Food News

The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is really happening for 2021

Chefs! Restaurants! People! See them in real life during the March celebration of all that's good to eat and drink in Melbourne.

From left: Philippe Mouchel, Jacques Reymond and Stephanie Alexander (seated), the triple-headliners behind the World's Longest Lunch on March 12, 2021 at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.

Julian Kingma (main)

It was Friday the thirteenth of March, 2020 when the team behind the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival decided to postpone their annual culinary event and host it online. Then in February when the 2021 program was announced, crisis struck again when the city went into a snap five-day lockdown.

So it feels good, to say the least, that the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (MFWF) is really happening from March 12 to 31, live and in the flesh.

“While it’s been fun to pivot, pirouette, pounce and do things differently and virtually, there is no substitute for the real thing,” says Pat Nourse, MFWF creative director and former Gourmet Traveller managing editor. “The day we could actually be in a room with other people, post-lockdown, to hoist a drink or have a meal – it felt great.”

If there’s any question about whether Melbourne is ready to party, take the large number of sold-out festival events as a sign. Tickets to Flower Drum’s yum cha were snapped up almost immediately; bookings are full for collaborative dinners by chefs O Tama Carey (Sydney’s Lankan Filling Station) and Matt McConnell (Melbourne’s Bar Lourinha), and another with Etta’s Rosheen Kaul and chef David Moyle (now based in Byron Bay).

But mouse-clicking punters are in luck – there are tickets still available to a handful of festival events. Multi-restaurant crawls through West Footscray, Melton and Seddon, for example; a ten-course feast of suckling pig at Bouvier Bar; or an event that pairs the desserts of Black Star Pastry – home of that famous watermelon cake – with the stunning Rain Room installation. “I pitched them an idea of replacing all the water in the Rain Room with booze, but they haven’t replied to my email,” says Nourse. “Maybe next year.”

The World’s Longest Lunch has been a mainstay of the MFWF calendar since 1994, and the 2021 edition at Treasury Gardens features a three-course menu by chefs Stephanie Alexander, Jacques Reymond and Philippe Mouchel – a “max Melbourne” triple-header line-up, says Nourse. Guests are seated at a 500-metre long communal table in the foliage-filled eastern corner of the city. Afterwards, they’re encouraged to kick on at a roster of MFWF-approved bars.

Lune Croissanterie’s Kate Reid and Mulberry Group’s Nathan Toleman are behind the World’s Longest Brunch on March 13 at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2021.

(Photo: Sharyn Cairns)

For those who go hard, go home then return to the Treasury Gardens the day after, the World’s Longest Brunch may be the recovery breakfast they need. To wit: a three-course menu by Lune Croissanterie’s Kate Reid and Mulberry Group’s Nathan Toleman, with all the trimmings of a modern-Australian brunch (fancy avocado on toast, soft-boiled eggs) plus a bread-and-butter croissant pudding. “We’ve taken Melbourne’s favourite meal and dialed it up times 1000,” says Nourse. “And what better hangover-buster than a Lune bread-and-butter croissant pudding?”

The bread-and-butter croissant pudding, the final act to the World’s Longest Brunch.

(Photo: Sharyn Cairns)

The price of entry to the brunch includes a tube of sunscreen too. “We’re not just COVID-safe. We’re sun-safe as well. We want to send you home fed, watered and in the pink, but in the right way.”

This year’s MFWF is being rolled out in a three-part magnum opus. The March program will be followed by another two-week festival in winter, and for the first time in the festival’s history there will be a standalone spring festival celebrating the regional food and drink scene.

“There’s certainly more than enough happening in regional Victoria to sustain a festival on its own,” says Nourse. And compared to autumn, a festival in spring is a less frantic time for the region’s winemakers. “It means they won’t be dashing between Melbourne and [their vineyards], secateurs in hand, worrying about vintage.”

MFWF is more than a festival. It’s an advocate of all the good things to eat and drink in town and in the suburbs. And for a city that’s borne the worst of Australia’s COVID burden, its hospitality industry is counting down to service.

“Do your bit for the Melbourne CBD, and feel good about supporting the food and drink of Victoria in a time of crisis,” says Nourse. “IRL, as the kids say.”

Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s March program runs March 12–31.

For more information and ticket sales, visit

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