited a formidable group of friends to the table.
Not bad for a 25-year-old.
The House of Food & Wine is located at 361 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival will run from Friday 31 March to Sunday 9 April 2017. More information and bookings here.
Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2017.
This article was updated on April 1.