It is the 20th anniversary of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, which started yesterday 2nd March 2012, and runs until 21st March 2012. The Yarra River along Melbourne city is transformed into a food and wine lover’s playground with bustling celebrations throughout most of the day, spilling along the river promenade on and over the water and out into some of the fine dining restaurants. There are pop-up stalls at Docklands, gourmet lunch boxes at WTC Wharf, Cellar Door and Farm Gate at South Wharf Promenade, participating restaurants at the recently revamped Southgate at Southbank, watch family favourites on the big screen at Federation Square. There are master classes, restaurants featuring international celebrity chefs with special dinner menu, Victorian produces, unique dining experience and food from around the world.
The weather, however, was wet and cold – the beginning of autumn down under. I have never been to the festival previously. I had to check it out even if the weather was not nice. It was only a short five minutes walk to South Wharf Promenande, from my rented apartment. I had my raincoat on with an umbrella. I still got wet.
I came across the Cellar Door and Farm Gate – boutique wine, beer, cider and artisan produce market. It was gated with an entrance fee of $35 or $40. It was a wet day. The stalls were set up on a lawn on a dirt path. Not an ideal spot on a wet day, as all those dirt eventually turned into mud! Everyone who have gone inside came out with their shoes and feet covered in mud! I could tell most of them were quite disappointed by the look on their face, their shoes and feet. What a shame. I was glad I didn’t join the “mud feet” party!
This was the first time I walked to South Wharf Promenade. I have heard about it, and that there is a huge DFO, at the west end of Melbourne Exhibition Centre building and next to Hilton Hotel. I was hungry and a bit cold and in search of food. I walked a bit further towards DFO. It was interesting to see this side of Melbourne with the city skyline slightly blurry from the rain. It felt strange – lonely, moody and grey. Yet, the different building structures and waterway made the surrounding scene quite magical.
I was delighted when I got to my destination – an old timbered piled cargo shed on the southern wharf of Yarra River, being converted and refitted into a row of nice restaurants overlooking the river. It almost reminded me of the famous Woolloomooloo Wharf, aka Finger Wharf in Sydney, but not quite as the Finger Wharf is huge, stunning and very classy.
The best part of my trip here was, I was drawn to the converted building by a loud music and skyblue PVC wrapped around part of the building to camouflage some unfinished work inside sections of the building. Then, there was matching skyblue floor covering with matching skyblue metal round tables and folding chairs, matching skyblue T-shirts staff were wearing, and rows of colourful stripped beach lounger chairs. Something was definitely happening here. There were people, some lounging on the beach chairs and some sitting around the skyblue metal tables. I was intrigue by this find and walked up to the bar stand where the staff in blue T-shirts were mixing some fizzle drinks – an orange and mango fizzle, and a lemon and lime fizzle drinks. The best deal – the drinks were FREE!! I could not believe it.
The deal got better – restaurants’ sample food from the participating restaurants in the building served in little boxes were FREE! The staff came around with a tray strapped around their necks, filled with little paper boxes of sample food. The service was very good and friendly. Not many people knew about this; otherwise, it would be packed even if it was raining.
Great food, great service and FREE. What more can anyone asked.
I tried all the three sample food presented to me, from three different restaurants. A modern Tokyo style bar restaurant “Akachochin” serving shashimi with broccoli stems, a contemporary European classic Paul Mathis’s restaurant “The Sharing House” serving flathead wrapped in paper thin toast and an old newspaper cone filled with chips (I think sweet potatoes) and the third restaurant (forgot the name and not listed in the website which I think may not be opened yet) serving crumbed blue eye trevalla with wild rice. All three sample boxes were delicious, and the food presentation in the little paper box were stunning. I will definitely come back to South Wharf again, and next time a bit of window shopping at the DFO next door.