Power-up your fascinator, charge your flutes and polish off the field-glasses, ladies and gentlemen - Cup season is upon us. We've studied the form of the leaders in the field for Cup Day and come up with a list of favourites. Forks and bets at the ready, here are the best Melbourne Cup Day events at restaurants across Australia.
BENNELONG & QUAY
It might not be the Birdcage, of course, but The Sydney Opera House scrubs up okay nonetheless. Bennelong restaurant, and its sister establishment, Quay, are both raising a glass (of Charles Heidsieck) to the occasion with four-course menus, sweeps, live coverage and "fashions off the field" prizes. Word has it, too, that chef Peter Gilmore has a surprise Cup-inspired snow egg in the works for Quay's winner's circle.
$200 per person, Bennelong, Sydney Opera House, Sydney, (02) 9240 8000;
$250 per person, Quay, upper level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, (02) 9251 5600
Finding the office biscuit tin a bit dry? For a flavoursome alternative, head to Bistrode CBD for three courses of Jeremy Strode's consistently polished and full-flavoured modern European fare.
$130 per person, Bistrode CBD, level 1, 52 King St, Sydney, (02) 9240 3000
CHISWICK AT THE GALLERY
With media personality Deborah Hutton on-hand to set the pace, the fashion stakes will be high at Chiswick this year. And with the offer of Matt Moran's similarly dashing three-course menu and a welcome glass of Champagne on arrival, everyone's a winner.
$125 per person, Chiswick, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Rd, The Domain, Sydney, (02) 9225 1819
Add a Hellenic twist to your race day festivities with a four-course feast at one of Sydney's finest Greek restaurants. Duval Champagne greets guests on arrival, and there's an option of matching wines with the plates. Opa!
$89 per person, Alpha, 238 Castlereagh St, Sydney, (02) 9098 1111
Kingfish ceviche, salmon tataki and caramelised miso cod may not be the classic race day fare, but with sushi expert Chase Kojima at the reins and an eight-course shared menu on offer, it may well be time to update the tradition.
$125 per person, Sokyo, The Darling, The Star, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, (02) 9657 9161
Need a break from the city? There's plenty of excitement to be had in the valley, with live coverage and handbag tossing at Oakridge's sweeping estate. Chef Matt Stone will prepare a three course feast while guests enjoy sparkling wine from the vineyard's own cellar.
$95 per person, Oakridge, 864 Maroondah Hwy, Coldstream, (03) 9738 9900
Go for gold with the classic steak and beer offering at this St Kilda pub. Here, the beef is grass fed, the craft beer selection is extensive, and with prizes going to the best and worst dressed, the winning spirit is bound to become infectious.
Grosvenor Hotel, 10 Brighton Rd, St Kilda East, (03) 9531 1542
The celebrations start early at The Botanical with a Champagne breakfast of Pommery and smoked salmon, quinoa rösti and a soft-boiled egg. Come lunchtime, enjoy a four-course menu that includes cured kingfish, asparagus with serrano ham, and a roasted rack of spring lamb. And with live music to follow, The Bot maintains its reputation for demonstrating that the party only really gets started once the gee-gees cross the finishing line.
Breakfast $25 per person, lunch $90 per person, The Botanical, 169 Domain Rd, South Yarra, (03) 9820 7888
Spring carnival season is in full bloom at Melbourne's oldest licensed pub. With a special Hot Tip cocktail on offer, big screens and live entertainment, The Duke is your best bet for a winning atmosphere and all your favourite bistro dishes.
The Duke, 146 Flinders St, Melbourne, (03) 9810 0066
PRINT HALL & BOB'S BAR
Print Hall has three events for the punters this year. Play the sweeps over a relaxed four-course luncheon in the dining room or join the party at the bar, where canapés and flutes of Pol Roger help to ring in the winnings. For a bit of fresh air, head upstairs to Bob's Bar for a rooftop fashion show and live music, along with Tasmanian sparkling, local drops and canapés.
$140-185 per person, Print Hall, Brookfield Place, 125 St Georges Tce, Perth, (08) 6282 0000
ROCKPOOL BAR & GRILL
Chef Dan Masters has prepared a three-course lunch in true Rockpool style, with carpaccio made of Blackmore wagyu, wood-fired king prawns and Cape Grim fillet served with Café de Paris butter. With Ruinart on arrival and local funnyman Luke Bolland hosting the show, it's bound to be a good time, even if the nags don't deliver.
$225 per person, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Crown Perth, Great Eastern Hwy, Burswood, (08) 6252 1900
Is a languorous sit-down on the cards or would you prefer to mingle over canapés and fizz? Lalla Rookh lets the guests decide with two food options and four beverage packages for every kind of race enthusiast.
$35-$79 per person, Lalla Rookh, lower ground, 77 St Georges Tce, Perth, (08) 9325 7077
AFRICOLA AT PENNY'S HILL
Find yourself among the vines and the rosebushes in McLaren Vale as Africola's Duncan Welgemoed takes over The Kitchen Door at Penny's Hill Winery for a three-course affair. The vineyard has lined up wines from The Black Chook and Thomas Goss for pairings straight from their own backyard and an Adelaide bus transfer is included in the ticket price, just in case things get rowdy.
$120 per person, Penny's Hill, 281 Main Rd, McLaren Vale, (08) 8557 0840
Adelaide Casino's brasserie will be serving a three-course feasting menu of Sean Connolly's hearty, share-friendly plates come Cup Day: local oysters and duck liver parfait, followed by baked lemon sole with parsley butter, and lamb shoulder with liquorice gravy and chips cooked in duck fat. The party continues into the night with Cup-inspired cocktails and a DJ.
$135 per person, Sean's Kitchen, Adelaide Casino, Station Rd, Adelaide, (08) 8218 4244
Take in the game, and the view, at one of Brisbane's newer race day favourites. Fashions on the field competitions and live entertainment accompany canapés, fresh seafood and food stalls headed by executive chef Jake Nicolson. Free-flowing Champagne is sure to keep your spirits high, so surrender your glass to one of the Bird's friendly staff.
$199 per person, Black Bird, Riverside Centre, 123 Eagle St, Brisbane, (07) 3229 1200
This year, Aria Brisbane has prepared a three-course menu with Piper-Heidsieck on arrival. Entertainment reporter Damien Anthony Rossi and style editor Kellie Alderman will host the festivities and hand out some fabulous prizes.
$155 per person, Aria Brisbane, Eagle Street Pier, 1 Eagle St, Brisbane, (07) 3233 2555
The Euro's three-course Cup menu and optional drinks package just may be among the biggest bargains in town. Choose from the likes of wagyu carpaccio with burrata or pan-fried salmon topped with crab and lemon sauce with The Euro's pairing of choice: Mumm Champagne at just $75 a bottle.
$65 per person, The Euro, 181 Mary St, Brisbane, (07) 3229 3686
This Levantine eatery is bringing flowers to the forefront in true Cup fashion. On race day, the bistro space will be transformed to resemble a springtime flower market, bolstered with a seafood installation and trays of cured meats, canapés and flutes of Mumm.
$195 per person, Gerard's Bistro, 14/15 James St, Fortitude Valley, (07) 3852 3822