Sorry, Sydney - you might've hosted Noma, but Melbourne has laid claim to what is bound to be the biggest international food event in Australia in 2017. It was announced in New York in June that the World's 50 Best Restaurants, an event that has grown to mammoth proportions since its inception in London 15 years ago, will be taking place Down Under next year, and now the details have been made concrete: the big announcement will be made the evening of 5 April, and it'll be made at Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building.
"Taking the show to New York for its first outing outside the UK was a big success for the World's 50 Best," says GT deputy editor Pat Nourse, who has chaired the Australasian voting panel for the awards since 2006. "It really brought home the idea that it's a global event. It's a big job, but bringing it to Australia is going to take it up another notch further."
In Australia the 50 Best will span a week's worth of events, running from 1 to 7 April, with part of the programme extending to public forums with visiting chefs in Sydney and Brisbane as well as Melbourne. The World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton will act as the event's hub, while the newly opened QT Melbourne will house visiting international talent. In fitting Australian style, the event will be more accessible to the general public, too.
"The Royal Exhibition Building is dramatic, historic, iconic - and big!" says William Drew, group editor of The World's 50 Best Restaurants. "We've long wanted to give more people access to the excitement of The World's 50 Best Restaurants awards, and find a venue which can not only host the awards, but a suitably high-energy after-party too. We think the Royal Exhibition Building can do just that. It should be some party."
Beyond the core 50 Best program, food lovers will have the chance to get to know the visiting chefs through events on the calendar of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, which is being held in April rather than March as usual to coincide with the awards.
The awards are another coup for Tourism Australia, whose Restaurant Australia campaign has been instrumental in bringing more and more visitors to Australia in search of great food and wine. "Hosting the World's 50 Best Restaurants in Melbourne, as well as the Australia-wide program of events we're building alongside them, is the next exciting chapter in our ongoing Restaurant Australia story," says John O'Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia. "Building on the success of Invite the World to Dinner [held at Mona in Hobart in 2014] and René Redzepi's Noma Australia pop-up, this is about using global advocacy to demonstrate our culinary credentials to the world."
Back in London, Drew says he and the 50 Best team are hard at work preparing for their tour Down Under. "We're working out in the gym and topping up our tans so that we look good on the beach, obviously, and packing surfboards, singlets, thongs and other random national-stereotype accoutrements." Let's hope the beer is cold.