March into Merivale 2015

February? What happened to January? Next thing you know it'll be March. But that's not such a bad thing if you'll be in Sydney because it means it's time for March into Merivale, the hospitality group's in-house food (and now lifestyle) festival, back for its seventh year.

From 23 February to 29 March, 50 events will kick off across 20 Merivale venues. Forget new year's resolutions - the central theme of the 2015 program is "living larger in every way, every day", a feat that's not too hard when you're talking venues like Mr Wong, Coogee Pavilion and Papi Chulo.

"In the past it was a bit of a specials month," says Merivale food and beverage director Frank Roberts. "This year we will showcase the lifestyle, too, creating great experiences for our guests across all aspects of life."

That might include a Monday Detox, where the Ivy Pool Club lounges will be swapped for yoga mats and guests are encouraged to take a complimentary class before grabbing a healthy dinner and mocktail; Tuesday date night, where couples can wine and dine on a two-course dinner special and a glass of Chandon from $45; or Friday Surprise nights, which will see everything from impromptu opera and cabaret to circus performances (theoretically) surprise and delight diners in equal measure. Sunday brunches, mystery dinners, themed parties, masterclasses and wine tastings complete the program.

"The first year we were just trying to do something nice for the audience," says Roberts. "Now we're showcasing 22 kitchens to thousands of attendees with theatre, entertainment and a lot more wow-factor on top."

There'll be wow-factor (and then some) at the Festival's launch event on 25 February, where guests can redeem tokens for signature dishes and cocktails at various pop-up stalls throughout the Ivy, its Pool Club, Ash Street and Palings Lane. Merivale's newest addition to the family, The Coogee Pavilion, will make a splash, too, transforming into a marketplace for the Coogee Foreshore Festival, on Sunday 15 March.

"Coogee is absolutely made for this type of festival," says Roberts. "You can have dim sum from Mr Wong and a fantastic raw experience from Sushi E. It's all the stuff we've done in the city, but in a different light, and it's maybe even better at the beach."

If the larger events aren't your style, fear not - Savoir-Fair Thursday will be one of the festival's hottest tickets, with Merivale kitchen talent including Dan Hong, Jeremy Strode and Danielle Alvarez hosting intimate 22-person dinner parties at the Ivy private dining room, sitting down to share a meal with their guests.

"The space is Justin's private entertaining area," says Roberts. "We're not reproducing the food from the restaurants in this case; it will be what the guys would cook at home, and be a total surprise."

March into Merivale runs from 23 February to 29 March. Tickets are on sale now. For more information visit marchintomerivale.com.au.


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