Food News

The 2015 Birdcage marquees: a preview

This year there's a birdcage within The Birdcage, a weather station spinning the tunes and a dessert that takes up to eight people to assemble.

By Maggie Scardifield
Clockwise from top left: milliner Stephen Jones, the Emirates marquee, Dan Hong for Lexus, the Mumm marquee
This year there's a birdcage within The Birdcage, a weather station spinning the tunes, a milliner to the royal family and a dessert that takes up to eight people to assemble. For the 155th year of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, it's safe to say The Birdcage isn't cutting any corners on its route to making an impression.
Lexus, Emirates, Swisse, Myer and GH Mumm are just some of the brands that will host marquees this year; each one with its own set of design collaborations, pop-up restaurants, high-profile chefs and live entertainment. Not everyone is lucky enough to score an invite, though (The Birdcage enclosure at Flemington is reserved for celebrities, VIP guests and corporate investors of the Victoria Racing Club), so once again, we've done the snooping for you.
Here's a snapshot of what's planned for the 2015 event.
The décor To mark its 120-year anniversary, Lavazza celebrates with a royal blue-themed marquee paying tribute to Italian mid-century design. Neale Whitaker and Archibald Prize-winning artist Vincent Fantauzzo are responsible for the interiors, which will feature an original mural by Fantauzzo and geometric floor tiles inspired by Giò Ponti's work.
The food Chef Adam D'Sylva from Melbourne's Tonka and Coda restaurants will serve dishes including his Nonna's recipe for gnocchi with heirloom tomatoes, and chicken saltimbocca with spiced farro. On the sweet side, author, chef and television personality Silvia Colloca will whip up Italian desserts such as mini cannoli filled with marsala-spiked ricotta, blueberries and mascarpone.
The drinks Lavazza's coffee window (built into the side of the marquee) will return this year, or, for those after something stronger, there'll be Espresso Martinis and Aperol Spritzes.
The people Australian actor Ryan Corr, television presenters Eddie McGuire and Jo Hall, Nova radio host Tim Blackwell, and media personalities Rebecca and Chris Judd.
The décor This year Emirates pays tribute to one of its most popular destinations, Great Britain. The marquee will feature a Georgian-inspired façade and an interior that includes a fireplace, a restaurant and an exhibition from UK milliner to the stars (and to the royal family), Stephen Jones.
The food At the restaurant - replete with Royal Doulton crockery and David Austin garden roses - guests will dine on the likes of Lancashire hotpot, classic fish pie and summer bread pudding with vanilla clotted cream and elderflower.
The drinks In keeping with the theme, guests can expect refreshing gin cocktails, such as The Herb Garden (gin, tonic, cucumber, lime and thyme) and The Finest Flight (gin, lime, orange bitters and maraschino cherry).
The people Cricketer Ricky Ponting, television personality Molly Meldrum, actor Gyton Grantley and Harper and Harley fashion blogger, Sara Donaldson.
The décor For its sixth year at the Carnival, Mumm takes inspiration from the French Alps, with a replica chairlift being one of the highlights. By day, a luxurious chalet vibe will be the focus, and in the evening, the space will transform into an après-ski nightclub.
The food Mumm's French-inspired menu spans beef Bourguignon with pomme purée, a charcuterie station, a selection of French cheeses and an oyster bar. Yasa caviar flown in fresh from Abu Dhabi and Mumm Champagne-flavoured macarons will keep the indulgence levels sky high.
The drinks Bellini Martinis (Mumm Cordon Rouge and Absolut Peach), The Cordon Luge (Mumm Cordon Rouge, Plymouth gin, strawberry purée and sugar syrup) and The Bon Vivant (Absolut Elyx and passionfruit purée), which comes with a shot glass of Mumm on the side.
The people*Fashion Police hosts Melissa Rivers and Brad Goreski, comedian Joel McHale (The Soup, Community*) and reality star Brody Jenner, plus DJ David Guetta.
The décor Melbourne events company Gloss Creative will transform the Myer marquee into a botanist's dream, with flowers, fruit and vines adorning the space. In celebration of spring, even the waiters will be decked out in floral uniforms.
The food The Big Group, which has been involved in the coordination of the marquees for over 25 years, will serve everything from tuna sashimi and raw kale salad with toasted grains, to gin and tonic-poached chicken, from a seven-metre communal copper table. Melbourne dessert boutique Bibelot has the sweets taken care of, too, with artisan chocolates and gelato flavours such as mandarin and yuzu.
The drinks The botanical theme sees fresh Pressed Juice served throughout the day, as well as spring cocktails, including The Gingergrass (Beefeater gin, ginger beer, lemongrass and ginger tea) and the Sohito (lime juice, yuzu, plum wine, shochu and soda).
The people Myer ambassador Jennifer Hawkins, designers Alex Perry, Toni Maticevski, Karen Walker and Wayne Cooper, milliner Nerida Winter and radio hosts Hamish Blake and Andy Lee.
James Boag
The décor Mother nature is in charge of the entertainment at James Boag, which will incorporate a unique sound installation on the exterior of its marquee. "The Instrument" is a weather station designed by sound engineers that will play music throughout the carnival, as the weather at Flemington changes.
The food Matt Moran has designed an all-day grazing menu inspired by Tasmania's landscape and produce. The menu will include duck and pea pies, a rich jamón and raclette toastie, and seared kingfish with radish.
The drinks A selection of Lion beers (including James Boag, naturally) and a compact list of wines and sparkling.
The people James Boag brand ambassador and actor Daniel MacPherson, actress Asher Keddie and television presenter Sophie Falkiner.
The décor This year Swisse has collaborated with Australian interior designer Matt Martino and Shine by Three fashion writer, photographer and creative director Margaret Zhang. The duo has come up with a glamorous China-themed marquee, which sees a bright red birdcage installed above the main stairwell, deep red furnishings and custom wallpaper.
The food A full yum cha menu will be served daily at three o'clock - dishing up the likes of sweetcorn congee with red dates, and Spencer Gulf prawn scrambled eggs with wontons. With green tea ice-cream to finish, everyone's a winner.
The drinks Swisse superfood jelly and vitamin C shots, wines such as the Devil's Lair "The Hidden Cave" Chardonnay and Saltram 1859 Shiraz, and cocktails including a Black Cherry Fizz (white rum, black cherry purée, lime, sugar syrup and soda).
The people Margaret Zhang will be joined by model and Swisse ambassador Ashley Hart, paralympian Dylan Alcott, chef Karen Martini and actor Kevin Dillon.
The décor Lexus has once again partnered with sustainable designer and this year's GT Outstanding Contribution to Hospitality award winner, Joost Bakker. Together with architecture and interiors firm Mim Design studio, Bakker has custom-built a giant bird's nest within the three-level Lexus marquee. Wires will twist from the inside out, creating different zones to explore - and installation artist Georgie Seccull has created a dramatic roaming wall of paper butterflies.
The foodAttica returns for the second year, serving a full sit-down affair of dishes such as chef Ben Shewry's saltbush lamb and a green apple and rhubarb dessert that takes eight people to assemble. Downstairs is a more relaxed vibe with Sydney chef Dan Hong pumping out Ms G's cheeseburgers, chicken katsu banh mi and wontons from an open kitchen.
The drinks Wines include the Stags' Leap Viognier from Napa Valley in California and Abel's Tempest Pinot Noir from Tasmania.
The people Chef and longstanding Lexus ambassador Neil Perry, and his daughter and restaurateur, Josephine Perry, sports personality Anthony Minichiello, Australian designer Dion Lee, racing royalty Gai Waterhouse and actress Gracie Otto.
Wolf Blass
The décor Australian artist David Bromley has overseen the direction of the Wolf Blass marquee, which will feature an original five metre-long painting by the artist valued at more than $65,000. The artwork, which is from his Horse series, has also been screen-printed around the exterior walls of the marquee.
The food Canapés along the lines of kingfish carpaccio with lemon and mojama, roasted cauliflower, pumpkin and quinoa croquettes, and shaved corned beef bagels with Gruyère will do the rounds. And to finish? Wolf Blass shiraz ice-cream, of course.
The drinks A wine tasting with Wolf Blass's chief winemaker, Chris Hatcher, sees the winery's 2014 Black Label cabernet shiraz malbec poured on Cup day. The bottling is not set to be released to the public until 2018.
The people Australian singer Kate Ceberano, jewellery designer Samantha Wills and artist David Bromley.