It was a case of frills, fedoras, boaters, beers and, yes, brollies at the 2018 Alfa Romeo Portsea Polo, held on Saturday on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. The night before, however, was a different story. Stella Artois, the official beer partner for the summer event, welcomed media and VIPs to Gourmet Traveller's 2017 Hotel of the Year, Jackalope. And there wasn't a pony - or poncho - in sight.
Model-actress Abbey Lee Kershaw, Stella Artois polo player Juan Uranga, and media figures including Lindy Klim and Ksenija Lukich were among the guests at the Sensorium Dinner, held on Friday evening at Jackalope's fine-diner, Doot Doot Doot.
Chef Guy Stanaway created a tasting menu that played on the flavours of Stella Artois, and celebrated the region's best produce. "Summer on the Mornington Peninsula for me means hot, busy kitchens, a few cold brews and a swim in the bay after service," he said. "This menu captures that. It's designed to drink well with beer."
Heirloom beetroot, sourced from Mossy Willow Farm in nearby Main Ridge, was smoked with hops and brown sugar, then paired with fresh ricotta and a burnt-butter and carrot mousse. The pork belly, meanwhile, was braised in Stella Artois for an extra layer of flavour, and teamed with roasted peaches straight from the Jackalope garden.
Venetian-born illustrator Nina Fuga flew in from London especially for the weekend. Throughout the Sensorium, Fuga - a first-time Polo attendee - sketched guests in situ and illustrated three canvases depicting summer with Stella Artois.
"Jackalope is described as art meeting design meeting food," said Brian Phan, of Carlton and United Breweries, as he welcomed guests. "And if I think about Stella Artois, the art is in over 600 years of Belgian brewing experience."
Canapés included vine-smoked wagyu with pickled radish, and walnut and pomegranate tarts, while standouts from Doot Doot Doot were the slow-cooked beef cheek with garlic crumb, and a Pedro Ximénez-laced crema Catalana with almonds and saffron marmalade.
Stella Artois on tap, of course, along with Jackalope's Rare Hare sparkling, Rare Hare white and 2015 Rare Hare shiraz grenache.
Nina Fuga's presence brought a playful element to the Sensorium. Her whimsical illustrations - of the beers, the crowd, polo players and ponies - got the weekend off on the right foot. The helicopter from the Portsea Polo back to Melbourne didn't hurt either.